Within our culture there is an expectation that when provided with a favour it is only courteous to ‘pay it back’ at a time when practical and apt to do so. Recovery from alcoholism is slightly different. I have been a beneficiary of people imparting wisdom and taking time to aid in my recovery from alcoholism. They are not paid for their skills or time. Nor have they ever implied that I personally should offer some form of recompense for what they have done.
All they suggest is that I ‘Pay it forward’, that I go and do for others what they have done for me. In writing these articles, in fielding the odd telephone call at 3am from someone beaten and demoralized by alcohol and by giving time freely to persuade the mentally saturated that there is hope, I am respecting their wishes.
Recovery, or sobriety if you wish, is about much more than staring, mentally or physically, into a bottle each day and being self-congratulatory at the conclusion of each night that you have managed to get through another day without succumbing. Whilst that is often applicable in the early stages it is not a long term prospect, the aim is to make someone indifferent to alcohol, not to offer eternal methods to counter temptation.
Successful sobriety is not merely represented by someone who does not drink, it is someone who does not feel any need to drink. If it was exclusively around abstinence then we would relentlessly inform families and friends to hide all alcohol, purge their spending prowess, even have them banned from the local hostelries. That may keep them distant from consumption, all you have however is someone discontented and being denied what a sick part of their thinking emphasises is their coping mechanism.
The symptoms of this illness extends way beyond a glass in hand approach to life. The notion of self is everpresent, we become hopeless and helpless, we are manipulative, deceitful, dishonest, conceited, thoughtless and a plethora of other negative emotions, traits and behaviours. We believe that the world is unjust and that our story has such uniqueness to it that nobody could ever understand.
Sobriety – Long term contentment, peace of mind and the beginnings of meaningful happiness are accessible when we resolve to become the polar opposite of all the symptoms which have become part of us. It is of course difficult to explain to the alcoholic that telling the truth is an antidote to his or her insatiable appetite to drink, that ‘putting yourself in his shoes’ may combat the urge.
That is however how long term sobriety is maintained, it is rediscovering yourself in a positive and productive manner, being a person that has a role in their family, workplace and community. It is a wonderful thing to experience, it is arguably better to be the guiding force that has helped someone to sense hope and ‘see the light’.
All of this of course is only possible when the afflicted recognise there is a problem. It is often said that this is the first step in building solutions of any kind. It however does not relay all that is relevant about alcoholism. I have encountered a steady stream of alcoholics more than content to acknolwedge they have issues with alcohol abuse or are alcoholics. When the solution is suggested however they make it clear that they cannot embrace it, certainly not in its entirety. This is not unique to alcoholism, those who have suffered from any illness may have felt disinclined from conforming to the recommendations of a doctor or medical practitioner.
The one irrefutable fact about alcoholism, the single most telling component of recovery is that you have to stop drinking. Stay stopped. Permanently. Forever and ever and ever and ever. If you have read the previous four sentences and sensed an enormity to such a proposal then you have my sympathy. I know what it is like to be informed that such a routine part of your existence, that which you had come to rely upon, has to be consigned to history. Within that however should be a realisation that you are reliant upon it, you need it to overcome life’s trials and tribulations.
Simplify it if it helps, all you will cede, the only things that are gone for good is a ‘bottle and a hangover’. You can still be aspirational, still pursue dreams. In fact, such ambitions being realised have in all likelihood been increased tenfold if you make the decision to transform your life and manage to maintain it.
Sobriety is the most important thing in life for me, and for innumerable alcoholics. This, simply, is because if they do not have it they have nothing of note. All valuables in life, people or other, will be frittered away whilst the disharmony created by alcoholism will descend to unprecedented levels. Loved ones, even those with commendable resolve on such an issue will have a breaking point.
In the process of writing I have had several private messages from people with worries over their alcohol intake. I have heeded what has been said and advised accordingly. The future is uncertain, what is indisputable is that my own sobriety is strengthened by being prepared to listen when asked and making suggestions on the matters in hand.
The final piece of advice would be to rid yourself or any others of the perspective that they will be able to stop drinking, stay stopped and discover the wonders of life through using their own self-will. The chances of such an outcome are remote, in fact it is potentially fatal to allow oneself to sense they have this profound resolve that does not necessitate external aid. if you attempt to navigate a path to sobriety and happiness, this after years or decades of excessive drinking then you underestimate just what you have as an adversary. Further, source the needed honesty and admit that it has been how you have used your own will previously that has led you to where you are.
The alcoholic is lost but often too proud to ask for directions, the ramifications of such arrogance often deadly. Despite the humilation that forms the illness they would still prefer to swim miles alone to shore than accept the lifeboat that has drawn close to them in stormy waters. It explains why in recovery we opine that ‘There are none too dumb for recovery but many are too smart’.
If you or someone close resolves to stop drinking then it is a beginning. If you refuse or will simply not entertain the idea of advice and assistance from others then it may well be that despite your verbal offerings around a new pathway to peace, your alcoholism is still calling the shots. It is that powerful, that patient and that fatal.
Always remember, you are not alone.