Abstinence

I’ve been resenting my inability to drink like a gentleman. There’s never going to be a time when I can consume alcohol safely. The residual emotions are lingering and I feel like they’re seeping out of the cracks. Weakened fault lines causing subconscious quakes, shuddering my sense of confidence, self worth and identity. Hemingway said the light gets in through the cracks, but I feel like I’m hemorrhaging spiritual energy too rapidly for it to be replaced by the light. Erupting currents of emotional magma unyielding and overwhelming, cool in the external to form a barrier that cannot protect me from the internal conflict that rages.

My problem isn’t alcohol anymore. It feels strange saying it, however in reality the obsession has left me and provided I don’t take the first drink, the phenomenon of cravings won’t happen. Under these conditions I have experienced a range of emotions. We are told that resentment is the number one offender. I massively resented those whom could consume alcoholic beverages sensibly. I realise now, that for me specifically, alcohol is nicely packaged poison. Prior to this realisation oh how I envied the occupants of bars and anybody mentioning a night out they were looking forward to or a social event where they would be drinking their favourite tipple. Why me? Why did I have to have the defective gene or the predilection to drink into oblivion? The truth is, why not me? The potential to pursue this disease into the depths of despair, insanity and ultimately death was very real. I am now responsible for the disease of alcoholism as opposed to drinking in ignorance like a maniac.

Responsibility frightens me and alcoholism is a fear based illness, so being faced with the responsibility of managing my alcoholism is overwhelming at times. Overwhelming in the sense that I no longer have the option to self destruct, to seek oblivion and self implode. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. I would gain confidence and assertiveness from knowing I would be drinking that evening. When I purchased alcohol my withdrawal symptoms would miraculously disappear. My priority and total allegiance was to King Alcohol and my reward was stagnant wretchedness steeped in perpetual addiction. This is how it was until I found alternative ways of embracing abstinence based recovery.

Controlled drinking i.e. having a certain amount of drinks and stopping didn’t work for me. I would go as far to say it was like playing Russian roulette. Even when I was successful I wasn’t really, as I would eventually succumb to having a catastrophic binging episode. I was never offered medication to stop the effects of alcohol and if I was I think I would’ve considered it as futile. My mind, body and soul wanted to feel different therefore preventing my body from feeling the affects wouldn’t have given peace to my well being either mentally, emotionally or spiritually. I must conclude that abstinence is the only method of recovery that enables me to grow, progress and contribute to the world I inhabit.

Sobriety does induce fear of life on life’s terms. However it pales in comparison to the absolute terror I felt when opening my eyes after waking from a blackout or coming up empty handed after rummaging for a bottle I was convinced had been squirreled away in a moment of drunken prudence. The daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism I receive is miraculous. My recovery has toppled King Alcohol and is now my number one priority. Whereas resentment remains the number one offender, gratitude channels my thinking towards thankfulness for what I still have and what I didn’t lose. The ‘yets’ that would’ve inevitably fueled my alcoholism further towards insanity and death. I feel the fear and do it anyway, I’m hopeful for a future I want to explore and I don’t feel alone in my suffering anymore. I belong to a fellowship, I have a concept of a higher power that I’m willing to believe in and communicate with to sustain my abstinence. I can overcome the challenges of life just as long as I can surpass any threat to my sobriety and encompassing recovery.

Pangs

I like to be perceived as having my shit together, however this can be problematic being an alcoholic. The veneer of normality creates a buffer zone, a no man’s land of threat, wonder and hope. In sobriety I have acquired the successes or trappings of life depending on how you see it, and yet I still experience episodes of terror, bewilderment, frustration and despair when The Four Horsemen come galloping through.

Crippling self doubt causing hyper vigilance disturbs my sleep. I awaken to dread and confusion as to why this could be? I’m not accepting things as they are and how they’re meant to be. I am trying to be the director, controlling and forseeing, envisaging and regretting, reminiscing and contemplating the events unraveled and unraveling in fanciful fantasy until PANG.

I gulp the breakfast down. Three rounded rectangular wheat biscuits deconstructed in a corrosive dairy sea, blueberries bobbing buoyantly, accompanied by slick banana slices. I eat breakfast to stave off the inevitable hunger that would imminently strike mid-morning. I know that feeding the spirit is similarly important; alcoholics require spiritual as well as physical nourishment.

If in doubt, do nothing. Intrusive thoughts of relapse, resentment, revenge re-establish themselves in my mind. I do nothing. Think, think, think. Let go, let God. This to shall pass. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. A belly full of ale and a head full of AA doesn’t mix. I’m am alcoholic, my life becomes unmanageable when I drink.

The catalyst to relapse begins with the ‘good idea’ to drink, followed by the obsession. Strategising, philosophising, catasrophising until one drink becomes two, add infinitum. The wisdom is in recognising the pangs of anxiety, the emotional disturbances arising from the past and manifesting inextricably in the present. At this point I have options; attend a meeting, phone another alcoholic, read some positive literature, recite the Serenity Prayer.

I am not alone, isolated or tortured anymore. One day at a time I receive a reprieve from the dis-ease of alcoholism and when all is said and done I am kind to myself. Today I haven’t drank alcohol and that is enough, I am enough.

We Will Meet AAgain

Post pandemic ruminations of an alcoholic follow so brace yourself. I returned to meetings this week and it was overall a rewarding and much needed antidote to the events of previous months.

Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here. This is what’s read out near the end of an AA meeting and I’ll respectfully adhere to it in this blog.

I felt uneasy mingling with people again. Meetings are full of affection, warmth and compassion. That means smiles, handshakes and embraces. What it meant for me was a conflict of interests. I need to sink back into meetings like I’m indulging in a hot bath with candles and music. I know that listening to other alcoholics sharing their experience, strength and hope is nourishing for a recipient in recovery from the disease of alcoholism. I arrived early, sat patiently and listened intently, however I remained concerned about the impact of the pandemic on our society.

Absorbing the atmosphere of fellowship is so energising, it’s proverbially lighting the candle and feeding the spirit. I decided to keep socially distanced as much as possible and maintain the mask wearing for the duration of the meeting. I noticed how judgmental of others I was being by thinking badly of those not adhering to control measures put in place to reduce corona virus infection. I’m aware I was projecting negative thoughts and it’s none of my business what other people are doing. I was grateful to be there after five months of having to adapt to a life in lockdown.

Back in March I accessed online AA meetings but they lacked the ambiance, personality and human interaction of a physical gathering. Online meetings met a purpose but I found them easy to avoid, difficult to contribute to and unfulfilling. On a positive note, they did provide a familiar setting, support in terms of fellowship and an opportunity to stay involved when all around me the world was closing in. My alcoholism wants me sat in the corner of a room clutching a bottle with the curtains drawn being devoured by fear. I’m grateful I have a meeting to attend and I look forward to going again next week.

I’m going to write a gratitude list to remove any resentments I might be unaware of. Resentment is the number one offender; I need to clear my own side of the street and mind my own business. Gratitude for the many blessings bestowed on me really emphasises the triviality of bearing grudges against anybody else.

Stay safe, take care and Godbless