Posts Tagged ‘hitting bottom’

giftI’d hear people talk about the ‘gift’ of desperation in recovery meetings and wonder what the fuck they were talking about.  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter what I tried, whether it was a few days in detox, a month in rehab or 9 months on Antabuse. It didn’t matter what I did, inevitably, I would get drunk. Over a period of four years I tried everything to stop, eventually I took a handful of pills, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up, instead I woke up in restraints in the ER covered in bruises from apparently fighting off the doctors and nurse who were trying to help me. I spent a few days in the psych ward in a bed opposite a lady who barely made an indent in the bed, there was nothing left of her, except a hollow expression and loose orange skin that made her look old, way beyond her thirty some years. Liver failure will do that to you. That was it, I was scared straight and vowed I’d never drink again. A week later I was back in detox.

I’ve said this before, but no one decides to walk into the rooms of AA, NA, detox or the psych ward because it looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon. Circumstances take us there, some of us are there because we’re trying to save a marriage, our family has given us an ultimatum or the courts have ordered it. That was my story for a while, I was there because other people wanted me sober and I found that while that reason worked in the short term, it never lasted longer than a few months.

When I finally wanted sobriety for myself, there were no more ultimatums, because there were no more people. I’d succeeded in driving them all away and I was completely broken. I knew I was fucked and that was when I became willing to do anything to stop drinking. Sure, I had sat in AA meetings before, cynically watching these ‘fakes’ pretend to be happy, but I had never got off my opinionated ass and asked for help. I just assumed that no one could help me because my alcoholism was different and they couldn’t possibly understand where I was coming from. Something had changed though; I was completely beaten and somehow that spurned me into action. I asked for help, got a sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  I did what was suggested – even if I thought it was crap (and I often did).

When I was in early sobriety, I did not see this desperation as a gift – it was more like a curse – but today, I realize that had I not felt as hopeless as I did, I might never have got off my ass and on the road to recovery. 

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bottomI can’t recall the amount of people who asked me this, but I do remember being pissed off at the question. Of course I was done, I was sitting in a f**king recovery meeting wasn’t I?

My indignant attitude usually lasted between 2-3 months or until I’d start to feel better. Once I’d got a new place to live or a new job, things didn’t look nearly as bad as it was before. That’s when I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t done and that I might just have to do a little more ‘research’. And so it would begin again and I’d lose that new job, get tossed out of my new home and find myself in detox, dazed and confused, wondering why this could possibly happen again.

I learned a lot of from each and every bottom that I had, most importantly I learned that I was very lucky not to ‘get dead’ before I ‘got done’ with alcohol. There are a lot of people who think that they’ll go out and drink or use just one more time and unfortunately that one time, becomes the last time because they never wake up.

I also learned that while I could tell people what I thought they wanted to hear and tell them I was ready to quit drinking, the truth really was that I wasn’t done until I was done. When I finally admitted to myself that I was beaten and that I’d truly had enough was when I became willing to go to ANY lengths to stop drinking and stay stopped. That’s when I started to listen to the suggestions of the people who had some time in recovery – the ones who had been waiting until I could get honest with myself and admit that I was well and truly beaten – until I was done.   

blackoutFor years I thought that I wasn’t any fun to be around unless I had a few drinks in me, I was shy and self-conscious, but give me a few drinks and I developed a rubber jaw that just wouldn’t quit. My zest for life only increased when my blood alcohol level increased and in my mind all was well with the world as long as I had alcohol in my system.

Alcohol was my life because it allowed me to function and ‘live’. Life was boring and tedious at best and since the age of 13 when I first discovered this luscious liquid I’d been using it to numb my mind.  Without it I was condemned to a life of boredom and tired teetotaldom. Ugh! Whenever I wasn’t drinking I was preoccupied with planning my next drink. Then when I was actually drinking, I’d think, God I need more of this stuff until I’d finally reach my goal which was total and utter oblivion. Unfortunately with oblivion came consequences and ultimately the morning after. Even now, a few years into sobriety I can still recall the fear and utter dread I felt on a regular basis when I opened my eyes to face the world. Earlier in my drinking career, I had a husband to wake up to and friends to rely on to give me the run down of the previous night’s debauchery. Let’s just say, it was never pleasant.  

