It’s been a while since I picked up a drink or a drug. Twenty years this week to be exact. In my partying days, I never considered myself to be an addict or alcoholic. It was just something I did like millions of others around the globe. My understanding of what addiction or substance use disorder, as it’s called now, has changed over the years. It wasn’t until I realized that my life just never seemed to get started that I had to consider that something wasn’t right with me.
It was the same old textbook situation for me with my drug and alcohol misuse. I lost jobs, relationships, my house, you know the score. There was so much chaos swirling around my head all the time it became impossible to keep up. In the midst of that chaos I lost connection to myself. I had no clue who I was or what I was meant to be doing. I had been partying since I was thirteen years old, so did I really know myself at all?
So I went to my doctor and explained my situation. His conclusion was that my using was the root of all my problems and I needed to get clean. I couldn’t afford rehab so I had to do this alone. “Not so” he said and proceeded to hand me literture on Alcoholics Anonymous. He also provided me with names of therapsits who specialised in addiction.
Road to recovery
So off I went on my merry way to try and figure out this shit. Of course I proceeded to the bar to peruse the information my doctor had supplied. And I got drunk. I woke the next morning in the clothes I’d worn the day before cluthing the pamphlets in my right hand. It was time. I knew it had to be done – this getting clean. I still wasn’t convinced that the term addict applied to me but I was going to take that chance and find out.
That afternoon, I took myself to the local AA meeting and sat my ass in a chair. People said hi and welcomed me. People spoke and I listened and most of what they said went over my head. Well, except for the carnage of their lives. I got that bit. The part about having a higher power and spirituality and god didn’t hit home though. I hadn’t been raised with any kind of spiritual ideal, which some may find weird coming from middle America. I had no connection to this kind of life and I thought very logically by nature.
Finding my own way
I went back to three more meetings before I decided that 12 step recovery wasn’t for me. I could clearly see it worked for some it just didn’t sit right for me. Over a period of two months, my drinking had definitely decreased and I was more functional for sure. Those meetings may have helped with that. I didn’t know if I really wanted to quit drinking entirely either, and felt like a bit of a fraud sitting there eavesdropping on people’s lives who did. For me, exposing myself to groups of strangers was not comfortable for me. A new road was needed to get myself well.
I went home after that fourth meeting and looked at the number of therapists my doctor had suggested. The next morning I began calling and making appointments. There were six in total, and I made an appointment with each one until I found the right one for me. Geoff was his name. He was in his mid-fifties at a guess, his hair pulled back in a salt-and-pepper ponytail with bright blue eyes. He greeted me each week with a “Hey man”, a handshake and a cup of coffee. We didn’t talk much about my drinking though. He was more interested in the before and my triggers. We talked about my understanding of the world and how my childhood shaped that view. Sometimes we took walks around the lake near his office while we talked. And then something happened.
Getting to know myself
The deep knowing of myself and why I functioned how I didn’t my whole life was nothing less than breathtaking. All the guilt and shame was erased from my being because of this understanding. I began to make decisions instead of letting life pull me wherever it wanted to. Looking in the mirror at my reflection wasn’t repulsive any longer and I began to have dreams and make goals. Trauma was the root cause of my problems and the reaction to that trauma was to self-soothe with alcohol. I didn’t know how to regulate emotion or take responsibility for my own healing. Hell, I didn’t even know that my childhood was filled with trauma. It just felt normal to me. Now I knew it wasn’t.
My life looks a whole lot different now. Eventually, my drinking dwindled to just about nothing. I began to hate the way it made me feel and the lack of control it brought. It was a natural and gradual process that didn’t require much effort. Once I knew I had value, I began to value myself, my health, my mind, and heart. I saw Geoff for about four years until I moved to a different state. He taught me what all fathers should teach their sons; how to express emotion, value to themselves for more than just providers and have respect for themselves and their loved ones. He was a deep-feeling, deep-thinking gentleman and he showed me how to achieve peace in myself.
I don’t even think about drinking or not drinking these days. I choose not to because I prefer me when I’m not self-harming or self-soothing. I’d never say that I will never drink again. Maybe someday, perhaps at my daughter’s wedding a glass of champagne might be in order. And maybe not. The point is I have a choice because of the work I did on myself with Geoffs help.