the ravages of alcoholism

when i first came into recovery, i would hear people say things like “if i drink again, i’ll die.” or “i might have another drunk in me, but i know i don’t have another recovery.” when i would hear people say the ‘if i drink again, i’ll die’ stuff, i just would think, “man, and i think *i’m* a drama queen.” in my first year, i don’t know that i was really even convinced that i was an alcoholic. i knew that my life had become unmanageable, but i don’t know if i really believed with all my heart i was powerless over alcohol.

in my first year, a couple of people died who were really good friends of good friends of mine. it was terrible to see them be sad and go through the loss. but truly, these were people that i had the only the most tangential knowledge of.

people would also come back from a run “out there” and say that they were right back at the level of use they stopped at, and that it got exponentially worse, fast. i had to take them at their word, because i hadn’t taken a drink since i was officially sober/dry. i was grateful that they were “doing research” on my behalf.

as the years have gone on, i’ve seen more people die from this disease. mostly, they’ve still been people that i’ve known but not been particularly close to. super new people, and people i’ve had brief contact with over the years. again, their death was sobering and a reminder of what can happen if i ever forget who and what i am and go and try another chance at trying to “drink normally.” again, i’m always grateful for my sobriety when i hear these things.

however, my very close friends, my posse of people — well, they have not relapsed since i’ve known them. they work programs, have sponsors, do service. they’re in the middle of the recovery process. they hang out with fellow recovering folks and they dedicate time to helping others recover. i’ve always felt very fortunate to have “fallen” into this group of people. i know that it’s god for me. i wouldn’t have stayed sober if i didn’t meet this amazing group of young people who were staying sober and having fun.

today i got word that a close friend of mine died yesterday. as is usual with alcoholics and addicts, details are still very sketchy. however, i know that earlier this summer, he went on a cruise … and decided that he “didn’t want to be the good boy anymore.” he drank, and when he came back, he was right back at it, drugs and all. i’d call him and leave him messages and see if he wanted to do things, but i got no response. i had heard he was having problems even putting a couple of days together.

i finally heard from toward the end of the summer. he said he was back on track and in some outpatient groups that were really helping him. i said we should get together some time, and he agreed. he even responded as “attending” my halloween party online. he and i had the sort of friendship where we would hang out all the time for a month or so, and then we wouldn’t for a month or so. so, it wasn’t all that unusual that i wasn’t in constant contact with him or anything.

but i do have to second guess myself *just a little* for not reaching out to him more. i have no delusions that his death was my fault, or that i can keep OR get people sober. i know that’s not the case. but it definitely is a reminder to continue to reach out to people — new to sobriety and people who have been around awhile. lord knows that i have struggled within the rooms of recovery and wondered why no one could see what kind of pain i was in. lord knows there have been times when i “fall off the beam,” and am not praying or talking to other alcoholics or having a really hard time going to meetings. i’m grateful that i haven’t had a drink/drug due only to god’s grace at those times.

i’m terribly sad. in some ways, it’s not a surprise, but it really is the first time i’ve lost someone who has been so close. if he had made it to october 14th, he would have had 9 years of sobriety. that’s another thing that painfully hits home — time is important to have experience going through things without a drink and building faith in the program and god and yourself. but the paradox of it all is that time also means nothing. i have a daily reprieve from my disease that is entirely contingent on my spiritual condition and fitness. that’s all. if i don’t pray and i don’t stay close and i start getting really resentful about all sorts of things, then maybe the smallest sadness or disappointment will shut off that part of my brain that has come to understand that i have a disease. i’ll be the victim of a “mental blank spot” or a peculiar twist of my mind. and i’ll drink without much thought to the consequences, or not a thought at all.

i have a lot of fun in recovery and i learn how to “live life on life’s terms.” i have a psychic change — my way of thinking changes, my actions change, my words change. mostly, this does not happen overnight, but it happens. i love to hang out with my friends and goof off and do all sorts of stuff together. but as bill wilson says in his own story, “There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.”

we’re here to have better lives and help others, but we can only do that if we can succeed in staying sober ourselves.

i hope you’re now safe and without worry wherever your spirit is, mike.


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