A Return from Relapse

It’s been a while. And much has happened. 

In addition to normal human defects, I am a recovering alcoholic. 

Telling war stories can harm recovery and I am the furthest from proud of my behavior…so, to be breviloquent, I relapsed, and it concluded in a 5-day bender for which I was hospitalized. I then spent 31 days inpatient treatment. I have been “back” for over month. My aftercare is solid and sound. I have a plan and am working it. My time and work at treatment were impactful in ways I haven’t experienced before and will visit later. 

I am grateful for those in my life that haven’t given up on me. They would have been justified. But the one that haven’t were there for me and believed in me. They saved my life. 

Of course, there are those that have given up on me and who could blame them. Loss is nothing new to alcoholics. We have lost family, friends, employers, and ourselves. Of course, “lost” is not the right word there. They were not some pair of keys that fell between the seat cushions. I drank to feel relief from my fear. There are other words and names that also work but they all had their roots in fear. But when I drank, I forgot more than just fear. I forgot myself and my relationships. 

Addiction is a vortex of contradictions. I drank because of fear but all I was left was terror. The very things I was running away from were only guaranteed and amplified by the bottle. And with every punishment alcohol inflicted upon me, I fell more under its spell. I was stricken with Stockholm syndrome and no matter how bad alcohol abused me I wanted more. And it left me a pickled husk of person. 

So, of course, people left me. Or, rather, I left them. They did not give up on me. There was nothing left to give up on. I had given up on myself. I was nothing.

Community is important to recovery. I drank to silence the false beliefs and persisting fears that infiltrated my person. Those false beliefs and fears only had power because they exist within a social nexus. Our entire being is a social being and every part of us engages in the greater context that is outside of us. Just for emphasis, everything about us is social. I really can’t emphasize just how true this is. Psychologically, genetically, spiritually and religiously, and in every way and in everything, our connectedness to a world larger than ourselves is an essential trait.

So, when I drank in isolation, it was in response to a collection of beliefs and fears within that grander social context. I was believing that I wasn’t good enough for others, I wasn’t worth sticking around for, I was disliked by others, I could never really be loved, I couldn’t be understood or accepted, and so on. For me to amend and revoke those lies, I cannot just be informed of their invalidity and then instructed about what the truth is. I must be exposed to a safe community that will prove to me that these truths and then I can prove to myself within that community by taking the risk of trying to live like it.

I had to have a group of people around me that held on to truth and hope when I could not. Without them, I would never have recovered. Yet, ultimately, recovery is not possible if I am not willing to do it. This is often referred to as “readiness for change.” I have spent uncounted time and energy attempting to describe in logic terms what it was that I experienced, but I have fallen far short of anything adequate. All I know is that I can recognize when I hear “it” from someone else.

I was just done. I didn’t care anymore what life I lived, it just had to be something different. From this impetus, I knew not what to do next other than just do not drink. I chose to figure this bullshit out finally. Over the course of the month in treatment, through reading and counsel, with trial and error, I developed and practiced these set of values:

  • Radical Ownership
  • Loving Gratefulness
  • Quiet Resolve
  • Confident Vulnerability
  • Embrace Uncertainty

These are still just a working prototype. But before I could even begin to arrive at such a list, I had to conquer just one thing: shame. And I did, or rather, I quit fighting against and fleeing from it. It is another topic I wish to explore in depth but have struggled to find words for. 

The easiest explanation I can give is that I just stopped. It was a choice I made and one I frequently have reminded myself of. I am done letting shame rule me. It no longer will have a part of my life.

I cannot convey in a worthy manner how different I am. I can best relate it to a conversion experience. There are no more masks. There is a peace and confidence I cannot ever recall having. In The Big Book, we alcoholics are promised, “We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.” And that is what I have experienced, at least in part.

Moving forward, I don’t know what I will do. I know one thing I won’t do – drink.

I will continue to write here and hopefully more often. I have much to share. 

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