Spare Change News
Fourteen months since a lick of alcohol has touched my lips! There have been many close calls. I have actually opened a can, only to end up flushing it down a thirsty toilet. I have had many nights of hell, bringing myself to the breaking point, nights where I truly believed I could have just one or two drinks. The urges to pick up again can only be mastered, never truly put to rest.
I wrote for a while about my experiences getting sober. I reflected on my continued usage of marijuana. I want to follow up with one last reflective piece. I feel I hit all the points but I just failed to put it all together. I pat my own back and do not expect congratulations from you … I offer these thoughts to share my journey with you.
Awhile back, I mentioned the miracles that took place last August while in post-detox. I entered the 10-day program convinced I was going to leave before I completed it. I walked out with a certificate in my hand. Most valuable was what I had learned.
I cannot say enough about my counselor. First, she took the burden of constant A.A. meetings off my back. I wrote an article about this in a previous Spare Change issue. Next, while she made it clear that she could not condone it, she failed to see an issue with marijuana, if in fact it did not lead me back to other addictions. For once, a counselor saw where I was coming from. Without this affirmation, I may not have lasted this long clean and sober.
Had it not been for her, I would have left detox feeling like I had to constantly attend meetings, and I would have considered marijuana a relapse. What my counselor successfully did for me was change my thinking. She put it completely on me, no excuses allowed. For some folks, marijuana should be considered a relapse, if it makes you less productive, which it can for some people. You may want to stay away from it. For too long, I looked at the problem as being alcohol. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The problem is me. We can debate forever about whether I have a disease or not. There is no question that I have a problem with alcohol and drugs. I do.
The question is what do I do to tame my problem? There really is no right or wrong answer, and only I can answer the question for myself. There are billions of answers as there are billions of addicts around the globe, and we all deal with the issue differently. My use of marijuana may not be the best solution for you. You need to be creative with your sobriety and individualize it. At 14 months clean, that really is all I can or should offer you for advice. That, and, how should I put it…
Time and time again I hear this talk of “rewards”, the idea being that getting sober will bring about “rewards” in your life. This is not true; at least, I do not take a liking to the term. The idea of a reward is that it is something being given in response to a good action you have taken. Look, I got sober for myself. I got sober so I can have bills paid, food on the table and cigarettes in my pocket. Let us rather call these benefits, having the right solution for my addiction. There are no rewards. No one is going to come running after you saying, “Congratulations on making it to your year mark, here is 500 dollars.” That would be a reward, and this does not happen. My counselor explained this to me. I need to make things happen, and nothing and no one is going to hand me my success.
A blunt lady, I recall her saying to me something along the lines of, “Aaron, if you are doing this for your girl, or mom and dad, or whoever, you will fail.” The key was to do this for myself. I did not get it then, however, I kind of do now. If you are not fully into it, then eventually when you walk by a bar alone, with only you around, you will cave. Not only that, you will not be able to notice any of the benefits, if the only benefit is getting your girl back. You will fail to notice that an old friend called you or that you are sleeping soundly and wake up in the mornings. None of this will matter, because the one call you want never comes, if your girl truly is done with you. Whatever the main and only purpose was to your getting sober, it will cloud all of the other benefits and lead you to a relapse.
Given that our challenges with addictions are unique, so are our struggles. Everything along the way needs to be individualized. We live in a society that tries to group us together. I strongly feel that, for myself, breaking away from groups and making this personal is necessary.
One basic struggle I have is keeping that balance between talking about challenges amongst peers and saying nothing. I deserve to be on no pedestal. I am no better in any way than someone still drinking and drugging. I still have friends that drink. I have chosen not to run from alcohol. I have chosen to hold on to my drinking friends, there is still indeed a friendship. However, at times, I want to partake in bar runs and football beers. And that leads to a much broader struggle I have.
The world is filled with alcoholics, functioning alcoholics. I walk by bars every day and fight that urge. They all look so happy inside. Alcohol was once the center of my life. Unlike an old friend you can choose to ignore, this friendship is unavoidable. You have to face it head on every day. At some point, I question why I fight the urge. Is it worth all the headache? A couple of beers seem to make so much sense. I know I can be a functioning drinker. I write these words in sound mind. My urge is under control; however, at certain times these questions make perfect sense. I want to live life to the fullest degree, I want to get drunk again.
Many of you may suggest I should get to a meeting. I challenge this solution, for myself. Truth be told, relapse is pretty common for “meeting makers”. A slight jab there, to a great cause. I support A.A., in a broad sense, and agree with much of its philosophy. It’s just not the only way. And I will often stop in on a meeting here and there and get a great deal out of it. I strongly recommend reading the literature of A.A. and giving the steps an honest attempt (which obviously includes sponsorship and meetings). Just do not buy into the folks who say, “You will fail without A.A.”. That is misleading to say the least. That is saying that you are not an individual and they know what is right for everyone.
I do not fight my urges by relying on meetings or making a phone call to a sponsor. A snow storm could prevent making it to a meeting. A phone call could go unanswered for any number of reasons. I find relying on anything or anyone to deal with an urge is nonsense and doomed to failure, but that is just me.
I fight the urge by sitting with it, in more than one sense. If I have access and time I may actually grab a beer, hold it to my lips, stare the thing down and let my thoughts race through my head. I may say the Lord’s prayer, read the big book, listen to music, sit in silence, smoke a bowl, or put my head in a pillow and scream as loud as I can into it. Eventually, the miracle happens, the urge passes, and I go on my way. It may take hours for it to pass, I just need to be mindful that it will pass, no matter where I may be. It is all in my head, it is all thoughts, my thoughts, that form my perceptions. As my counselor said, it is about tuning out that addictive voice in my head and tuning in the sober one. It is that simple.
Let me thank my readers, Spare Change, my girlfriend, family and close friends who have stuck by me. I thank the Lord for you. Life is a blessing. My struggles pale to those of many others out there, and my heart goes out to all of us throughout the world. Addiction is surly Satan’s gift to man. It can be conquered, your own way. You heard me out, and I would very much enjoy to hear how you did it, so long as you respect how I have.
AARON JAMES is a Spare Change News writer and vendor.