Procrastination

Delaying something can have various consequences. A deadline in work is meaningless a week later however putting off a trip, visiting a person, a place could cause regret and sadness later on. Live in the moment with an attitude of gratitude is difficult for me to practice when fear encroaches, develops and consumes. The fear arrives in the guise of perfectionism. Seductive negative talk manipulates the mind into inaction.

I started this blog post three days ago, progress halted by thoughts of online shopping, trash TV and fast food, yeah, procrastination. It’s not laziness, it’s routed in fear of adequacy. What can I contribute to the discussion of alcoholism, addiction and recovery that hasn’t already been addressed by AA and learned professionals? The answer comes when I allow humility to whisper after my ego has finished with the intrusive disparaging thoughts of ridicule.

Pondering procrastination I considered what it was like to drink zero percentage beer all those years ago. I was white-knuckling and trying desperately to regain my physical, mental health without resorting to what I knew best i.e. drinking into oblivion. Emotionally I felt guilty for surviving major surgery and wanting to drink. I knew the illness had suppressed my alcoholism and I sincerely wanted to gain employment and get my life back together again. I got some bottles of alcohol free lager to watch whilst watching the Formula One. The condensation on the glass surface of the bottle felt familiar. The clink of the bottle pinging another bottle as I took it from the refrigerator was a reminder that I had more bottles to come back to. Grasping the bottle opener and pivoting the crinkled cap off, gas smoking briefly as the fizz allows the hoppy smell to escape. The first taste is fresh, crisp at the back of my throat as I exhale the vapour through my nose, the taste biting as the liquid gulped down disperses into my body …not bad this stuff, not bad, as I look at the lable. The whole experience was a sensory explosion that was to inevitably encourage a deluge of alcoholic drinks some weeks later.

I think what I’m trying to say is that procrastination is a defensive move against intrusive thoughts and negative emotions that manifest as self fulfilling prophecies. Then the intrusive thoughts have a foundation on which to build bigger and more elaborate deceptions because hey, remember the last time you tried the non-alcoholic beer? It was fine right? A few real beer’s would be fine, right? Similarly, I find that in recovery I succumb to anxiety and depression fueled by procrastination routed in fear. Waking suddenly in the early hours with thoughts of an unfinished task or overthinking conversations is exhausting. I have to recite the Serenity Prayer many times in an attempt to make contact with my Higher Power so that I can find some peace and sanity. The wisdom to know the difference between the things I can change and the things I can’t comforts me in that dark lonely place we find ourselves in at times.

Procrastination is a byproduct of the avoidance I would achieve through active alcoholism. ‘Life on Life’s terms’ is fucking difficult to practice despite the term rolling off the tongue of most recovered alcoholics. I say ‘recovered’ because today I haven’t drank which means I am recovered from the hopeless state of body and mind I was once in. Recovery means acceptance of what life brings to us on a daily basis. I can ask for the willingness to believe I can make the best of any given day and the situations, places, people in that moment. I can choose to forgive myself and others. I can choose to practice restraint of tongue & pen i.e. I’ll keep the sarcastic remark to myself instead of being passively aggressive or I wont send that text in anger with exclamation marks, capital letters and rolling eye emoji’s.

On occasion I’ll make the wrong choice and procrastination will envelop my perspective with a mist of poor judgement and doubt. The lighthouse keeper is my sponsor and he tends to the light throughout the storm of life because he knows there’s half empty vessel’s like me thrashing around in the ocean hoping not to hit the jagged rocks. I have to type SOS in Morse Code if I want help. I have to steer myself towards calmer waters and enjoy the awe inspiring sunrise through humility, gratitude and grace.

Alcoholism Recovery: #odaat

One day at a time. #adaat. It’s a saying, a statement, a concept that I haven’t deeply explored during my sobriety. I initially took it at face value, connecting it to the idea of ‘keep it simple’. I just have to be sober a day at a time and if this means reciting the Serenity Prayer over and over or going to as many meetings as I can or working my program to the best of my ability then so be it. As my recovery from alcoholism has matured, so has my understanding of what it means to live ‘one day at a time’.

I was attracted to the recognition and celebratory atmosphere enjoyed by all when a member of the Fellowship achieves a full year of sobriety. Receiving a ‘birthday’ card with everybody’s best wishes after sharing your experience, strength & hope is totally juxtaposed with first approaching the AA rooms. The feeling of belonging, support and validation as a worthy human being in that moment is so good. The cresendo leading up to a sobriety birthday is in contrast to what it is to live in recovery ‘one day at a time’.

For some, the goal of reaching a year of sobriety eclipses the whole significance of recovery from alcoholism. I have witnessed this blinkered view amount to relapse as the person hasn’t got a goal to reach for after 365 days of sobriety. They have forgotten or dismissed the well known expression of ‘one day at a time’.

Personally I succumbed to relapse after 18 months of sobriety despite attending regular meetings. My suspiciousness was a barrier to being gifted with telephone numbers to contact other alcoholics in times of doubt, insecurity and craving. I convinced myself meetings were enough and I didn’t have to engage or contribute. I didn’t know that the only way we can keep it is by giving it away. Sharing back at meetings and having a service position are essential components of recovery as they enable us to be selfless rather than selfish. Being so withdrawn and weary of the world I tentatively learned the hard way. Per haps if I had mentioned my sobriety birthday I would’ve been able to establish the connections I needed to be sponsored and do the Steps. I wanted to avoid relapse due to being motiveless after a year of sobriety, however I did relapse at 18 months because of fear, reluctance and no defense against the first drink. I was worrying about what might happen in the future and not concentrating on ‘one day at a time’.

