Alcohol, Addiction, Oh My!
Dayvid, you are about to walk through a minefield.
I know, I know….sadly I know.
What I am about to present is “MY” take on alcoholism and addiction. I am not a Drug and Alcohol Counselor, a Preacher, a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, or a MD. I do not pretend to know anything about alcoholism or addiction. There is so much we collectively do not know. The subject is huge, filled with a myriad of different aspects and so many levels of alcoholism. What are my credentials? I have been there, done that, and BEAT THE BASTARD! I don’t present this article for debate or argument and won’t engage as such. I present this as “My Story”. Read it or don’t. Like it or not. But by all means do not tell me I am wrong, I continue to choose not to drink. As with any story it is simply a story. If you get something out of it and it helps you, fantastic. If not, just move on.
Was I an Alcoholic?
Am I an Alcoholic?
Do I have a problem with Alcohol?
Am I in recovery?
Have I recovered?
I simply choose not to drink alcohol.
Society’s take on alcoholism truly amazes me. It’s as if the whole world wants you to fail in your choice not to drink. The word sober gives rise to rather mundane ideas.
Encarta Dictionary – Sober:
Sober doesn’t sound like much fun, it sounds serious and dull. What is society trying to tell us?
If a person is obese and loses a lot of weight are they still obese? Do we call them Fataholics?
Do we hide the cake and cookies when they come to our homes? Do we avoid discussing our favourite foods in front of them? No. We celebrate their successes, we encourage them to keep the weight off, and we complement them on their self-discipline. We commend them on their choice to live a healthier life style. They are champions. Yes there are some eating disorders that cannot be corrected by mere dieting and exercise. I trust you are getting my point.
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome, in my choice not to drink, was of course me. If I admitted I had a problem then I believed that alcohol had beaten me. But more on that hurdle later. Another huge hurdle I had to overcome, in choosing not to drink, was the people around me. They were my wife, my children, my family, friends, colleagues and the rest of the world. They would judge me as weak, useless, a failure, unable to control myself, a man beaten by alcohol. For some reason most people require validation by having another be less than they are. This somehow makes them feel better about themselves. All of my accomplishments appeared to be wiped out and replaced by their ‘holier than thou’ attitude. I must admit some were supportive but even their attitudes were skewed towards alcoholism. I was at a family dinner after recently choosing not to drink. Desert time came and my sister offered the choices but omitted the plum pudding choice. I said, “I’ll have some of the plum pudding please.”
She replied, “You know the sauce has rum in it.” What the hell was she thinking? I was going to have a spoonful of sauce that started out with about an ounce of rum in a quart of sauce and then cooked so most of the alcohol evaporated, and go ape shit. Was she afraid I was going to tear apart her house, beat up the guests, and piss in her sink? Friends would come to the house and bring non-alcoholic wine. Have you ever tasted that crap? What are you people thinking and who do we have to thank for this? They are the purveyors of misinformation surrounding alcoholism.
What are we most familiar with? It is Alcoholics Anonymous. Dayvid! Here comes another mine. I know, I know… In my opinion Alcoholics Anonymous are purveyors of misinformation regarding alcohol. The next are the Churches by stating that only by accepting God and redemption through Jesus Christ will you be able to stop drinking but you will always be an alcoholic because you are powerless against alcohol. I will freely admit there are some exceptions. If you have attended AA and are still attending, and this program works for you, fantastic. I admire and applaud you, don’t stop. If you have accepted redemption through Jesus Christ and you are sober and happy, wonderful. I admire and applaud you as well. Please don’t stop. Both of these options are faith based. AA thought it prudent to change from the term “God” to “Higher Power”. However in some cases the ‘Serenity Prayer’ opens the AA meetings and the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ closes the meeting.
There does not appear to be any studies that have gauged recidivism rates for those turning to the church for help. There appears to be a number of studies examining the recidivism rate among those who choose the AA option. These studies claim there is a 90% recidivism rate in the first year and might be as high as 95%. I can’t say whether this is true or not but there are a number of credible studies that claim the foregoing. These same studies show the highest rate of success is when one chooses not to drink on their own without the support of the foregoing programs.
