I define epiphany like this: something made manifest that deep down we always knew to be true. We just lost sight of it. Substance abuse holds a dark blanket over our face, our eyes, our awareness, our connected-ness, our true being. I’m ripping that blanket from my face and here’s what I’ve seen so far:
You can’t go it alone. As an extroverted introvert, I fight this one with every fiber of my being. I love connection and people, it’s just really hard for me to reach out or let people in. But I can’t stay sober in a bubble or by my own power. When the urge to drink strikes hard, sometimes another voice is the only rope that pulls me back from the deep. I only recently started attending AA and it has totally exceeded my expectation. I can’t afford a treatment center and frankly, the support and unbelievable reception of those I’ve met in my group has made it unnecessary. For me, at least. For others, rehab is vital and life-changing.
The False God. This was my first aha moment. All my thoughts were bent on alcohol. Getting it, hiding it, quitting it, needing it. My resolve to stop lasted as long as my hang over. How could there be meaningful room left over for anything else if alcoholism was my awareness? It was my eternal NOW. My God. I could function, love, work, and exist; but I could never thrive.
My Daughter Deserves it. There is nothing more terrifying to a child than to imagine or to endure a world without their caregiver. I always try really hard to step into that space. Nevermind any potential trauma to overall well being for a lifetime of processing; but imagine the immediate horror of having your home, your branch ripped out from underneath your damp wings. They are helpless. I have to value my life to value hers. A noose around my neck is a noose around hers. I remember one day asking my therapist, “do you really think we deserve Love?” She said, “do you think your daughter does…” God Yes.
Guilt v. Shame: Guilt is I did something bad and I know it. Shame is I am something bad and everyone knows it. At least guilt can inspire change in behavior, a better perception of worth. No harm, no foul. But shame is an utterly debilitating poison. A self-destructive spiral. That beast that ever whispers: Why stop now? It’s already too late? Everyone knows what you are? Everyone is better off without you. It gets and keeps us alone. A death sentence to a weakened mind that is all to eager for continued justification to drink or use.
Disease v. Choice. I admit I still struggle with this one. It’s my flogger of choice. (See Shame). But I’ve come to understand through multiple stops and starts that there are some people who can have one glass and walk away. There are some who can get hammered on a Friday night and not drink again for weeks, maybe months. And there are others, like myself, that simply cannot stop. Once I give the beast a drink, she’s in control. There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is we can stop flogging ourselves because it is not our fault we were born with this sickness. The good news is we can stop the cycle. We can choose not to give the she-beast that first glass again and again and again. The bad news is we have to say good bye to our God, our friend. The bad news is we suddenly find ourselves alone in the wild, without the God we’ve come to rely on, and temptation is everywhere.
Triggers or slippery places. Wait for the whispers. Get to know them. Bars and liquor stores would be obvious examples; but I’ve learned that triggers can be the most unlikely of things. A favorite movie you’ve always watched for comfort before, a certain author (Jesus, I’m still reluctant to crack my Charles Bukowski collection), a gaming console, a certain restaurant, etc. I tell myself, heal first, then perhaps revisit any old lovers. ; ) We’ll meet again Charles. Deep sigh.
Cravings. I’ve drafted a short list of my darkest moments. The worst of the worst. Memories I haven’t shared with anyone. Whenever an urge to drink rises, I read that list. At least 3 times. Good old fashioned witchy juju. It’s a kind of “un-learning,” a re-training of the brain. Or deeper still; it’s a way of letting the illusion play out. In other words, alcohol was never a coping mechanism for stress as I conditioned my brain to believe. Reading the dark end to that illusion in list form tells my brain the brutal truth.
Sober v. Not Drinking. There is a huge difference between not being drunk and being sober. This is how I see it. Not being drunk is purely physical. Sobriety is mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. If you stop with not getting drunk then you’ve only gone half way up the mountain. The rest of the way leads to an awakening, a remembering of who we really are and who we are meant to be. We become way-showers. Guides. Companions. (Good God, it’s Dante’s Divine Comedy over here). Connected to our deep self and connected to others. We cannot do this alone. Think about it. If you were the only person alive with access to unlimited alcohol or drugs, how much harder (if not impossible) would it be to abstain? We get and stay sober because of our connection to other human beings. This is the body that Jesus talks about. Dante’s Paradise.
Every human being is an addict. This isn’t an exclusive membership. Replace alcohol with anything. Social Media. Porn. Food (*Coffee signed an immunity deal with me years ago). Money. Vanity. Consumerism. Religion. Politics. Some addictions just seem more socially acceptable, less overtly devastating in consequence. Shoot, even too much of a so called good thing can get slippery. Point is, every addiction is inherently imbalanced. Preventing us from becoming whole. Fulfilled. Present. Grounded. In the Now. With the God that wants you to live. Not the one that is trying to kill you.