“She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking- she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it- she couldn’t enjoy it.”
I am on a tough, intense, and soulful journey. A journey of self-discovery. A journey of gut-wrenching honesty through sober eyes. Come along with me, if you dare. My writings and insight are my personal thoughts and beliefs. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to agree with them. But I feel a great need to share them. Freedom of Speech- the First Amendment to the United States Constitution- is what I’m practicing here. And, with the help of my saviour these days- a little blue book entitled Alcoholics Anonymous, I can make some sense of my riddled mind. I am in no way promoting AA, I am just stating that it has presently guided me in my daily affairs. So I have taken profound bits and pieces from The Big Book and weaved them in and out of this post.
I am astonishingly baffled at the devastation, sadness, and horror addiction creates in the lives of so many I love. Every time I turn around lives are being turned upside down by it. My nephew and sister-in-law are currently captured in its painful, possessive grip. Alcoholism is a beast! It takes away all the power and manageability we thought we possessed in our lives. Once it gets a hold of you, it won’t relent. It owns you!
The usage and overdoses of prescription drugs, heroine, and alcohol has skyrocketed in the past year. It’s so easy to obtain illegal drugs today. I could walk out my front door right now and know exactly where to go and get high. And being a parent of teenage boys, I’m so frickin’ scared for them. Curiosity, peer pressure, a friend’s parents medicine cabinet. Addiction could happen to anyone at anytime. It could easily start with a sports injury…You get prescribed vicodin, percocet, oxycodone for an ACL, shoulder, or back injury and soon enough you go from a euphoric painkiller to shooting heroine- a cheaper, faster, more easily attainable drug.
I am now 5 months sober. (You may read about my relapse, HERE). And I am ready and willing to find a new freedom. But there are millions of alcoholics and addicts today still suffering. Whether they are out on the streets or living in multi-million dollar homes, there is just so much torture and tragedy surrounding them. My hopes would be to draw more attention to this debilitating disease. To remove its negative stigma. I am overcome by the hundreds of people I hear about everyday that are dropping into oblivion. It saddens me.
My story started with a few core beliefs. I did not like myself, and I was always so fearful of not being good enough. I needed approval, and I needed to please. I guess I needed other people to love me, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to. And then everything changed with my first drink. All the fear, shyness, and self-hatred evaporated with that first burning swallow. My drinking, from the start, became such a roller coaster ride. My emotional extremes were so fanatic. It would take me to such depths of denial and then such heights of arrogance. From the deepest, darkest lows to the highest peaks of ecstasy.
An obvious precursor to becoming an alcoholic, when I put alcohol in my body I would lose the ability to choose how much I drank. Once I started, my decision to stop was so unpredictable. Once I finished that first glass of Chardonnay, I just was never going to have enough. I was always craving more, and the obsession for alcohol gradually began to dominate all of my activities. My “drink planning” became more important that any other plans in my life. I was always chasing that perfect buzz and had an insatiable appetite for anything mind-altering! Always looking to push my limits, to acquire that out-of-this-world adrenaline rush! Whether it be pleasure or pain, I needed to feel that high!!! What I really just needed was to FEEL. Period!
With my blonde and buttery friend by my side, my tongue loosened and my morals lowered. A mellow glow stole over me and everyone laughed loudly. I was witty, I was carefree, and I had no inferiorities. My sly and silent friend gave me such a fine voice and its cunning whisperings gave me freedom from fear and all feelings of worthlessness. …Until the next morning when the indescribable torture of shame, disgust, and remorse had me, again. I was defeated and beaten down, once again. What a devious, scheming, evil foe alcohol is! Who just last night I called my best friend, was now my worst enemy. It just waited in the shadows- laughing, snickering- knowing I’d be calling back soon for more. When would enough be enough? For many, it ends buried underground.
It all starts with maybe a drink to escape or to ease your unhappiness. I drank to escape my shyness and self-loathing, and I discovered this at a very early age. I was 12 years old. And from that age on, I drank to get drunk! I had fun drinking and I loved the effect it had on me. Plain and simple- it made me feel good. That warm fuzzy feeling was so sublime. I wanted to spend the rest of my life in that buzz-filled trance. Drinking was taking on a very important, exhilarating part in my life. Drinking, getting drunk, and blacking out is fun and cool for awhile and then…its SOOOO NOT! About 5 years ago, I started to feel a terrible sense of impending doom. Had my drinking gotten out of control? You go from an innocent 1-2 glasses of wine with dinner to… one fine day writing a suicide note to your husband and children in a drunken, pill-popping stupor! BOOM! Just like that! A beautiful life- gone in an instant!
How many times have I heard people say…”Her will power must be weak”…”Why can’t you have just one or two?”. And then with these observations come a world of ignorance, misunderstanding, and negativity. The moderate or “normal” drinkers would have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they had good reason to. They could take or leave it. If there’s strong reason to stop like, for example, ill health, liver disease, family upheaval, or “Doctor’s Orders”- these people can stop. No problem.