My concern with these programs is they teach and enforce the concept that one is powerless over alcohol, you will always be an alcoholic, and you will always be in recovery. In other words you will spend the rest of your life as a victim. These concepts are so universally accepted that the ‘Non Alcoholics’ around you believe this of you as well. You are an alcoholic, that relapse is waiting around every corner, you are powerless and you will always be in recovery. First Step of the 12 Step Program; “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.” I agree that your life will be unmanageable if you choose to continue drinking.
Quite frankly; Screw you, I am not powerless and I refuse to be a victim.
So what did you do Dayvid?
Before we continue please hear me. Whatever it takes for you to come to a place where you choose not to drink for your own wellbeing please take it. I don’t care if it’s AA, Salvation Army, Your Church, some fancy dance $1000.00 a day rehab, or on your own initiative. Just do something. You are far too wonderful an individual with so much to give to yourself and those around you. I can truly say I have never been happier or more fulfilled on my journey. Namaste.
Here is what I did.
Drinking was a very large part of my life. I started drinking when I was 13 years old. I remember the first night I got drunk. I’d seen other people in a drunken state before. I remember thinking so this is what it’s like, man this is fantastic. Remembering those years of drinking they were mostly great times. My drinking increased and would become a problem. Fights with my Wife, passing out, and forgetting what I did. I would then quit drinking for a period of time, always going back thinking I could be a social drinker. To make a long story short my problem did not culminate until quite a few years of this roller coaster ride had passed. I was drinking, not drinking, and binge drinking on the weekends. Finally I reached a point where I realized I had to stop. The main reason for stopping was I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. The hours wasted were enormous. All I did was work and drink.
This is my story of sobriety.
I had admitted to myself for years that I had a problem. I should have known then that if I thought I had a problem then for sure everyone around me knew I had a problem. I thought I was hiding it well. It was the elephant in the room that everyone tip toed around and never acknowledged was in the room. Those first couple of drinks I had was fantastic. I was confident, outgoing, and having a blast. I kept wondering why I couldn’t I feel this way without the booze. The next thing I knew it was taking two to three days to fully recover physically and mentally from a weekend binge. Mondays became ‘Hell on Wheels’. I started drinking in the morning, not much, just enough to get over the sickness. I even got to the point of DTs and hallucinations. Never thought it would happen to me. If it hasn’t happened to you and you don’t choose not to drink then, trust me, it will. It was then I decided I had to stop.
The first thing I realized was that I had to prepare myself for choosing not to drink. I had meditated most of my life and realized the benefits of controlling the ‘Monkey Mind’. That is the mind that allows thoughts to jump around uncontrolled like a rambunctious monkey. I put more focus into my practice to increase control of my mind. There is other sections on this site that might help; ‘Gate Keeper’ & Taming the Mind’. Just because I was an alcoholic didn’t mean I wasn’t spiritual. I came to realize that choosing not to drink did not mean that alcohol had beaten me. I came to realize that alcohol was my adversary and I was going to beat it. That was a huge mind shift for me. I no longer felt weak. I no longer felt like a victim. I felt empowered and quite frankly pissed off that an inanimate substance could exert such control over me. I now knew my adversary. If you do not know your adversary you have nothing to fight. I now had an attitude, I knew my enemy, and I was going to Beat the Bastard.
I also understood that I would have to take care of my body and the changes it was about to go through. After years of filling my body with alcohol I knew there would be consequences of depriving my body of alcohol. Alcohol is literally a neurotoxin, (nerve poison) that affects every cell in the body; it kills brain cells. I dramatically increased my water intake, stayed away from coffee, sugar, and other carbohydrates. I started a vitamin regimen; thousands of milligrams of vitamin C a day, in divided doses; all the B-vitamins, especially thiamin, in a B-complex supplement, five times a day; niacin, and about three grams of L-glutamine. Remember I am not a Doctor and this is not medical advice it is simply what I did. I started walking 30 minutes to an hour per day which led me to other forms of exercise. Body and mind were being prepared.
