About a year ago I wrote an article about a job interview I had and the inevitable question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I have always hated this question in interviews because honestly, who the fuck knows? I can tell you this though, going to rehab was NOT in my five year plan. I mean really, who wakes up one day and says, “I think someday I want to go to rehab and learn about my fucked up brain!” I’m going to go ahead and guess the answer to that is no one.
I didn’t set out to be someone who is powerless. Quite the opposite really. I didn’t ever wake up and say, “Today I am going to live my life in an unmanageable fashion because I think that would be super!” I never made a conscience decision to drink until I blacked out or to urinate in places other than a bathroom. I didn’t choose to ruin my military career, hurt the people I love, or hide little stashes of booze around the world to keep myself from getting sick. Yeah. That wasn’t written into the story intentionally.
It is however who I became. I realize now that I am a sick person in need of healing, and not a sinner that needs to be saved (thanks Father Bill). I am an alcoholic. I planned on being an alcoholic as much as someone plans to get cancer. Now don’t get me wrong, my choices certainly did contribute to this disease, just as my choices now contribute to keeping it in check. However, just because I make a decision each day to not pick up that drink, the fact is that if I do – I will suffer. I made the same choices in my youth that almost every other person did – I experimented with drugs and alcohol. I went against my mothers advice (shocking I know) to never drink. Fuck her. What does she know? You know – typical teenage shit. Of course I didn’t listen to her. I was different. I would never turn into her! I was smarter. I was aware. I was determined to not be the drunk on the couch with no social life; no friends; no one to love me. Yeah – I didn’t plan this.
I never planned to be the first one drunk at parties, I never planned to be the one who has to be told the next day everything that happened the night before. I never planned to embarrass myself on an almost daily basis. I didn’t plan to hole myself up in my apartment because if I left I might not be able to drink the way I needed too. I didn’t plan that I would bury bottles in the park so I could always have alcohol available to me. I didn’t plan to drink in order to feel or not feel emotions. I didn’t plan to have to attend meetings every day in order to keep myself sane. I never planned to need rehab, and detox, and therapists, and doctors…
This wasn’t in my five year plan. This wasn’t in my lifetime plan.
Even in A.A. you hear people say, “Just don’t drink!” Yeah. Okay. If it was that fucking easy these rooms would be empty and treatment centers would be out of business. I haven’t met a person yet who knows they are suffering from addiction who was able to “just not drink or drug.” Seriously, if it were that simple I would be writing a completely different post this morning. I would probably be focusing more on the Veterans Bill that failed to pass yesterday because of partisan politics. I would be writing about the old man Stephanie and I met at the grocery store yesterday who was so shocked to be shown a little kindness in finding chocolate bars and coffee he wants to share his lottery winnings with us (should he ever win). I didn’t plan for addiction to my my focus everyday.
I didn’t plan on being born to an alcoholic mother. I didn’t plan on not being taught how to properly cope with my emotions and the world around me. I didn’t plan to learn this shit at 41 years old.
The only thing I can plan now is to make a different decision every day. I can plan to attend meetings and listen to people like me who also didn’t plan for their lives to fall apart at the seams. I can plan to be grateful each day that I have been given the opportunity to learn and recognize my addiction for what it is and WORK to make better choices – while I still have the option of choice. Once I take the drink; choice leaves me. I am no longer in control. I can only plan to use the tools I’ve learned, and I can choose to ignore them. That is where the choice ends. However, when we start; we are mostly all just people doing what people do. We experiment, and sometimes that experiment goes horribly wrong.
Many people will die without ever realizing that they are sick because they have been told to just stop. They have been kicked out of their homes, kicked out of their families, kicked out of their jobs because the perception is that they choose to be a vagrant; they choose to put a needle in their arm; they choose to drink until they can’t stand up anymore. I know that I tried over and over again to “just stop” – I even did pretty well sometimes. I actually stopped drinking for about 8 months on my own (of course I then had Xanex and Vicodin to take the edge off and keep me from detoxing) but I stopped drinking! Victory! I even went for a visit out to CA completely unsupervised and drank like a “normal” person. I had ONE beer at a friends house! Amazing self control! Amazing resolve! I am awesome! Of course; we know how that turned out now don’t we? I got home and celebrated my new found freedom to drink like other people and completely lost control. I went from normal to monster in about 6 months. You know why? It is a PROGRESSIVE, chronic, fatal disease that wants me alone and dead. That “dry” time I had, my addiction was working overtime to beat my resolve. That voice in my head, that obsession never left me. I just managed to ignore it for a few months and quiet it with pills instead of liquids.
Today, by the grace of God, the obsession isn’t there. I haven’t been ruled by cravings to drink (today). I have asked for help and have received it. I can’t choose to stop this on my own. If I could have, it would have been done without rehab and meetings, meditations and prayers. If I could have planned to just quit drinking; by God I would have quit drinking. I am a spiritually, physically, and emotionally broken person and I need help to heal those things. I didn’t plan to need all this help; but I am sure glad that is is there for me now.
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