by Jeff C. (Sullivan 2014)
If Step One begins with the admission of mental obsession then I’m there.
I can see mental obsession in all aspects of my life, not just alcohol. That blueberry scone that was beside me, I had good intentions when I bought it. I asked for the china, no brown paper bag for me. I’m sober, I’m going to enjoy it like an adult, savour it like a normal person, nibble on it while I work. Now I’m hiding my plate on another table and thinking I should try a cranberry scone, just so I know which is my favourite for future reference. An hour ago I didn’t even like scones. One nibble and suddenly they’re an important part of my life. That’s obsession.
Money, work, working out, relationships, sex and yes alcohol. I obsess. When I’m addicted to something, I can’t stop thinking about it till I have it. I have suffered from a mental obsession with alcohol and other assorted substances for much of my adult life. This allergy has brought me to the brink of death on more than one occasion, the last being mid-July. A drinking binge left me depressed, shame-ridden and overwhelmed with anxiety. How was I going to come back from this one? And, did I want to come back?
I hadn’t left my bedroom in five days. Five beautiful hot sunny summer days. Except of course to buy more. I wasn’t answering my phone. My family was beside themselves. On July 17 an interventionist arrived at my door. That night I was in the hospital hooked up to an IV. The next day I was in detox. It was that quick yet that long, that simple yet that complicated. My family had delivered me to recovery but how I got there was all my doing.
I checked into the Sullivan Centre on July 21. I felt tremendous shame at that moment. It was a feeling that was no stranger to me. I’m well acquainted with following-day shame. However, this would be different. There’d be no numbing-the-shame; I’d have to face it head on. This is the moment my experience with Step One began.
Over the course of the next 21 days in treatment I’d hear a lot about Step One. I’d learn that I had an allergy to alcohol. It was a disease. It was progressive. It was deadly. At first this all sounded ridiculous. How could I be allergic to something that I consumed so readily with such pleasure?
But it soon began to make sense. By going over my own drinking history, I could see that indeed years before I realized it, I was out of control; my drinking was no mere habit and I did not consume like other people. I had no off switch and like any disease this one had its own pace, was taking me at its own rate and, left untreated, was going to kill me. I honestly came to believe that by the time I left treatment.
What is it like now? Since treatment, I’m like a tourist in my own city. I see different people and go to different places. I’ve even moved to a different neighbourhood.
But Step One is always there, asking more of me than any other step likely will. From my perspective that’s a good thing, particularly now that I’ve completed my Continuing Care program. I feel like it’s time to put on my big boy pants and live like a normal person, only not so normal. I heard someone once say that addicts are a little crazy. I can live with crazy; what I can’t live with is the old me, the one that lied.
So, I’m closing in on five months of sobriety as I write this and I guess you could say I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I have admitted to myself that I’m powerless over alcohol and that my life is unmanageable if I’m left to my own devices. I’ve got a great sponsor and great friends in the program. I also have a program that’s ever evolving. I’m working the Steps on a daily basis, somewhere in between Two and Three and not rushing it. It’s taken a long time to make a mess of this life of mine. If it takes a year to work the Steps and put it back on track, I can live with that.
Last night I shared the following thought with a friend: for good or bad, addiction is a part of the fabric that is me. Given the choice today, I’m not so sure I’d change that. If I did, I’d be wishing away so much good that has recently come my way, including this very moment.