Alcohol isn’t something that shows up in your life like a tsunami. It isn’t that kind of substance. It’s the kind that seeps in overtime, through the cracks, slowly degrading your foundation. It might take a number of years, or 10, or 20 even. You might notice it at times, and think to yourself, “I should address this,” but then you get busy again. Up on the ground floor, of your life, things look good and you choose to ignore the cracks that are growing. You’ll get back to those if they get any worse. People might even notice how nice things look from the outside. Maybe you get that raise at work, or find a new hobby you’re really good at, or find that you are volunteering in a program and feeling good about yourself, as you should.
But then one day the flood waters start rising, and you put up sandbags to secure your house, you’re reassured by those around you that the water most certainly won’t reach your front door, and you do the math, and count the days, and you think it will never happen, and it never does. Those floodwaters never crash in through your door, but you’d forgotten about one thing. Those cracks. The ones you’d told yourself you’d get back to. Those pesky little cracks in that dark basement, that no ever really sees.
That’s where the real damage happens and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, because you couldn’t even see for yourself how drenched the ground around you had become. While you were busy looking out your front door, that’s when your foundation completely crumbled, and the water and the mud came pouring in, and your house became completely unstable, and that nice ground floor that everyone always told you looked so nice sunk right into the muck and grit. It wasn’t until that moment you realized how foolish you’d been, to ignore such an obvious problem, and the only thing you could do now was rebuild.
That’s how it was for me anyway. When I finally had to realize that if I wanted a nice life again, I was going to have to totally rebuild. Alcohol is such a pervasive intoxicant. To start, like water, it’s everywhere. Even today, when I went to go buy my cold press, which I enjoy while I write, it was staring at me. The chalk sign, from the night before, at the establishment where I get my coffee read. “Too late for coffee try out our sake.” It was tilted against the wall, next to the glass case, that right below the double chocolate, flourless cake rested three different types of beer, and that pretty, exotic looking bottle of Sake. When I paid for my coffee, and left, I could see the liquor store on the corner and in the garbage can, where I threw out my receipt ,was a tall boy of PBR, sticking out at me. Usually, I don’t notice these thing anymore, but those subconscious, societal, affirmations are everywhere.
Somedays, I’m still amazed I did it, that I was able to change, to quite, and to cut out (which at the time felt like an actual piece of myself) such an enormous part of my daily existence. I certainly wasn’t one of those guys who had that pivotal moment, where I fell to my knees and looking deep within myself, unleashed a fountain of rejuvenation and change and goodness. Fuuuuck NO. I fell over and over and over again, until my knees were bruised, and my hands cut, and I had blood all over the fucking walls that I was trying to use to stand up. It was a battle and bloody one. For me, it didn’t help that I found no solace in going to group meetings or the outpatient program I attended (which mind you was an excellent program, run by truly caring, knowledgeable people.) There was absolutely nothing I wanted to do more that go get blitzed after an hour of listening to other people talk about not drinking, their higher powers, the struggles they endured and had overcome. I had become so hopelessly numb and detached from life that having to listen to real, powerful testimony, from people who had overcome some truly nasty stuff, that it just made me want to drink more, because then I could at least go on ignoring, instead of dealing. For me even the traditional motions of recovery, were a trigger.
For me recovery was a slow drying out process. At 28 I knew I had a drinking problem and finally, at 38, I feel strong enough, and far enough, into my recovery to write about it and talk about it openly. 10 years is a long time to take, to stop something you know is ruining your life, but it could have been worse, I could still be drinking and I am not. Some people might tell you after a relapse that you’re back to day one. I don’t buy it. I didn’t spend almost two years of my life fighting, the biggest personal battle of my life, to have it erased with a “back to day 1 moto.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not of the thinking that if you just keep on drinking a couple a times a month and call them relapses it quite counts as sobriety either, but I can tell you this. That without my one relapse experience I’m not sure if I would be as confident, in my sobriety, as I am today. It taught me almost as much as my two years of sobriety before that did, and that was this, “you’re not missing a fucking thing.” I remember the first time I went a day without thinking about a drink, and then that night thinking, “Hey I want that experience again, you’re gonna have to keep this up.” That experience took me almost two years in itself. My sobriety happened over the span of 1,000 little miracles and changes, some forced upon me and some of my own volition and it was a slow, but strengthening process. I realize that sobriety can be a fragile thing, but I can tell you now, in good confidence (which I also realize can be a fragile thing) that even if an earthquake hits. I’m pretty sure, that once I get up and out from under it, and look around at the wreckage, that my foundation is going to be strong, and my house standing, and if there are any cracks in my foundation, I’m going to call the people I need to get it fixed.