And now I have returned. The same but different. Five weeks spent in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility will do that to you.
I have returned (god damn it) with more addictions than I went in with. Turns out I am a Poly-Addicted Person as opposed to ‘just’ an alcoholic. I know. Go me. I have also (you’ll be pleased to hear) acquired lots of new skills and ideas, a twenty a day Marlborough Red habit (what, WHAT? It’s better than drinking) – and some brand new jokes. Ahem. Wait for it…
Q: How many old gits doped up to the eyeballs on Librium does it take to insert one bloody seat belt?
A: Quite a bloody few.
Hmm. I think perhaps you had to be there. I laughed like a drain, which wasn’t very kind really, but what can I say? You had to take your kicks where you could get ‘em in that place.
But seriously. Now I am home, having changed on a fairly fundamental level I think, only to discover that everything else has remained the same. I don’t know what I expected. But deep internal shifts notwithstanding there is still the washing to do and the post to be opened and the weather to be discussed. And suddenly I am lost at sea. I can’t seem to adjust back to normal conversations. I mean non addicts discussing the weather? Why do they do that?
I am full of self pity, I know. Because I never asked to be an addict. And of course in an ideal world I wouldn’t be one. Oh poor me, poor me, (pour me another). Such a mountain I have to climb. Sometimes I just want to talk about the weather you know? Like normal people…
“Oooh yes, looks like rain this afternoon doesn’t it? No, no wine for me thank you, I’ve an early start tomorrow. As for any mainlining, snorting, or random sex with strangers, no I couldn’t possibly. But thanks all the same! Ta-ta for now – and don’t forget your umberella!”.
You see the thing is, this isn’t about drink or drugs or sex or gambling or anything else external. It’s about the illness that is addiction. And unfortunately addiction is an internal condition of which the substance of ones choice is merely a symptom.
I say unfortunately because if recovery was as simple as merely putting the substance down, us addicts would all be laughing. Because the majority of us can stop, for a time at least. I know I’ve stopped a million times. A trillion times. But we cannot stay stopped – even when it has become imperative that we do so – and it is this that separates the addicted from the so called ‘normal’ population.
The story goes something like this: The addict begins to use his or her substance of choice to cope with life because they find life – for whatever reason – to be intolerable. The substance makes things bearable until the consequences of indulging become intolerable in themselves. The addict is then stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continuing in active addiction has become too painful and obviously unsustainable, however life without the substance is still just as intolerable as it ever was (perhaps even more so due to the consequences of active addiction) and so to just give up and face things sober is unbearable also. There appears to be no acceptable solution.
So what is to be done you may well ask?
Well, what I now believe is that in order to survive and achieve any sort of long term meaningful and contented recovery, we have to learn how to think, feel, and therefore behave differently. We addicts literally need to re-learn how to live. In other words we need a new programme for life. Our old ways of being and thinking have failed us and led us repeatedly to disaster. We have shown ourselves unable to handle life on lifes terms. And so we must change on a fundamental level. We must question everything we once thought we knew. We must accept our powerlessness over our addiction and *most importantly become willing to believe that there is then a power greater than ourselves that can guide us and restore us to sanity*.
Now when I first heard that solution I said what any self respecting newbie recovering addict might. I said:
“FUCK THAT, NO WAY, YOU BIG BUNCH OF CRAZYS!”
I’ve since calmed down a smidgeon, but still… that’s a tall fucking order man, to change completely. And the truth is that most of us don’t make it. We die. We are killed by the poisons we put into our body. We are killed in accidents resulting from our intoxication (which almost happened to me). We commit suicide because we cannot live with or without the substances to which we are addicted.
But. And it’s a BIG BUT. Recovery is there for anyone who wishes to grab it with both hands and take the action necessary to achieve it. Any of us can choose to take that leap of faith at any point.
And you know what? I’m taking it. I’m leaping.
Because I want to live.
P.S. Here are some links anyone affected by this post may find helpful:
P.P.S. Fuck, maybe now I’m sober I’ll even be able to construct proper sentences that don’t start with ‘Because’ and ‘And’. Here’s hoping eh.
*For those people reading this who wish to recover from their alcoholism and/or addiction, but who are put off by the religious undertones of the twelve steps – I hear you. That was me too. I have always identified as an atheist and I initially found that element of the programme really difficult. But coming to believe in a power greater than yourself doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion, I promise. It’s a spiritual concept and open to personal interpretation. Trust me, if I can work a twelve step programme, anyone can!*