There’s a humility in the expressive tone of old timers whom frequent the rooms of AA. Some know their sobriety date after decades of recovery, some didn’t have one to begin with and others have even forgotten it altogether. They chuckle whilst people like myself get a furrowed brow of confusion and wonder as to how they can remain so jolly instead of searching their memories to recapture the elusive date. I was taught in AA that I am equal to the old timer with decades of sobriety. This humbled me as I held these people in very high regard and simultaneously doubted how I could ever live without drinking as they did. The reality is that regardless of time served in recovery from alcoholism the diseases is latent; waiting to reactivate, progressively worsen and annihilate us, unless we embrace recovery and live ‘one day at a time’.

– Progressive +

Alcohol was always a readily available option for me. A substance that initially was shrouded in an adult veil, obscure and intriguing to me in my early teens. Yearning to feel different from the inexplicable emptiness, unhappiness and fear, I was immediately flirtatious with the intoxicating affects of drinking alcohol. I recall finding a bottle of an aniseed flavoured liqueur belonging to my parents, I was about fifteen years old. I started taking big swigs of it whenever I was home alone. Enough to feel the surge of warmth envelop me both physically and emotionally. I cried with intensity, an emotional eruption of teenage angst and relief. I suppose it’s that permission and opportunity to let go that I was always pursuing as my alcoholism progressively worsened.

Availability. I drank mostly at home, accompanied by radio, television and the internet for awareness of what was happening in the outside world. Isolation had eroded my social capabilities to the extent I was awkward at social gatherings and events. If I did find myself at a function I was automatically drawn to where the drinks were served. Elbow propped on the bar, the first three pints sunk like a cartoon character, glug, glug, glug, and relax, now I can actually enjoy want’s going on.

I have always known where I can acquire alcohol. The Off-Licence (UK), Liquor Store (US) was somewhere I frequented often in various conditions ranging from articulate and well dressed to incoherent and dishevelled. I was never turned away from the rows of beautifully presented bottles and cans of poison.

According to research by Alcohol Research UK, 2014, 85% of post (zip) codes from the centre are within 500 metres of an alcohol outlet. In addition to this astounding statistic, the most deprived areas had three times more outlets within walking distance than the most affluent areas. This would suggest that my alcoholism was definitely influenced and ultimately exacerbated by the endless supply of cheap, strong alcohol flooded into vulnerable areas with less opportunities and education. It saddens and vexes me greatly that as an alcoholic I had to endure continued suffering whilst unscrupulous businesses profited. I’ve never heard of somebody cracking a tin of 9% strong lager or cider open to have with their evening meal! These beverages aren’t palatable, they contribute to and perpetuate the issue of alcoholism.

Regulated, but at what cost? Personally I was never interested in drugs as I’m a snob when it comes to my drug of choice. I got a satisfying experience of elation and oblivion from alcohol. The thought of buying something that wasn’t regulated and ingesting it was too perilous in my mind. The insanity of alcoholism had convinced me that I was safe drinking huge amounts of alcohol because ‘other people drank more than me’, ‘they wouldn’t sell it if it was dangerous’, and ‘I deserved to have a drink after working hard all week’.

Alcohol costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year, 3.6% of its annual budget (HSCIC, 2016). In contrast the alcohol industry (production and sale) was worth £46 billion to the UK economy in 2014. This accounted for 2.5% of GDP and 3.7% of all consumer spending according to the IAS. I feel like my suffering was acceptable in a society where profit is put before principle and alcoholism is stigmatised as a choice that can be changed like the flick of a light switch. I am not against people enjoying the affects of alcohol, however I do object to the willful supply of an inexpensive potent product that perpetuates the suffering of those afflicted with the disease of alcoholism.

Socially acceptable. I had many excuses to drink in the madness of alcoholism and not one reason. I recall when a friend’s parent had passed away suddenly. I attended the funeral and afterwards the inevitable drinking binge happened. My friend was back in work the following week whilst I was into the second week of continuous alcohol abuse ‘grieving’ for my friend’s loss and anguish. Disingenuous and pious sentiment mixed with self loathing, who said alcoholics don’t know how to have a good time? I drank to celebrate, commiserate and everything in between.

Before I found sanctuary in AA I feared where drinking would take me once I had begun. Unfortunately, just as drinking was a readily available option to me in my youth, I discovered that stopping wasn’t as accessible. “I don’t do hangovers” I would say to people in a defiant way that tried to justify the excessive drive to drink more and more. Free bars, promotions and deals make most people’s eyes light up with glee but I would be dry retching over the basin in coming days, filled with fear and shame but still regularly dragging my arse to the off licence. I can’t drink like a gentleman, I’ve tried and failed miserably every time. As the Big Book suggests, changing drinks from whiskey to brandy or the the times we drink from evenings to weekends, or where we keep alcohol, whether it’s never in the home or always in the drinks cabinet; none of that worked for me because I am powerless over alcohol and my life becomes unmanageable when I drink.

I tell people I don’t drink when asked what would I like. Sometimes this can become somewhat confrontational as it may cause offence to somebody being insistent. I’ve learnt to empower myself by ensuring I attend regular meetings. When I am with like minded people I receive an empathetic and authentic view that is absorbed into my persona as a person in recovery. Identifying positively with the acceptance of my alcoholism enables me to be assertive in situations that used to threaten my well being. Bowing to peer pressure, manipulation, stress, anxiety i.e. people, places, situations can be overcome through peer support, psychotherapy, group work, spirituality and continued 12 step self reflection. Recovery from alcoholism progressively improves my life on a daily basis. Gratitude comes from what I know will happen if I was to ever drink again. One day at a time I get a daily reprieve. Let go, let God.