Later on as my alcoholism progressed, I no longer had a husband to wake up to or friends to tell me how bad it was, I had succeeded in driving all those people away. At the end of my drinking years, when I did wake up from an alcohol induced sleep, I’d reach for the clock to see what time it was and often I wouldn’t know if it was 5am or 5pm. I was in seclusion with the curtains drawn and the lights off. But there was definitely dread, a different kind that I faced when I came too and I’d look for my bottle only to see there was no booze left. Nothing could be worse in my mind than waking up with an empty bottle followed by more terror as I realized it was 5am and the liquor store didn’t open until 9am. Once in a while, I’d have a rare moment of clarity and go to a de-tox center only to change my mind before the paperwork was done. On one such occasion, I was in one of the nicer places that didn’t have bars on the windows and as soon as I saw an open window I fled through it, wearing only my hospital pj’s and booties, stumbling through the night with absolutely no idea where I was going except that I needed a drink.

I spent many days and nights in de-tox, ER rooms, psych wards and treatment centers and when I no longer had a job, money or a place to live I went to a Salvation Army Rehab Centre, lasting 3 months before I was off to the races again.  Alcohol had turned on me… long gone were the days of fun and joking in the bar with friends. this was replaced with an obsession that left me never satisfied and always craving more until my body pretty much closed down and I fell into an unconscious state.

So what’s the point of this mini drunkalog? Well, often when we first think about quitting drinking or doing drugs, we are put off by thoughts of how we’ll stop having fun and we’ll no longer be the life and soul of the party. But, the image we have of ourselves and how other people perceive us can be a little skewed to say the least.  I was sick and other people could see that well before I could. The people who saw it first were my friends and family, followed by a procession of employers, therapists and ultimately bartenders who’d no longer serve me, next came the hospital staff who looked at me shaking their heads with a sense of hopelessness at my situation, then the liquor store owners selling me booze at 9am in the morning. 

This was my life with alcohol and when I was in the early stages of my drinking career, I couldn’t see past the ‘fun’ I was having and I dismissed all the warning signs. Ultimately as my disease progressed, I found out what was waiting for me down the line and it really wasn’t any fun at all.

gratitude1In very early recovery, my sponsor told me to write a gratitude list every night  at the end of my day. She said I should write down at least five things that I was grateful for.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t feel especially grateful, she said I had to come up with five things. I  always had two that were constant: I was always grateful for my sobriety and forever  grateful for having my son in my life (even when he was working my last nerve). You’d think  that I’d be able to come up with plenty more, but often times, I was so deep in self-pity and  busy being self-centered that I had a hard time coming up with three more.

Still, I did the exercise every night and it was a good lesson in counting my blessings when I  could so quickly forget that I had any. It was easy to forget where I had come from when I was sitting in my nice warm bed and my son was asleep in his room. It was hard to remember there was a time when I was unable to see my son because I couldn’t stay sober, when I was in a Salvation Army Rehab Center, losing my apartment, my job and facing jail for violating probation for a DUI.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who I have not seen in a long time. A couple of years ago she was in a very bad place, she had relapsed after some time in recovery and was back on the streets doing drugs and drinking. We all thought that this time was going to be her last, she looked like death warmed up, manic, thin and pale and there seemed to be no fight or desire for life left in her, she was deep in the addiction and even her own mother (who was also in recovery) thought that she was going to die. There was a warrant out for her arrest and she evaded the police for a good few months until she finally got arrested and was put away for six months.

Coincidentally, she had the same sponsor as I did and our sponsor gave my friend the same exercise as I had. Every night, sitting in her cell she had to write five things she was grateful for. As we were talking about it, we joked about what she must have come up with to be grateful for while being locked up – having a plastic spork that wasn’t completely useless was one thing, as well as a few other things that gave us a good laugh.

