The First Step – Part II

The First Step

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The First Step – Part II

It sounds so simple, but it is the toughest of steps for any alcoholic to take, whether that alcoholic chooses the path of a 12 step programme or not. Yet, this step is key to any alcoholic getting and staying sober.

For each person with an alcohol use disorder this step will look different; this is my experience.

Step 1, Part II: The Unmanageability of Life

I struggled with this part of step 1. It seemed to me that my life was simply not unmanageable. I was married with children, had a successful career and I had just completed a Masters degree. Show me unmanageable there! You only had to look at my Facebook page to see how happy my life was; endless pictures of smiling children, celebrations of life’s little achievements and milestones abound.

Nevertheless, at the end of every day I sought sanctuary in a bottle of alcohol and throughout each day that end goal was all I could think about. Invitations were accepted or turned down based solely on how enabled I would be to drink. There were many nights when I would be willing myself not to drink as I was pouring wine into my glass. Towards the end there were nights when I had not managed to drink enough alcohol to get the feeling of escape that I craved, and on those nights I would wait until my partner retired for the night, so that I could top up with a couple of shorts from the drinks cupboard.

During my 15 months in a 12 step programme I have heard countless examples of the unmanageability of people’s lives and in the early days of my programme they each convinced me that I my life was far from unmanageable. Tales of prison sentences, bankruptcy, divorce, hospitalisation, the neglect of children and homelessness all helped to support my theory that my life was never unmanageable.

Yes, I heard lots of people talking to me about the “not yets” (a phrase used to describe the consequences from drinking that are yet to come for those who find a programme early enough in their addiction), but that simply meant that my life had not yet become unmanageable – or at least that is how I chose to hear it.

The truth is there is a vast difference between the unmanageability of life and the consequences of drinking.

Delve deeper into those stories, however severe or extreme they may or may not be, and you will discover a common thread, a moment when it becomes clear that no matter what you intend or how hard you try not to, you end up drunk.

For the last 10 years of my drinking I tried to “drink like a gentleman” to borrow another oft used phrase. I attempted to apply rules to my drinking in the hope that I could control it, but instead my drinking became like a game of Russian roulette; there was just no telling what would happen when I picked up a drink. Sometimes I would be able to have just a few glasses and on other occasions it would lead to blackout. Yet, I felt that my life was manageable!

As I pondered what it meant for life to become unmanageable, I turned to Twitter and the much valued group of people to be found linked to the hastag #RecoveryPosse. I have written before of this band of loving and supportive folk from around the world. I wanted to know how their lives had become unmanageable and how they came to realise it. I had almost 100 replies covering a broad spectrum of situations. Each one vividly recalled and within each comment there was a palpable sense of the despair that they felt at the time. Crucially, people wanted to share. Even those who did not want their stories to be publically aired took the time to send them to me in private messages.

The reason for this is that every one of us can recall with complete clarity that moment when we were able, at last, to see our lives for what they were – unmanageable. What that looks like is often down to chance, circumstance, personality and timing; I certainly do not know why, in the small hours of a Wednesday morning in April I suddenly saw my life clearly – probably for the first time in my 43 years on earth. Had it not been then who knows where my obsession would have led me to? Not I, that’s certain.

The only thing that I do know for sure is that I am grateful it happened and that I was able to get the support I needed to recover from it.

These quotes represent only a handful of the ones I received on Twitter. Thank you to everyone on #RecoveryPosse for contributing so generously and honestly.

© @SobrietyMatt 2020

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