Let’s talk about addiction.
It’s been on my mind for a while, floating like a misguided salesman hell bent on selling me a product I don’t need. Don’t get me wrong, it could be a great product for somebody else; it just isn’t for me.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but hearing about someone’s “experiment” with quitting drinking for a month or even a year doesn’t even get close to what it’s like to be an alcoholic.
At times it is offensive to read them. Their words sound so dispassionate about the experiment, analyzing how their body reacted and how they thought about it. It’s no big deal. They can quit whenever they want. I know I’m supposed to feel relieved that others are trying to understand what I’m going through, it is appreciated, but they don’t understand. Just as I don’t understand them.
I’m not trying to be mean. I’m just trying to be critical. It’s easy to tolerate something when you know there’s an end to it. Work ends. The school day ends. The movie ends. It’s the basis for daily life and setting goals.
“One Day at a Time” says my beginner’s chip in AA. One day turns to two, turns to three, and hopefully so on. There is no end except the real end. Alcohol, any addiction, is a powerful force in a person’s life. It cannot be controlled except by pure force of will. Every day. It never ends.
For many addicts there is no redo. We hear stories about famous people and criticize them. Fine. Everyone deserves criticism. But everyone has moments of weakness, some of those weaknesses are more serious than others. A relapse for an addict can mean the end of everything. It is utterly frightening. Freezing. The ultimate weakness. I seriously believe that if I drink again I will die. I don’t want to die. I also don’t want alcohol to have control over me.
These types of thoughts wrangle my brain every day. They sneak up when I’m unaware or just enjoying something.
You think this person is weak.
You think this person is sick.
You think this person isn’t normal.
Maybe you’re right.
Maybe you’re not.
I thought all of these and more. I still do. In the end. It doesn’t matter.
Addicts have to live every day with their addiction.
It is now nine years sober and counting for me. It is harder now than it was at the beginning.
I’ve struggled with alcohol for a relatively short time, 18 years now. I started late by many standards, age 18, but it took over my life. I would drink at any time I wanted to. It didn’t matter if I had any responsibilities. I was a high functioning alcoholic so I could still get things done. As I got older I became confused and frightened of alcohol. So I would quit for a few weeks, a month, six months.
It was easy and it made me feel good. Gave me a feeling of control over alcohol. I knew there was an end to my sobriety. I marked the day on the calendar and waited with baited breath and big plans. New drinks to try. New places to drink. That day. That day. It was something to look forward to. I could drink again.
A few cycles passed. Drink. Don’t drink.
I was an on again off again drunk.
I just didn’t know it. Each time my drinking cycle came around my drinking was worse. It was as if I was making up for the time I missed. I drank more. I drank harder. But it was okay because I had a dry cycle coming up soon.
Maybe it was my fault in the first place. Maybe, if I had just kept drinking without worrying about my planned breaks I would have been fine. Moderation, they say. Drink in moderation and everything will be okay.
I know there are people out there who can control their urges. You are lucky. You are not addicted. I envy you. But are you absolutely sure? That’s the funny thing about addiction. It doesn’t tell you. It hides in the shadows, encouraging you that everything is okay. You don’t have a problem. You are not weak.
Now, having said all of this. Moments of cleansing and experimenting into things that are outside your experience are wonderful things to do. Please, go ahead and write about it. It’s a magnificent reflective learning experience. You can quit for good whenever you want. I truly hope it is true.
Remember, there is no going back. There is nothing to look forward to. There is no light at the end. Addicts are always running. Some days addiction nips at your heels, other days addiction is far behind.
But addiction never gives up, and neither can you.