I don’t like the “r” word. This word rehabs (another “r” word) want us to use is “relapse”. I hate that word and I hate the notion that everybody relapses. They don’t. They don’t have to. It’s not part of sobriety or recovery. It’s not. Let’s call it what it is, if you are sober and you take a drink, you didn’t relapse, you took a drink. However, being sober and taking a drink is not the end. It certainly doesn’t need to be.
I spoke with someone who is sober but drank recently. She drank one bottle over a couple days and she felt awful about it. She is overwhelmed and feeling alone and chose to drink. She freely admits she knew better and yet chose to drink. She got right back on the horse and is going to meetings and doesn’t want to do it again, but let’s face it. It’s always there. For all of us. I applaud her. I give her a full on rousing standing ovation for telling me and for owning up and for getting right back to what she needs to do in order to be sober. Before it’s too late. Before the next drink does her in. When people say drinking’s no longer an option, I don’t buy that. It’s always an option, but today I have a choice. As long as I am sober I have a choice whether I take that drink.
It’s been a few 24 hours since I had a drink. Only by working the steps and trying to do the next right thing am I granted a daily reprieve from my alcoholism. But it never goes away. IT NEVER GOES AWAY. What people don’t really understand is that for an alcoholic, it’s not just the drinking. That is a symptom of the much larger problem and that problem is ourselves. We drink to drown out the voices and the problems and even the joys. We drink. I’m an alcoholic and I drink. It’s what I do. The fact that I can string together days, weeks, months, years, decades without a drink is a miracle. But it’s not just me doing it. I have a group of people who help me because they are alcoholics and they get it. I believe in something bigger than me that helps me along and I believe in karma these days too.
That is how this works for me. It may not be the way it works for you and that’s fine, but for me, I need community. Something so foreign, so diametrically opposed to what my gut says I need, that I fight it. I fought community and sharing with other people as if my life depended on it. My life did depend on it and it still does today.
Nobody is harder on the person who uses than that person themselves. You can think they don’t care or that it’s no big deal, but I’m telling you. NOBODY is harder on that person than themselves. It’s the vicious cycle of feeling the feelings and drinking to cover them up and then feeling like shit for drinking so you drink again to cover up the feelings. See what I’m getting at? See why feeling all the feelings SOBER is such a big deal? To be able to define and hash out what I’m feeling today and no matter how uncomfortable it all is to just GO THROUGH it without drinking is such a gift. Such a miracle.
It’s a choice we make each and every day to go through it. To live life on life’s terms and not drink it away. To choose the hard and the difficult but also to rejoice in the joy and the happiness that accompanies this crazy wonderful life we’ve been given is why many would question, “how could you just throw that all away?” Well, an alcoholic knows how quickly and how easily we can chuck it all. But it’s not meaningless to us.
The torment and the agony we feel is indescribable. The guilt and remorse when people first get sober is unlike anything you can imagine. In most cases, it is completely justified as it’s our responsibility to come to terms with what we’ve done and continue to make amends and move forward. IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO HEAL. It’s taken me 15 years sober to heal and I’m still very much in the process and hopefully will be for the rest of my life.
Luckily this woman put down the bottle and is fighting again, but it scares the shit out of me. I know where we go and I know how fast we lose everything. I am one drink away from losing everything. It happens that fast. When you have the obsession, nothing else matters. I write this to remind me. To remind her. To say that this fucking disease is cunning, baffling and powerful, BUT SO ARE WE. We are so much more than just ruled by alcohol when we have our wits about us. Even when drinking we are still important human beings. But when we are sober and able to make the choice of going to a meeting or taking a drink, the choice to do anything other than drink needs to be the goal.
We need to be available to each other and accessible. The whole reason 12-step groups have such a loyal following and great success rate is because it’s built around the foundation of like minded folks sharing with each other. Wildly different kinds of people sharing ONE thing in common. The most important and devastating thing in common for sure. If you don’t use a 12-step group that’s your prerogative and I never maintain that they’re the only way people can stay sober. But I cannot do this alone. Just like life and parenting and family and every struggle we go through is lightened by sharing the load, so is alcoholism.
The reasons I drank are still here. I am still the same person, though drastically changed today through hard work and dedication to change. I am my flaws and my triumphs. I am my worst and my best. I am an alcoholic, but I am so much more than that. I am responsible today. I am responsible for taking care of myself and now for 2 other beings that need me. I am responsible for the vows I made to my husband and I am responsible to my family and my work. I am responsible. That can be terrifying at times, but mostly it is just gratitude inspiring.
Here’s the thing though, I am every other alcoholic out there. I am this woman who is in shatters due to drinking and feeling like she’s drowning. I am responsible to her. I am her. To her I say, you are not alone. I am with you. I can help carry you until you get to some solid ground and as I carry you, you in turn carry me. That is how this works. I cannot save anybody and nobody could save me. I had to save myself. But it sure is vital to have help along the way.
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