by David S.
If you aren’t familiar with Jim’s Story (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 34-37), I recommend you take a couple of minutes to read. It’s online here if you don’t have a copy handy.
I swore over and over again that I was done. The shocking thing is that, every time, I meant it. I don’t think I can ever convince some people of that, because returning to drinking under those looming consequences must have seemed the most callous and uncaring, not to mention stupid, thing an individual could do. They could see the outcome before I ever crashed. They had grown to expect it… and fear it. But in the face of all that, I did it again. So did Jim.
That’s untreated alcoholism or addiction.
Alcoholism and Addiction — Not About Numbers
I’m not going to delve too far into how many drinks a day, how many relapses, how many trips to the hospital or rehab, cars wrecked, times in front of the judge or in back of a police car, DWI indictments, jobs lost, or lengths of lost sobriety in my personal experience. Jim’s story doesn’t get into this much either. Those numbers don’t matter. Numbers can lead us to false conclusions. They might be signs of a problem, but usually they’re fodder for stories to make us go “Ooh, ahh,” and impress each other with carnage. They’re horror movie stuff. Some think low numbers prove they don’t have a problem because they’re hanging on in the middle of the tornado they’ve created. I hasn’t gotten bad enough yet. Or, some are hoping anybody’s got a bigger number or worse story. We can twist that to support the insane idea we’re still OK to keep running our game.
Let me be crystal clear. Many who drink or use too much have stiff consequences, but how much, how many, or how bad do not qualify or dismiss any of us from this painful problem of alcoholism or addiction.
So what does matter? What sets alcoholics and addicts apart from others? Let’s ask Jim.
My Buddy, Jim
Jim is a good guy, really. He’s got a respectable job, done some good things, and most everybody likes him. He’s a little twitchy and nervous, and people say he’s kind of uncomfortable a lot of the time, but he’s smart and a generally nice fella. But, whoa! When he drinks, it’s ugly.
So Jim went away to the asylum, which is like rehab today, and upon discharge, he did what most of us do. He met some AA folks. In modern terms, he probably showed up at a couple of meetings and shook a few hands, and maybe got a couple of phone numbers. They told him to “keep coming back.”
Riding the rehab wave and its brief period of abstinence, he kind of got it together. His wife decided to make another effort, and he got a stable job. He must have felt like he’d dodged that bullet, and was so glad to be back on his feet again.
Yet He Got Drunk Again
And he got drunk again. And again. All the while, he knew he was in big trouble. Jim was about to lose everything: His job, his family… Everything to Jim in his way of thinking.
Going back to AA again, he determined he was “all in!” He told everyone who would listen. They analyzed his relapse. If it were modern times he would have picked up coins, and counted days sober. He would likely have shared more in meetings about anger and who had mistreated him that day, and he opened up to the group about his fears. His story says, “He made a beginning,” yet he didn’t do the real work that mattered.
And he got drunk again.
Me too, Jim *sigh*
Each time, whether once or twenty, we thought we were done. But we weren’t. That’s what Jim and I have in common. That’s what matters most. We know. And yet we do it again.
Jim’s relapse story as related in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, is quite insane. Whiskey and milk seems like a damn stupid idea if you have a drinking problem.
But I have to be honest. I have many just like them, but perhaps not as entertaining. Instead, they’re mostly pathetic. They involve just buying one or two, tucking them in my hoodie pocket, or under the car seat, and promising these will be the only two. The last ones. But they aren’t. They are the start of a binge, of another drunk, another long period of suffering for me and my loved ones.
AND I KNOW IT. Deep down inside, I know what will happen. My track record proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt to anyone paying any attention at all. It was a lock. There were always a lot more than one or two in the end, back to the store, and another 12-pack of consequences for me and everyone I loved.
Just like Jim, I crashed and burned. Not just once. And it got worse every time.
The Point — Loss of Reason
Somewhere early on in his drinking “career,” Jim lost the ability to choose.
“You may think this an extreme case. To us it is not far-fetched, for this kind of thinking has been characteristic of every single one of us… Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 37).”
This loss of choice in the face of consequences, the inability to stay away from it, the trivial reason, or no seemingly no reason at all, is the most important thing that qualifies Jim, and the rest of us, as an alcoholic, or differentiates the casual user from an addict.
“Suddenly the thought crossed my mind…”
“I vaguely sensed I was not being any too smart…”
“He had much knowledge of himself as an alcoholic. Yet all reasons for not drinking were easily pushed aside…” (All found on Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 37)
Is This Your Experience Too?
You need to stop, yet you drink again…
You’re telling yourself it’s no big deal, but others seem pretty concerned…
You are waking up and again today promising yourself you’ll not drink or use, yet you do…
Consequences and roadblocks are only stopping you for a short time (if at all)…
You made a beginning, sincerely meaning to be done, and then relapsed…
You had a pretty good period of sobriety, yet inexplicably found yourself drinking again…
You walk out of rehab or jail, and presently start it all again…
Jim’s story, and what I found in common with my own were that measurements didn’t matter. It’s not a contest, and there are no points.
Relapse is almost guaranteed until we find a real solution. And a bare minimum effort of sitting in a few meetings and getting phone numbers, calling and whining to our sponsors, isn’t usually that solution.
Life on Different Footing
We had to change on the inside, to find something deep down. We had to find help to live life differently. The problem isn’t about how many drinks or how much time using, and likewise, the solution is not about numbers of rehabs, meetings per day or week, or chips for lengths of sobriety.
We’re talking about living life on a different basis. We’re talking about finding the power to stop doing this to ourselves. It’s about being free from the cycle of addiction and relapse. We usually keep drinking or getting high with only brief pauses until we find this psychological change, and we spiral as we go.
If you think for a minute you can’t go any further down… Well, our experiences tell differently. It can always get worse, and it usually does.
But we have an answer that worked for us. We have walked this path to recovery ourselves, and we would love to show you how. If you think you might identify with what we’re talking about, if this repetitive behavior when you know you need to stop sounds familiar, ask us. Click here. Start down the road to something else besides more consequences for you and your loved ones.
We have solved the drink and drug problem in our lives, and we know a different way of life.
Today we are free.
“David S. is an alumnus of the SONTX Residential Program and served as a house manager. He is celebrating sobriety and freedom by living in the mountains and running the Colorado trails.”