Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Whirlwind

I started reading "Floor Sample" by Julia Cameron last night. She discusses in depth and great horrifyingly familiar detail her descent into addiction and her climb out. There is such commonality, familiarity, hopelessness, grandiose thinking that is the common thread of every addict I know, and is grippingly detailed through her great gift of writing. For example, the blackouts: out for an hour, a day, a week, a month...who knows. I never knew how long or what happened. It was terrifying, and then trying to go on as if it were normal behavior. Ashamed, guilt-ridden, and drinking again to feel better. Waking up and not having a clue what I did the night before, who I called, the fight I created, why I had been handcuffed in the back of a police car. All the distant past yet so close, familiar and disturbing. And the thought even after a year of sobriety that "I couldn't have done that." The thought of having physical sobriety and still fighting for emotional sobriety today and learning to live without the great release that alcohol briefly brought. The illusion that I could have just one and I would feel better, the shaking would stop, I could be functional if I just had one. I never did have just one, one became a hundred and the whirlwind took me. Deals I made with myself to stop. Believing I could do it myself, that I didn't need help. Rejecting help that was handed to me.

I have been accused of loving alcohol more than my ex or myself. I have argued that I didn't love it. I truly didn't love it at all. I didn't love destroying myself, losing myself and knowing it was happening and not being able to stop even when help was offered. I didn't love the drama it created, the damage it did, the slow killing of myself. But I couldn't stop, and I've given up trying to explain it. There is no logical, rational explanation for pure insanity. I drank because I was a drunk. Cameron explains with such clarity what she thought it did for her. Drinking made her write better. She was in a rush to get the writing out before the fog set in. I remember that clearly for myself. The first drink killed the editor, and I had about a minute to get the writing out, then it was all over. Drinking was killing the writer in me, taking my creativity. It killed my relationship with my lover and my family and I had no friends, alcohol was my pity pot. Oh poor I'd pour me another drink. And the loneliness, emptiness, and anger would surround me further. I drank because it made me functional for about a minute, I could get to work, I could get upright, I could get dressed. Pretty soon, I couldn't do any of that. Then I just drank and kept drinking. She said the same thing, but with more effect. I never want to feel that feeling again...ever. Something bigger than herself reached in and pulled her back from the brink to total destruction. It took something bigger than me to do the same thing for me.

I remember waking up one morning after a month of doing nothing but drinking after I got out of Rehab and my ex had moved out. I had been calling and verbally abusing him for abandoning me (I can't blame him...I'd have left me too); I crawled out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and got myself to an AA meeting, I have no idea how. I poured out my sob story, still the victim, went home and drank again. Someone from that meeting got my number, I must have given it to him and he tracked me down. He helped me sell my things so I had money to get home; I had one person who would take me in, my Grandmother. My Mother tried to talk her out of it. She tried so hard to convince Grandma it wasn't the right thing to do. Grandma wouldn't cave, now I know why. My friend helped me store what I couldn't part with. He helped me get to meetings and get sober. He tells me that it kept him sober helping me. I don't know. I bet that's true, but I also think he was sent by my guardian angel to save me.

I learned months later from my Mother that she had gone to my Grandfather's grave and talked to him shortly before I pulled myself up and went to a meeting. It still makes me cry to think about it. She went to the one safe place we always knew. The quiet gentle hand that calmed me in the storm. I don't know what she said to him, it doesn't matter. What I know is that shortly after she talked to him, she says I started to get well. Something guided me in the direction of a safe harbor like nothing else could. I've said it in meetings a thousand times, it wasn't me that got myself to the meeting; it was something greater than myself, I was too far gone to have done it on my own. Grandma told me later that she was going to sleep one night after Mom went to the grave and she heard Grandpa distinctly say, "Go get her." He's been dead for over five years now.

It has been over a year since my last drink. The physical sobriety came pretty easy compared to the emotional sobriety. The obsession to drink was lifted pretty quickly, thank God. I know I wouldn't be sober today if I still obsessed about that "one drink". The emotional sobriety has been much harder. Still blaming others, still living in a state of disbelief over what I did, still trying to piece together my life as it should be, not what I think I deserve. I think emotional sobriety is something I will work on for the rest of my life. That's why when I go to a meeting I am grateful to have people in that group with 20, 30, 40, 50 years of sobriety sitting next to me. Sobriety is a great gift, but I have to nurture it, honor it and work on it, it is not free. It has come at a dear price.

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