As I talked and joked with my friend, I realized how far she had come and the fact that any of us recover is a miracle. I forget that sometimes, but the reality is that some of us will never get ‘this’ and our disease will kill us, but for those of us who are willing to be honest and do a bit of work on ourselves, there is a life available  that is free from booze and drugs. This lady was living proof that even the most hopeless of us can turn our lives around. She now has 14 months of sobriety and as I went home that night, I was filled with gratitude for my friend, being able to laugh and talk with her and the fact that she was sober. She was very different than the last time I had seen her try recovery, that time she might have been sober, but she was definitely miserable – this time she was genuinely happy.

As I get further along the road of recovery, my gratitude list isn’t so hard to write anymore, sure there are bad days and there are good days. Seeing my friend sober, was a good day and she was right there at the top of my list.

rockTo me, the saying that someone is ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’ sums up perfectly my addiction to alcohol because I couldn’t live with it and couldn’t ever imagine a life without it.  Needless to say, it’s not a great place to be. I met with a new sponsee today, she has 35 days sober and she’s in that place.  The fog is beginning to lift and she’s very nervous, anxious and desperate.  

It was our first real chance to get to know each other as we just met 3 days ago. It’s truly amazing how the program of Alcoholics Anonymous works, that by one alcoholic talking to another about  how it was for us when we were drinking, what happened and what it’s like now, – we have the ability to make a connection. By telling someone what a complete and total f**k up we once were (and sometimes still are) we can let a person know that if we can get sober there’s no reason why they can’t either.

We talked about our drinking histories – she started very late in life and I started very early. We talked about how each of us drank -she was a maintenance drinker, drinking every day and I was a binge drinker – holding off for a few days at a time until my body screamed for alcohol. There were other differences too, she has grown up children who have left home and I have an eight year old son who is very much in my face on a daily basis. None of that mattered though because we found that even though there’s a 2o year age difference, when it comes to our disease – there really is no difference.  

For both of us, we got to a place where we were physically unable to stop drinking once we had started. We had both tried at many different times to control our drinking, only to get to a place of complete and incomprehensible despair.  It was obvious when we were done talking that our disease isn’t choosy – it wants the same thing for all alcoholics and addicts and that is death – the slower and more painful, the better.

I didn’t tell her that it’s probably a good thing that she has got to this place. Because for me at least, the more desperate I was, the more willing I became to try anything to stay sober – even AA.  Sometimes, being stuck between a rock and a hard place can be right where we need to be in order to get us started on the journey of recovery. 

stopMost of us have tried a lot of different ways to control our drinking or drugging by the time we get to the point of quitting altogether. When we finally make the decision to stop for good, there are also many different ways we can do that. I’ve tried many ways of quitting myself.

I’m a chronic alcoholic who has had consistent relapses. It seemed that I could stop drinking, usually for a few months at a time, but I couldn’t stay stopped. Maybe it was because I always wanted to find the easiest way with the least amount of effort possible.

Here are some of the things I’ve tried:

– Willpower
– Starting up old hobbies, including painting and drawing
– Acupuncture
– Reiki healing
– Hypnotherapy
– Herbal cleansing
– 30 day in-patient treatment program
– Relapse prevention program
– Antabuse
– Voluntarily check-in to a detox clinic
– Involuntarily check-in to a detox clinic
– Three months in a Salvation Army adult rehabilitation program
– Attempted suicide
– Psychiatric ward
As you can see from the list, there was a pretty drastic change over the years as far as the lengths that I would go to in order to quit. As I went from using willpower to attempting suicide, it was obvious
that my disease, left untreated, was getting progressively worse. I realized that I was on very shaky ground because every time I got drunk I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t want to die when I was
sober; it was only when I was under the influence. That’s when I had the failed suicide attempt. As low as that moment was, at least it made me aware of the true scope of my problem—I knew that if
I didn’t stop drinking for good, it would only be a matter of time before I succeeded in ending my life.
I was out of options, and out of money, so I decided to try the one thing that I’d been avoiding for so long—a Twelve-Step program. Sure, I’d been to a few recovery meetings in the past, but I never
actually listened to what those crazy people said, and I certainly never did anything they suggested. But sometimes sitting at the bottom can finally make you willing to try anything….