In early recovery, I was angry, bitter, confused and stark raving mad but knowing that now didn’t help me much then.
Sometimes, a simple saying that I heard in a Twelve Step meeting might set me off, quotes like ‘stinkin thinkin’ for instance. Whenever I heard this I’d imagine myself as a cartoon character from Looney Tunes, Wile E. Coyote sticking dynamite in his ears and Road Runner lighting the fuse. I didn’t want to hear it! It really bugged the shit out of me – stinking thinking? I stink not!
Another thing I heard said often was this zinger: “It’s easy to stop drinking, it’s staying stopped that’s hard”, hearing that one sent the barometer in my brain shooting through the top of my head. The first thing that came to mind was, “If it was so fucking easy to stop drinking why are all you nut jobs sitting in this room talking about it? Shouldn’t you be getting on with your perfect alcohol free lives and leaving us losers to it? In fact, hearing this made me think I was in the wrong place or at least the wrong meeting; all these folks obviously didn’t have a problem like mine, because it seemed that when they wanted to stop drinking, they just stopped!
I couldn’t relate at all because once I started drinking I couldn’t stop until I passed out. When I came to, either the next day or in a few hours, I’d start drinking again immediately to block out the guilt, dread and eventual withdrawal symptoms. In fact I’d only stop when my body physically rejected the alcohol. Whenever this happened – which was often – I’d take sips, throw up, take more sips, throw up until somewhere along the way I’d pass out in a pool of puke. That was how I stopped drinking; it wasn’t because it was easy, it was because I had lost control over my bodily functions.
Another saying I heard was, “Stick around for the miracle to happen” – Hmm, I’d hardly say any of the people I saw in those meetings qualified for the Vatican’s ‘Call-in a miracle line”. Nope, I didn’t see any miracles going on there and definitely no images of religious icons in the tossed out coffee filters. Thankfully, I was desperate enough to want to know why these people stuck around, why did they quote all these useless sayings and why did some of them look so happy? At first I thought it was because they came to gloat, “Look at me, you poor bastards, I don’t have a drinking problem and you do”.
Turns out, I was more like Wile W. Coyote than I realized because no matter how much he got hurt, blown up or tossed into a bottomless canyon in his attempts to catch the Road Runner, he always tried again, trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is exactly what I did with my drinking, I drank and drank, hoping that this time, I could just have one drink and stop, or this time I could control my drinking and drink like other people.
Thank God I stuck around and took the dynamite out of my ears and starting listening. I realized what these people were actually saying was that it wasn’t necessarily easy to stop drinking, it was just a little easier than staying stopped. Because the truth is, most of us will swear off the booze time and time again only to pick it up a day, week, month or even a year later. I was one of these people, and the only thing that stopped this nightmare cycle for me was to commit to a program of recovery and in my case it was Alcoholics Anonymous.
After a few months in AA, the sayings didn’t bother me as much, if people got something out of them and they stayed off the sauce for another day, who was I to judge? Plus I began to see the miracles they were talking about, whether it was someone opening up and sharing for the first time or a milestone celebrated by someone who was clearly a different person than they were when they first walked into the rooms. And yet another saying I heard began to ring true whereas before when I heard it, I almost lost the plot completely. This I had heard many times, “There’s good news and bad news, the good news is there is a solution to your problem, the bad news is, we are the solution”.
They were right about that one too.