I was talking and walking with my sponsor the other day.
She is a woman who once upon a time slept in a park with her vodka and her vallium. A woman who had long ago sold even the interior doors in her flat. A woman whose children were gone, and whose body was failing.
Today she has a PHD and is an academic. She teaches, and writes books about poetry. She lives in a nice house, with a nice man, near a huge, multi-limbed roundabout. And she spends what little time she has left helping other women – women like me – to recover from the same illness that very nearly took her life.
She asked what I enjoyed doing. A simple enough question I guess.
“You need something”, she said. “Something outside of recovery. Something healthy and constructive that you love to do. You know… a hobby”.
A hobby. Something that I loved to do. I had to think about that. And then aha, of course! So feeling somewhat embarrassed, I muttered that I supposed I loved writing, that I once even had a blog, and that I would go through short periods of writing it regularly, but that eventually my drinking and other addictive behaviours would always take over and I would get too apathetic and sick to write.
Without breaking her stride she threw her head back and, taking a huge swig from her can of coke, said,
“Gappy you really need to get back to writing your blog. Don’t worry about what you’re going to write about. Just do it ok”.
In the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a passage that reads:
“The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization”.
I could not tell you why I drank again four months after leaving rehab, except that I was once again gripped by the insanity that tells me this time it will be different, that this time I will control and enjoy my drinking like other people, and that if I just try my very very hardest I will be able to drink and then stop.
What I can tell you is that finding oneself back in the same rehab having been completely incapable of stopping, covered in cuts and bruises, unable to remember huge chunks of the last 24 hours, and armed only with the clothes one is standing in, certainly does lead to a sense of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization like no other.
That was now two months ago and I have been clean and sober since. But two days, two months, two years – it means less and less to me as time goes on. Because of how easy it is to forget. Addiction is like childbirth in that respect. You forget how awful it was and start to look back with rose tinted glasses. Perhaps it wasn’t that bad after all. But I know I mustn’t forget. Because just last week I had a conversation with the nice man my sponsor now lives with, in the nice house near the huge multi-limbed roundabout. A counsellor who specialises in addiction. I sat opposite him in a big leather armchair feeling uncomfortably exposed while he looked at me intently and stroked his beard.
“Gappy, if you continue like this you will die.” This accompanied by an almost imperceptible shrug of the shoulders. “And you will die soon I think.”
Even now it’s hard for me to really believe and accept that. Because alcoholism is the illness that tells you you haven’t got it. Or at least that you haven’t got it as bad as those other alcoholics. Or ok, you’ve got it, but there’s no damn way it’s going to kill you. Alcoholics in denial everywhere are imbued with the invincibility of small children.
Look, I don’t want sympathy. And I don’t expect understanding either. People who are not addicts and alcoholics have no responsibility to understand alcoholism and addiction. The responsibility lies with the afflicted. But I do desperately want to recover. I want the endless cycle of madness to stop. I’m frightened and I want to live.
And if that means getting back to writing this bastard blog, then so be it.