But the real alcoholic, even with all of these warnings, can’t! He or she might start out as a moderate drinker- you don’t have to be a daily or continuous heavy drinker. But at some stage of your drinking career, you begin to lose all control of the liquor consumed- once you take that first drink of the day. And by the end of the night it’s very unpredictable how intoxicated one might become. Personally, I never knew if I was going to come home slightly buzzed or completely black-out drunk. And, most of those nights I was driving.
Alcoholics are often perfectly sensible and respectable concerning everything except liquor. But under the influence they become dishonest and unpredictable. After hundreds of embarrassing and humiliating acts under the influence; and knowing that one drink could lead to twenty with suffering, pain, and darkness to follow; why is it that the alcoholic takes that one drink to begin with? Where is that common sense and will power? The answer: Once any alcohol enters the system, it’s virtually almost impossible for him to stop. Most alcoholics have lost the power of choice in drink. Their willpower becomes nonexistent. We are unable to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of a month, week, or even day before! We are without defense against the first drink. It’s similar to someone failing to keep from putting his hand on a hot stove. They might think “It won’t burn me this time”.
Alcoholism is an illness. A disease of the mind. It starts with an intense physical craving accompanied with a mental obsession. If a person has cancer or diabetes, all are sorry for him and no one is angry and hurt. But not so with the alcoholic. For with alcoholism there accompanies annihilation of all things worthwhile in life. Destruction of all trust, destruction of loving relationships, destruction of the mind, body, and soul… The disease is a complete train wreck. It sneaks up on you quick and engulfs all those whose lives touch the sufferer. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, divorce, disgusted friends and employers. It warps the lives of blameless children and is heart-breaking for parents, husbands, wives.
So many want to stop, but cannot. But when you have finally come to believe in the hopelessness of life as you had been living it; when you have reached your lowest of lows and life has become unbearable- you now have 2 choices. Go on to the bitter end or, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, surrender and ask for spiritual help.
Towards the end of my drinking and one of the reasons I decided to get help was that my life started falling apart. All the ways I shielded myself, all the ways I deluded myself, all the ways I maintained my well-polished image- all of it fell apart. My shell of a self was cracking. No matter how hard I tried to deny that I had a problem, no matter how hard I tried to manipulate those closest to me into believing I had everything under control, I had completely lost my sense of self and I just couldn’t find anywhere to hide anymore. I was fading fast and my light was dimming to darkness.
Ahhhh, that craving to drink. It’s still almost always with me. I feel it taunting me, and my happiness and serenity with living an alcohol-free life seems forever just out of reach! With alcoholism you are in a constant state of action. You are either moving towards the drink or away from it.
I admit…I miss drinking. I sometimes wonder if I will ever be happy again? I definitely can place blame – “Why’d you have to go and shut down my fun?” “Why’d you have to take away the one thing in life that gave me reprieve?” I could be resentful of people and situations, or I can look at this as a test- a test to measure my strength in moments of loss. With the elimination of alcohol in my life, I definitely experience a sense of loss! A loss of a loved one. I didn’t want this illness. I hate it! It terrifies me to think I will not be able to introduce alcohol back in my life! But maybe this illness will be my greatest gift? Even now I find myself still running and hiding, keeping myself busy when confrontation arises- when I need that drink to calm my anxiety. It’s just easier than facing pain and letting my heart be penetrated by feeling. Why do I feel the need to always either indulge or repress? Excessively consume or completely ignore and minimize? I need to learn to make friends with my hopes and fears. To be more awake in the midst of everyday chaos. Just acknowledge these feelings and then let them go.
Now with a little sobriety under my belt, I am drawn to discover what’s waiting out there for me, even without knowing yet if I have the courage to face it. With sobriety comes self-discovery. I am stripped of my escape mechanism, there is nowhere to hide, and I must now look inward. Who am I? I feel very raw and exposed, but this vulnerability needs to be present if I truly want to be honest with myself. What can I give the world? What qualities and passions do I want to embrace, strengthen, and then give freely to others?
There is a place I go to that allows me to feel safely vulnerable and has been one of the most important tools in my sobriety. This place is an AA meeting. When a group of people come together to share their experience, strength, and hope over a common affliction- there is a great and powerful force that envelopes them. When I listen to these like-minded people share their similar struggles, I don’t feel alone in my suffering and I leave these rooms feeling so empowered! It is truly a life-changing experience, and you can’t help but get the sense that God is working in and through each one of us here.
Today, I now have a small sense of victory! A real feeling of empowerment. Every day I stay sober, there is a confidence I have never known from my past. Now I just try to live in the moment. So many times I have cheated myself of the present moment by worrying too much about past mistakes or future deadlines. All we are guaranteed in life is NOW! Life… oh how it changes and moves so fast! I want to find joy and happiness in living TODAY, because I am not guaranteed tomorrow.
Faith is my companion now. By the grace of God- I am given the gift of life. We are all given this gift. What will you do with it? God had to show me that there is nothing a drink could make better. So here I am. Sober. Learning to practice serenity. Learning self-respect. Gaining the power of self-confidence. These are just a few gifts I get for surrendering, suiting up, and showing up for life everyday. There are good days and bad days. Reality is a wild ride, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
“Beautiful veins and bloodshot eyes. Why’d you have to go and let it die?” -The Foo Fighters