My spirit was always alive. I had been on a spiritual quest for most of my life. The drinking did not seem to get in my way. As a matter of fact I felt more spiritual when I drank. I wrote some of my best poetry when I was blitzed. My explanation to others of the spiritual journey was lucid and from the feedback helped many in starting their spiritual journey. With the alcohol I wasn’t confined or worried by what others thought and I was free to share those deepest parts of me. I continued to read voraciously and would eat up any spiritual book I could get my hands on. In the early years books like Illusions by Richard Bach, Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, the Bible, the Quran, and many others.
The triad of Body, Mind, and Spirit had to be addressed if I was to succeed.
I was now ready to bungee jump, scared shitless. I also realized that I would have to remove all the safety nets. Admitting to myself I had a problem was one thing and committing to myself I was going to choose not to drink was another. However, what would happen if I didn’t follow through? Actually nothing would happen. Just crawl back inside the same old hamster wheel. So I removed the nets. First I went to my Doctor and said, “I have finally come to the full realization that I am an alcoholic and I need help.” My Doctor replied, “I know. There was nothing I could do until you came to the realization.” We discussed many things during that visit including my vitamin regimen which he agreed with. We also discussed what was causing the behavior. What I came to understand was that I was self-medicating myself for anxiety and depression. I was very successful in my career. I received many accolades and awards. Yet I would go to an awards banquet and take the top prizes and on my way to work the next day worry about getting fired. I worried constantly that I was not measuring up as a husband, a father, and a friend. I couldn’t do enough for anybody. I was living my life for everyone else. I was so afraid of failing. My blood pressure was through the roof. I was a heart attack waiting for a place to happen.
We decided on a full physical, medication to control my blood pressure until we could get it under control, and a mild anti-depressant. Anti-Depressant !!! You must be out of your mind if I was going to start taking meds. I never took medication not even aspirin. To take any kind of medication was a sign of weakness. My Doctor explained it was a very mild, non-addictive medication. Some of us do not produce enough of one or all of the following; serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. If your body is lacking in one area we should supplement these areas. My Doctor also recommended a book, ‘Mood Over Mind’ by Greenberger and Padesky. I agreed and to return in three months. One safety net down.
Next I uttered those words, “I am an alcoholic and I know I have a problem”, to every one of my family. They all knew of course but were overwhelmed and pleased that I had finally admitted there was an elephant in the room. The safety nets were tumbling down. That day I choose not to drink. I was scared. I saved one net. I told myself and no one else that I would do this for six months and re-evaluate whether I wanted to continue to abstain from drinking. I couldn’t bring myself to committing to something forever. It would just set me up for failure. But I could do it for six months. I felt for the first time in many years of drinking and trying to quit this time was going to be different. I went out that weekend and got wasted.
I was so sick and confused. “Why?” I asked my God. “Take this curse away from me.” “I have acknowledged that I have a problem, I have asked you to remove alcohol from my life, why won’t you help me?”
The answer came to me very clearly. “I will help you, I will guide you, I will mentor you, and when necessary I will intervene. I will not carry you.” The foregoing might not be relevant to your belief system but I think you get the idea. There is no easy way out. Nobody is going to baby you through this process; Not family, not friends, nobody. You have to want it enough to do it for yourself. Take ownership.
I now had a choice. I could give up, admit defeat, and stay in this place for the rest of my life. Or I could try again. Yesterday is gone. I am not the person I was yesterday. Every day I arise I can and will progress along my path.
I focused on my body by exercising and watching what I was eating. I stayed away from processed food. I eventually joined a gym. I lost weight. I am not saying that everyone should do this but please acknowledge that your body requires exercise. When you care for your body it will reward you.
