I felt rather smug at the beginning of lockdown. After all, I had my 12 step programme and I was totally prepared for ‘keeping it in the day’ and accepting what I could and couldn’t change; what could possibly go wrong?
Evidently, this 12 step programme only works if you actually do the work! Who knew? Why did no one ever say that at the end of an AA meeting?*
You see, one year into my sobriety and I seem to be stuck in a cycle. It goes something like this:
- I do the work and I feel good.
- I feel good, so I don’t need to do the work.
- I don’t do the work and I become irritable and discontent.
- The noise in my head increases as I look for a solution to my malady.
- Thoughts of drinking creep back in with the recurring mantra “You overreacted, you’re no alcoholic”.
This is where I find myself every few months and this is where I am right now.
It has been 10 days since I’ve spoken to my sponsor. I feel disconnected from my home group, “They’re not like me” and now the noise inside my head is deafening, and whilst I’m saying “I’m fine” to everyone who asks, all I really want is to hide away at home, family nearby, with my nightly ‘solution’ of old to silence the noise.
You would think, reading this, that I had learned nothing over the last 14 months. I sometimes think that too in my darkest moments, but I have. You see, today, there are moments where I recognise the lie that my mind would have me believe; I can know I am alcoholic without feeling it. I also know that if I do the next right thing, even though it seems counterintuitive right now, it will make things better, in the end. Yet, the greatest thing that I have learnt is this; just talk.
When my mind is as it is today, full of noise and confusion, doubt and self-loathing, anxiety and discontentment – I know that if I just start talking it out with people who have the sobriety I crave, I can begin to make sense of the noise. With the help of other alcoholics and addicts I can recognise what is rational thought and what is diseased thinking. With other alcoholics and addicts I can keep my feet on the ground, go through the motions and get back to a place of peace.
As I reflect tonight, after a much better day with far less noise in my head, I recognise another thing; I cannot keep going through this cycle. Something is not right and it needs to be addressed.
I sometimes wonder if I engaged in the 12 steps in an open and honest way. I can be so self-obsessed, so keen to present myself in the image I wish to be seen, that I can be dishonest without even realising it. In my drinking days I was terrified of presenting myself as a drunk, I was too respectable and well brought up for that! I fought so hard, for so long to control my obsession to drink, that it drove me to insanity and a mental breakdown at the age of 40.
Still I continued to drink and it was more than two years until I sat in my parents’ house in Ireland, alone in the lounge, drunk, at 3am and knew that I had a choice; stop drinking now or give in to the obsession and be consumed by my alcoholism. I no longer had the strength to carry on.
That night, I got up out of my chair, walked into the bedroom and woke my partner and told him “I need help. I have to stop drinking”.
I said it out loud to another human being and for the first time in years, I cried.
I had had the thought many times before, particularly at 3am when I was drinking alone, but the difference this time was that I talked. I spoke those words to someone I trusted and the thought turned to action. The power of this disease decreases substantially when we utter its presence.
There is much I still need to do, speaking to my sponsor would seem the most obvious place to start, but I am able to do it tomorrow because today I have spoken up. Today I talked to other alcoholics, today I uttered the presence of my disease and its power diminished.
Tomorrow, I start work again.
© 2020 @SobrietyMatt