I thought if I could just figure out why I was an alcoholic that I could somehow use that knowledge to “fix” myself and somehow change my situation and circumstance. I have come to learn that ‘why’ is unimportant to someone in the throngs of a permanent, progressive and fatal illness.
My sponsor says, “Why is not a spiritual question.” That’s not to say ‘why’ has no value. Intellectually, it may hold all the answers to the age-old riddle of alcoholism. When I was living trapped in bottle ‘why’ only served to keep me locked in the problem with no hope of freedom. For me, ‘why’ has always been a question better left to doctors, scientists and 3-year olds. Complete acceptance of my predicament only came when I stopped asking why and just conceded that I was truly alcoholic. Only then could I begin to live in the solution.
My drinking (and drugging) career lasted 26 years. I didn’t find recovery until I was 40 years old. My story isn’t the worst of the worst and I was by no means the best of the best. Although I like to think of myself as somehow superior or inferior to everyone else, the more stories I hear, I have come to realize how average I am. I used drugs and alcohol because I liked to. I lived for the effects they produced. In the beginning it was fun and I enjoyed drugs and alcohol to their fullest potentials.
I could write a novel about what I drank and used, who I was with and where I did it. There are funny stories, happy times, tragic incidents and shocking tales, yet none of the events really accurately define how I drank and used.
When I drank I could not control the amount I took. Once inside my body, I suffered from physical cravings beyond my control that necessitated I drink more. When I first started I could manage and moderate on occasion, but it was always an endeavor, requiring all the willpower I could muster and it was never the way I wanted it to be. Every time I tried to control my consumption I was unfulfilled and unhappy because I couldn’t drink how I wanted to. A night of controlled drinking was an unwelcome chore and as my illness progressed it became a living nightmare, where I would never be satiated or satisfied.
While this sounds horrible, on its own cravings are not so bad. Theoretically, if I never put alcohol in my body, then I would never crave it. The only problem is that I discovered my illness was two-fold. Not only did I have a physical craving beyond my control, I also suffered from a mental obsession with alcohol. Even without putting alcohol in my body, my mind became wrapped around the thought of the next time I could drink. Sometimes it was a loud, easily recognizable call and other times it was a quiet, nagging pang; but neither could ever be controlled or ignored. In any case, I was always drawn toward the next drink and the craving would kick in. This cycle repeated itself for what seemed like a lifetime. If I was ablebto to stop, I could not stay stopped.
I was the type of alcoholic who had to exhaust everything before I was able to become willing to accept a solution other than myself. Consequences suffered never honestly defined my alcoholism, but they were strong indicators that something was terribly wrong with me.
Visits to doctors, trips to rehabs, stints in jail, hearts broken, children abandoned, divorced, a broken home, friendships ruined, unemployed, financially, morally and spiritually bankrupt. The true cost of a drink meant I had trad in everything I thought was me.
Completely depleted and hopeless, I found myself in a treatment center for the last time. It was there that I became willing to do things differently. It was there that I completely surrendered and became convinced that I could not beat alcoholism on my own. Then that I began to accept help, follow direction and do all of the things required recover from that seemingly hopeless state of mind and body I knew to be alcoholism.
The treatment center was an effective time out, a safe place to be where I could eat, rest and heal. But my recovery began with the Hospitals and Institutions branch of 12 step recovery where speakers would come in and talk about how they lived as happy and productive sober alcoholics. It was through “H and I” that I met my sponsor. He story resonated with me and I decided if this way of life worked for him then perhaps it could work for me.
My sponsor promised me if I worked the 12 steps, staying sober while I did it, that I would be relieved of the obsession to drink and never have to pick up again. It sounded like a good deal and I chose to believe that it could work for me. In all truth it wasn’t much of a choice. My only options left were to recover or die, and the slow suicide of drinking seemed unfathomable.
What I did to get sober and what I do to stay sober has not changed since I came into the rooms- I go to meetings regularly; I work steps in all areas of my life; I have a sponsor and a sober support group who I remain in constant contact with; I actively participate in service work; and I have a spiritual connection with a Power greater than myself which I nurture on a daily basis. The result has yielded continuous sobriety achieved one day at a time. The work has been simple but not always easy. The program isn’t for those who want or those who need it. The program is for those who do it. I have no reservations that if I continue to do the work, that I will continue to be rid of the obsession to get loaded. Without the mental obsession, if I don’t put anything in my body then I will never awaken the physical craving.
Sobriety has not stopped life from showing up. But, as life presents itself, good or bad, my solution has not been drugs or alcohol. That is the miracle of 12 step recovery, freedom to live life, clear and connected to the rest of the Universe. Thanks to the program of action, I have watched my world transform and healed relationships that I thought were lost forever. I have been blessed with a new design for living and and my solution for dealing with life is no longer drugs and alcohol.
If you drank like me, then you may be an alcoholic. If you are an alcoholic, then there is hope. Ask for help, my hand will always be there. For that I am responsible.