So recently I had a friend make one of the hardest choices of their life and decide to get sober. Knowing my experience with this issue, they asked for some advice. So here’s my 12th step but before we go any further, I need to make it clear that this is coming from my own personal experience and I am not a medical professional. Depending on what you’re on or trying to get off of, you may need medical supervision to do so safely.
First of all, addiction takes a lot of forms
From drinking to overeating to compulsively checking Facebook for that quick hit of sweet sweet dopamine (lets see if you can make it through the post without checking your phone). The point is, it doesn’t matter how the disease manifests, it’s a major symptom of a much bigger problem. From what I’ve witnessed, it’s often rooted in a desire to feel in control and proceeds to escalate from there. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two with friends to help relax after a busy week, it’s when you need a few prior to meeting with your friends that it becomes an issue.
Without help, it’s like playing whack-a-mole.
Cool, you’re not drinking but you’re working out 6 days a week, you just injured yourself and you missed your kids’ ballgame because you don’t skip leg day. Going cold turkey, at best, is a short term solution, you still need to understand and address the underlying problem. This is called a dry drunk and I’ll explain that in a minute.
Part of the reason that dealing with addiction is such a bitch is the fact that it’s so adaptable and the only way to handle it is with brutal honesty. The real bitch about this is the fact that a big part of why we used or drank was the fact that we were trying to change the way we felt about ourselves or the situations we were in.
Meeting suck but they are helpful
Ehhh, this is a mixed bag. On one hand, I credit them with giving me a shot at having a functional life and at the same time, I can also fully understand the counterpoints and why some people avoid the rooms. Keep in mind, the 12 steps are tools and that the rooms are full of people with good intentions. Both can and often go awry and this is why it’s important to pay attention to those who have what you want.
A lot of people talk a lot of shit but there’s a difference between someone who’s had 2 years clean VS someone with a decade or more and faced shit while staying sober. They’re often less enthusiastic but more grounded in their advice.
My main reason for supporting these groups is the fact that while having a medical background in the nature of addiction is helpful, until you’ve actually hit a bottom, you really don’t get it. There are a lot of whack jobs in the rooms but they understand the hell and confusion you’re dealing with.
The 12 steps
They are tools, how well they work depends on how you use em. Personally, I think that just about everyone could use the process as a way to gain deeper insight into our nature but most don’t care.
Now, I get the whole not being into God thing and wanting to avoid it all together. I get the anger, I get the bitterness and it’s valid if you’re in this situation. Honestly, I know of very few people who haven’t struggled with this aspect of the steps. To this I say that you’re dealing with the Old Testament angry judgemental God, that’s not what we’re talking about in this case. All that’s required is for you to find a way to have hope.
Hope is the spark that ignites faith. Now please understand, as I write this I’m losing my shit over losing two people I love with all my heart and watching them suffer while I’m powerless to do a fucking thing about it. It’s not sunshine and flowers right now but I still have faith that there’s something bigger than I can comprehend and I call it love and I make the choice to act in faith instead of fear. That faith is why I’m writing this and reaching out to you instead of drowning in my own self pity.
The big misconception is that you have to understand it to believe in it. No no no, we’re dealing with something so big we can’t fathom it. All we have to do is act as we believe in it and thus the saying “fake it til you make it.” When faced with A or B, you just act like you have faith and like rubbing two sticks together, eventually there will be a spark.
Start simple, forget about God. Look at your dog and how pure the love is. Start by having faith in that love and go from there. Soon you’ll see it in some unexpected places.
Trust in God but tie your camel.
Yes, faith is a crucial factor to getting sober and maintaining it for any amount of time but the flip side is that you need to do the work. We spent years shifting our lives around our disease in order to accommodate our behavior and now we have to work twice as hard to change our habits and make different choices. It’s not easy and when looking at the big picture, it can get overwhelming and that’s why we face things head-on, moment by moment.
Genetically I was fucked up from the start and let’s just say that I didn’t exactly grow up in what could ever be viewed as a healthy or loving home. Boo fucking who, poor me, whatever. Listen, at this point I ain’t blaming shit on my past. I know my wires are all tangled but I still, and this is a bitch, have to take responsibility for my impact on the world. The booze didn’t hurt anyone, I did, I made the choice and I have to live with that and try to make better choices the next time.
On that note, most likely you’re going to have to change up your circle of friends. Some of them will be supportive and do whatever they need to help, others are going to be pissed they don’t have you to party with anymore. Stick with the first group and avoid the rest at all costs.
The dry drunk.
You’re either making progress or sliding backward and there are a ton of people that have managed to kick whatever vice they had yet they’re still just as fucking miserable as ever. This is called a dry drunk. They’re still behaving like addicts or drunks, they’re just not using the substance. This is why step work with a sponsor is critical since we tend to be really good at bullshiting ourselves and need someone to be able to call us out on our behavior and force us to be accountable.
When you start to really lose your mind and feel powerless, go do something cool for someone. Call and check in on a friend, make coffee at a meeting, open the door for a stranger at the store or write 1,500 words on a painful subject in the hopes that it might save someone pointless suffering. That said, stay centered and don’t put your ass on the line, and be a martyr since we tend to have a tendency to overdo literally everything.
Yes, this is a bitch and a half to deal with but once you know what you’re facing, it makes it way easier to handle. The good news is that we’ve made a ton of progress since I first walked into a midnight meeting in downtown Richmond in ‘99. The stigma that was there is nearly gone and it’s viewed as a disease instead of a defect of character. Our understanding of how it works has increased tenfold along with the resources available for those facing it.
I can’t be the one to tell you if you have a problem or not, that’s on you but if you’ve been able to relate to any of this, chances are you should do some more research. As I said earlier, it goes one of two directions, either you’re getting better you’re getting worse. The only question left is how bad do you really want it to get???