Following my two weeks in rehab I was determined to pursue my sobriety with every ounce of my willpower…in conjunction with the coping mechanisms I had been introduced to by the caring and wonderful counselors and psychiatrists that had been part of the program. I was fired up and motivated, and believed that my life was on the right track. I was ready to embrace AA wholeheartedly if that is what it took to remain on the path of recovery. This was to be the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in my life, a rebirth of sorts. During my time in the centre we’d been introduced to AA and even attended a meeting and I was certain that the fellowship of others battling the disease of alcoholism would help me through the darkest times of my recovery.
There was a minor problem from the very beginning though! I was NOT prepared to admit that I was powerless over alcohol. Yes, my life had certainly become unmanageable, but I was just not willing to accept that I could not regain power. Yet I decided to forge forward and started to attend AA meetings. I’d put my own spin on it, use the steps that were good for me and take what I needed from the program. Please don’t get me wrong, AA has helped and supported millions of people in their recovery and I am not about to bash anyone over the head with the “Big Book“. I went to meetings, trying to find a group that I felt resonated with me. I even spoke, sharing my story one night at a very popular meeting in the area. Unfortunately I just never felt a sense of belonging. There were a couple of reasons… Firstly, I wasn’t ready to turn my will or my life over to anyone and I was certain that no one besides myself was going to remove my defects of character. There are of course countless people who have faith and draw on this as a source of power, I am not one of them. It just didn’t strike a cord in me and I got tangled up in the language of the steps. People kept trying to assure me that it was God as we understood Him, but that just wasn’t working for me.
When I was a child my grandmother had given up drinking through sheer source of will and I was convinced that I could attack my alcoholism in the same way! I didn’t want to replace drinking most nights of the week with attending meetings where everyone sat around talking about drinking, sharing stories of the things that they had done, and which I have never shared out of respect for the people who do open up at these gatherings and in the spirit of the fellowship. I didn’t want to focus on the past, I wanted to focus on the future. And one of my plans was to secure a new job in a new city and give myself a fresh start. It wasn’t was easy as I had envisaged. A number of weeks of job hunting passed, the bank balance started to diminish and I was forced to get a job as a waitress at a local bistro. I was devastated at the idea of putting myself in the line of fire so to speak when I was still weak and vulnerable and in the very early stages of my recovery. I’d spent a few months prior to my move convalescing at my mother’s house on the coast, enjoying long walks on the beach and regaining my strength and a semblance of self-worth, but I was in no way ready to work in an industry that was alcohol centred. But need overshadowed want and I find myself back waiting tables like I had when I was a student and recent graduate. And I continued to attend meetings because it felt like the right thing to do.
Slowly the days of sobriety turned into weeks and months and I started to let my guard down. I stopped attending meetings and began frequenting the pub across the road with my colleagues at the end of our evening shifts. For a time I was able to rely on my willpower and sheer belief that I was in control of my illness, sipping on soft drinks while they nursed icy beers and chilled glasses of wine. And then I made the fatal mistake that so many recovering alcoholics make. I said yes to a glass of wine! The internal diatribe was raging at the time, but the addict in me won the argument and was quieted with one glass of wine. I left that evening feeling rather proud of myself! I wasn’t an alcoholic after all! I could have a single drink and leave it at that. But of course anyone reading this who has battled alcoholism in any of its forms knows where this is going. The following night was not just a single drink and so the slippery descent began. And it was spectacular!
Within weeks I was back to where I had been eight months before. But this time there was also the self-deprecation that goes with relapsing. The mornings where you swear that the previous night’s drinking was the last! And the depression crawls back in, treading its inky tendrils around your core. I felt helpless and scared, too embarrassed to ask for help and furious at myself for being so weak. But a couple of Jack Daniels and a few Tequilas was enough to silence the chastising voices in my head. And I felt alive when I was drinking, not fettered by shyness or uncertainty, master of my own universe. But let me tell you that those times were some of the very darkest of my life.
I hadn’t had time to deal with enough of the issues that I had identified during my stint in rehab. Most of my mornings consisted of beating myself up emotionally and most of my evenings numbing the pain of personal disappointment. I was angry and confused, feeling that I had let myself and everyone who believed in me down. It was a terrible place to be and a place I was to remain for many years to come.
‘Til next time