Coronavirus lockdown day number…….who knows, they are all pretty similar! Still, amongst the pain of familial separation, toilet paper rationing and house-arrest, some good things have emerged from all of this insanity. For me one of the most significant positives has been the creation of the nightly @RecoveryHour Zoom meeting. A cross-fellowship group for anyone in recovery from addictions, it has offered me global connection with people who understand how my head works and how this new and unusual way of life is impacting me mentally.
During a meeting last week we read the Doctor’s Opinion from the AA “Big Book”. If you have not read it you can find an online copy here. Upon re-reading it there was a paragraph that stood out for me:
“Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false.“
Alcoholics Anonymous, Pg xxviii
By the end of my drinking career I hated alcohol and I felt enslaved by it, as if my every waking hour was focussed on it – trying not to drink, planning when to drink and how to get enough, regretting that I had drank and promising myself to abstain in the future. In the beginning things were quite different. In the beginning alcohol felt like a friend, it made me outgoing, sociable, funny, brave, intelligent and attractive – or so I believed. In those very early days I felt that alcohol had freed me from my anxieties and my social awkwardness, and to a certain extent it had, but it quickly started to turn on me. Within a year of first picking up an alcoholic drink I was relying on it to give me confidence, turning to it when I was feeling down and celebrating with it when I was up.
Two years into my drinking I was using it to give me the confidence to pursue my first ‘true love’ and turning to it when it all went wrong. I was using it to get me through the dawning realisation that I was gay and using it to cope with the fallout of my coming out.
This is where it first became injurious.
At the age of 18 I passed my driving test and at the age of 19 I had been banned for drink-driving, or ‘driving under the influence’. I could not cope with the shame I felt because of my behaviour; I felt as if I had let everyone down – not least myself. My answer? To drink more.
This is where I stopped being able to differentiate the true from the false.
The truth was that alcohol had finally been unmasked as the enemy; my ability to manage life whilst drinking was a lie. The truth was that when I started drinking I found it almost impossible to stop and when I was drunk I could not rationalise or make good decisions. Yet, I told myself that drink was still my friend and I sought solace in it when alcohol itself was the cause of my problems. For the next 24 years this would form the basis of my relationship with alcohol; bonded through trauma to my abuser and stuck in a cyclical pattern of destruction and relief with no obvious route out. That is until the relief stopped coming.
By the end of my drinking career I could see the truth; alcohol had stripped me of my personality and left a hollowed out version of who I should have been. Finally, the truth laid bare.
That was the beginning of this miraculous journey of recovery from my abusive relationship with drink. AA is known as a ‘rigorously honest’ programme; it demands that we never allow that lie, or any other, to dominate our lives again. We must remember where we have been to ensure that we are forever alert to the dangers of succumbing to the lie that our disease would have us believe.
© 2020 @SobrietyMatt