Today was my third consecutive AA meeting and fourth consecutive day clean and sober…
I feel such pressure to be perfect; the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I dress, these things amount to a huge boulder of pressure on my shoulders. It’s a wonder I can even walk upright.
The AA book talks about the alcoholic as an actor – what he wants people to see is a façade; what he feels people should see in him, it’s a delusion*. This pressure I feel to carry myself and present myself in a certain way is of my own construction; no one is making me feel this way. Regardless, it amounts to a lot of pressure, and I feel as if there’s no one who feels the same way, no one who can understand, thus no one to speak to about it.
This feeling of loneliness, of feeling as if I’m the only one going through this, is part of what propels me to seek solace in alcohol. When I drink, the voices in my head quiet down. When I drink, I forget that I have this pressure on my shoulders. When I drink, the vice in my chest eases, little by little, until I’m completely free of this smothering pressure. And it’s in chasing this release of pressure that I fall into a state of complete recklessness, complete disregard for my well-being, complete absence of self-awareness. That’s the danger in seeking solace in substances – lowered inhibitions and a lack of self-awareness.
I prayed for the first time in a long time yesterday after I read a passage in the book, “When we drew near to Him, He disclosed Himself to us.” It really struck a chord. I renounced religion a long time ago, and haven’t asked for guidance since. And I didn’t pray to Him, per se, but rather to something – someone? – who has been obviously looking after me. I would be remiss to deny that someone or something has been showing themselves to me. Something has been guiding me, telling me to read a certain passage, pick up a certain magazine that contained a certain article, to go to a certain meeting. And because of this, because of the obvious direction that some… Higher Power is taking me in, I got down on my knees and I prayed. I asked for strength. I said, “Thank you for bringing me to this point.” I submitted.
The act of getting down on one’s knees to pray to an invisible deity is such a grandiose form of submission; it’s obvious why I haven’t done it in so long. But it felt good; it felt right. I cried. I cried because I’m appreciative. I’m glad that I’m here, in this moment, asking for help. I’m appreciative that I haven’t woken up in hospital, lost my friends and family, and that I haven’t wound up with a needle in my arm. I’m appreciative that I was able to recognise the signs that were laid out before me that said, “You have a problem and you have to fix it.” I’m appreciative that I have the determination, the desire and the tools to heal, to progress and to flourish. These are such great things to be blessed with, and so I cried, and I said “Thank you.”
I have been struggling with my relationship with alcohol for years, and last year I got clean and sober for 50 days after a particularly difficult break-up and a worrying dependence on drugs and alcohol. I didn’t go to any meetings, I didn’t see a psychologist – I did it all out of self-will and a strong desire for change. I did it because there are alcoholics in my family, and because I know what that means to me and for me. But I didn’t ask for help, and so I started drinking and using again. I stopped because I wanted clarity, and once I felt I had some clarity, I picked up again. “I’ve figured out the problem, so now I can have a drink.” But that’s not how it works.
First, I have to admit that I have a problem with alcohol. I have to acknowledge and accept the familial ties to the disease. I can’t go out for dinner and have one glass of Sauvignon Blanc with my Sea Bass and call it quits; I have to get annihilated. I can’t have one or two drinks in a bar, decide I’ve had enough and go home. If there’s wine in the fridge, I have to drink it. If there isn’t wine in the fridge, I have to get some. So many people don’t have this propensity for getting shit-faced (though many more than care to admit it do). So many people don’t have this unhealthy relationship with alcohol. I’m not one of those people, and admitting that in the first place is probably the hardest bit. Taking myself to a meeting and asking for help is the second.
Last Sunday marked the start of what I hope to be the end of this toxic relationship with alcohol. I had been up for 48 hours, and was absolutely wrecked. I was stumbling down Oxford Street completely incoherent and alone. I ran into one of my coworkers – one of my worst nightmares when I’m in that state – and don’t remember seeing her. The next day at work, she asked me how I was and I was mortified. I don’t remember seeing her, having a conversation, nothing – a complete blank. “How embarrassing,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t – cannot – describe how terrible I felt about myself in that moment. I spend so much time worrying about my presentation, how I carry myself, how I talk, that to allow myself to fall into such an abhorrent state and for someone I work with to see – I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Who is that guy?! Why can I not control him?!
I don’t want to ruin my life or kill myself, but my inability to control my consumption of alcohol will kill me if I let it. It might not kill me physically, and it might not do it right away, but it will be a slow and painful death in every other regard. I will lose those closest to me, I will put myself in some unnecessary danger, and I will end up alone. It’s so startling clear to me, that trajectory, that I’m prepared to admit openly and honestly that I have a problem and I want to fix it.
I was apprehensive about sharing this here. I don’t want to make a misstep and have everyone look at me and say, “Of course he can’t do it” or “That’s just Josh”. But I have to stop caring what other people think of me. I have to stop punishing myself and shutting myself away for fear of what I will look like to others. And more than that, I have to allow those who love me and those who care to offer their support and their words of encouragement. If I’m going to do this properly, I have to be open and honest.
My name is Josh, and I’m an alcoholic.
*“More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart that he doesn’t deserve it. The inconsistency is made worse by the things he does on his sprees. Coming to his senses, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed him. As fast he can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is under constant fear and tension – that makes for more drinking.”