July 10, 2011
In the past, my normal reasons for going to rehab was to perform a kind of “reset” on my drinking career. To take a break, rest, and get my health back… in a reasonably safe environment, and then go out and start the insanity all over again. I had found over the years that alcohol seemed to help my inability to “fit in” with normal society, but I could only keep control over the drinking for a finite period of time. The pattern was always the same, a half pint of Vodka at bedtime to help me sleep, a half pint to help me through a social situation and then “blossoming” into drinking as much as I could because I was still breathing.
When I went to rehab, this last time, I actually wasn’t sure how I got there, but I was tired. I wasn’t tired of the drinking, I was tired of being in continuous emotional pain… not having the slightest clue why I needed to drink, just knowing that I needed relief… from something, I have no idea what. I do remember one thing, I was trying to make this last “foray” into drinking my last… I wanted to die, and being a coward, I figured that I’ll just keep drinking until I don’t wake up anymore. Well like everything else in my life I “screwed” that up too. I decided that this was the time to give sobriety a try, but I didn’t know if it was possible, given the “monsters” that were raging in my head.
I soon discovered, with the help of a counselor who actually understood the psychology of addiction, that my problem wasn’t the alcohol itself. It was my motivations for reaching for that drink in the first place. Why did I feel the need to “dull” my senses… why did I feel the need… to not feel? My counselor asked me if I’d undergo psychiatric testing, I figured “what the heck” it couldn’t hurt. It turns out that my symptoms were pretty “flagrant” and they just needed the testing to confirm what they could all see… everyone but me. I won’t go into the details of just what I am suffering from, but what I will tell you is that appropriate medication changed my life, but, and this is the proverbial “big but,” it was only the first step on the road to discovering why I was drinking.
The reaction of my treatment team was pretty matter of fact, based on my psychiatric difficulties, their attitude was, of course I was drinking, it was the only way to keep my symptoms down to a dull roar, and that without appropriate medication and therapy, I had no chance at staying sober. After a couple of weeks on my meds I began to understand what they meant. The fog began to clear and for the first time in decades I could think clearly and rationally. Now don’t get me wrong, all was not kittens and puppies after I was medicated. What changed for me was that now I had a fighting chance at staying sober. It was like I was at sea in a rowboat with no oars, and someone came along and gave me oars… just enough to give me control over saving my own life.
The point I’m trying to make is this. If you are a chronic relapser, and have tried everything else, get a psychiatric assessment. Having psychiatric difficulties is a whole lot less embarrassing than having out of control addictions and maybe you’ll find out why you’ve been reaching for drugs & alcohol to feel normal. The 12 Steps are great but they are not designed to cure mental illness, give yourself a chance at staying sober. Being sober and miserable is a recipe for failure.