I focused on my meditation. I built up to twice and day, twenty minutes each. I was ‘Taming the Mind.’ I found I also ‘Tamed the Mind’ during the day. When thoughts entered my head that I didn’t want I allowed them to pass through and told them not to come back. I started to question my impressions of the world around me. What was influencing me? I stopped involving myself in drama. Why do we watch the pain and suffering of others on TV? Why do we read books that are full of drama? Why do we engage in gossip? Like my body, my mind did not need to be stuffed with junk. If I thought negatively about myself in any way I simply reversed it and uttered it as an affirmation. I eventually synthesized the affirmation to I AM, I CAN, I WILL.
I fed my Spirit. I surrounded myself with positive people. I focused on me. I acknowledged that I was the most important person on this journey. I refused to associate or engage with any person or situation that was negative in any way. I lost a lot of friends, some family, and associates. At times I felt very lonely until I realized how great I was starting to feel. I refused what I had been taught about my needs and desires. The world around me was looking brighter. I was seeing things in a different way. I was starting to stop and smell the roses. I found I was an incredible soul with so much to offer.
The most important realization came when I stopped blaming everything around me for what was wrong in my world. I dropped the preface ‘if only’. If my Aunt had balls she’d be my Uncle.
The ‘poor me’ persona amplifies to everyone around you and you will find yourself alone. Quit singing that song, for every time you sing it, you will continue to believe it. Suck it up Buttercup. You choose. How do you want the rest of this journey to play out?
So, what happened next Dayvid?
I was over the moon. I was feeling joyous; I was experiencing that feeling without alcohol that I had experienced with alcohol. I remember sitting on the deck watching the sun go down and trying to understand why all those addicted could not experience this. If they did they would choose not to be addicted. My last safety net of six months abstinence seemed to be falling away. I remember saying to myself why would anyone give up this joy and serenity for even one glass of wine?
That weekend I bought a bottle and drank the entire bottle. I also bought a bottle of wine knowing that I would need it in the morning to fight the sickness. “Damm, shit, F***, bastard, asshole, prick, dumb ass, pond scum.” What the hell just happened? I don’t know. Just a few nights before I remember saying, “why would anyone give up this joy and serenity for even one glass of wine?” I have never been so sick. The wine helped but I knew just postponed the sickness. This time the hallucinations were scarier than ever. I knew I had to get well.
Maybe it was my God teaching me that I hadn’t hit bottom yet. Maybe it was a re-enforcement that I had to have an attitude and take full ownership of my being.
What did I do? I let go of yesterday, I suffered through three days of incredible sickness, depression, and anxiety. What got me through? I remembered the joy and serenity. I was going back to that place.
I am back in that place and my God be willing I am going to continue progressing from that place. People sometimes ask, “Are you a non-drinker? Do you know Bill W.? When did you discover sobriety? How long have you been sober? I appreciate their interest if their interest is not self- serving. However, your questions are not relevant. I am not an alcoholic, I am not in recovery, and I am not a victim. I have chosen not to drink. The rest is immaterial. I will not be defined by alcohol. I Beat the Bastard, hear me roar.
Please remember this is my story.
This is not advice or counseling. Some might say, “It’s easy for you to say because you have beaten it.” It is not easy for me to say and it was not an easy leg of my journey. It was a very difficult part of my life but I chose this path and the lessons that I would encounter. The external influences that pressure us during our journey are enormous. I found it hard to accept how society orbits around alcohol. Most social gatherings include alcohol. And you are the ‘odd man’ out. I have found that most people, after a certain number of drinks, are people I really do not want to engage with. It also applies to other areas. Most folks don’t want you to succeed because if you do they lose their own validation.
“Illegitimus non carborundum” — Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Not really Latin but you get the point.
Recognize the place you are in.
Decide if you want to change.
Make the change
Well that is my story and a few humble suggestions. I don’t pretend that I am the authority on changing negative behaviors. I am just a being trying to be.
With all the love and compassion that is within me I wish you well on your journey. It is not an easy path at times and it does require you to be alive. Please don’t stay in places you don’t want to be. I don’t wish you numbness and inertia. I wish you life. A glorious life filled with joy and serenity. The greatest rewards are often the most difficult to obtain. They are truly worth the effort.
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