Reflections of a Sober Alcoholic
As we pass into a new year, always a time for contemplation, I’m reminded of the circumstances that brought me where I am today. As always, a new year brings hope and promise for better character, more patience, and not a little tolerance. At least for this struggling addict.
Struggling? Yes, just because one is abstaining from the vices that shape character and warp morality, doesn’t mean those influences are not lurking just outside peripheral vision. Drug and alcohol abuse is merely symptom of addiction. In order to rid one of a need for a crutch, one must acknowledge the emotional issues that are assuaged by cocaine and Old Grand Dad. While this may sound like excusing bad behavior, this column can attest to it’s absolute veracity.
Moving into my twelfth year of of sobriety, I’m less than a quarter of the way on the journey to becoming whole again. Haunting memories, hurt feelings, bruised egos, and leftover suspicion are common entrants to what should be a serene soul. Letting go these ancient burdens is a must to start growing emotionally again. But at what cost?
For years I have carried grudges as an excuse to be angry, a license to be arrogant and condescending. Letting go is the hardest part of the struggle for me. Self-centerdness, the DNA linchpin of any addict, will always be part of the lingering hangover of sobriety. The constant stresses and triggers that abound that are normal in life are easier for the the emotionally capable to grapple with, cause confusion to people who no longer have a place to hide. It’s called FEAR, Fuck Everything And Run. And running to me was the dubious comfort and safety of the grape. I can still taste it today.
Last night I dreamed of whiskey in a Harley Davidson shot glass, its smoky, sultry, aroma igniting my senses and leading me into the shadows. The sharp, stinging, reassuring, burn opens my senses, gives me hope and an infallibility known only to me. Another poured, easier down this time, and the heat begins to fade. It is now a race to keep tempered before closing time and cold truths and realities reappear stronger and harsher than before. The subconscious starts awake. “It’s not real!” I awake in a sweat and a thorough search of my home for the demon whiskey is necessary. Even today…
But things ARE different today; I no longer cringe when I pass a police officer. No court docket bears my name, and I am beholden to none, except family.
The addict will always touch people whose only crime was to know and perhaps feel warmly toward the lost. He or she will always find away to drag friends and family into the narcissistic dramas of the drunk. Late night calls for bail, or a loan to stave off eviction, are just some of the lows this addict has stooped to. It’s not normal for one to be on a first name basis with the Calvert County Sheriff, nor is it normal for non flattering articles to appear in the local paper, embarrassing not only himself but family as well. Involving innocents, who would recoil if they knew what was really going on in the head of the alcoholic, is a trademark of the afflicted.
The innocent in this case was a two year old girl, my daughter. Denied a normal childhood, she suffered right along with me, too young to understand that her Daddy was destroying her family. There was no money for her to get a video at the supermarket, or the house being filled with the irrational ranting of a man who is not quite of this earth. Perhaps it was the hotel rooms we lived in due to alcoholic irresponsibility, or maybe her grandfather and uncles showing up late after travelling all night, for the sole purpose of protecting their own. Or maybe it was that night.
Flashing lights and crackling radios on the edge of my reality. I am face down among shattered glass, hands clasped behind my head, listening to the growl of an angry cop daring me to move. The car is still running, the rock, heaved in anger at the occupied car, is being examined by a disgusted sergeant, while my daughter wails in horror, and her mother hurls justified epithets. I am insane. I am 29 years old. I must change.
I come to, not in stir, but in the basement covered in blood and vomit and sporting a black eye I can only attribute to resisting. The house is empty and I am alone. I know what I must do…
And in the dark, stale air of the basement, I was sure of only one thing, I needed help, I couldn’t live like this, and today will be the day I reach out. April 14th, 1997, was my first drug and alcohol free day. Each day, one at a time, has continued to this day. I am better for it, my family is better for it, and in the utmost grandiosity, the world is better for it; some of you drove on the same roads I did, or walked on the same sidewalks as me.
So, as we jettison the trials of 2008, I am filled with a resolve and Peace that has been fleeting to date, as the last couple of months have been trying, but we are still here, still a family and still happy. My character defects still rule me, but I now ask humbly for the courage and strength to remove them, and acceptance if I can’t.