On ballerina slippers, temptation sneaks up from behind. Dressed in our disease, she does a silent soft-shoe, enticing us to turn around: to wallow in past mistakes, to bury ourselves in regret, to pull her out of the rearview mirror sheathed in the glamor of alcohol’s good times.
As temptation turns on her charm, she reaches into her bag of tricks and pulls out euphoric images of that first high. The one we could never recapture, no matter how hard we tried. Feeling little resistance, perhaps because we have become lax in practicing our program, she continues to entice us. Revving up her engine, target in sight, she takes dead aim at our vulnerabilities. If we start to feel edgy, she gives us a nudge, reminding us of that momentary relief that a shot of Jack Daniels gave us. Engaging our ego, she replays those feelings of superiority, lust, and pseudo-independence that were as fleeting as they were fallacious.
And my response to that question resulted in several more years of me, and the ones that I loved, and who loved me, paying the consequences. It was not an intentional lie. Instead, it was a skewed perception I had based on my keen ability to stay afloat in an ocean of denial.
Most alcoholics and addicts, even well into their addiction, sweat bullets as they strive daily to maintain that phony façade that supports their unfaltering battle cry that screams from the rooftops, everything’s just fine: And let me tell you, I can attest to what a grueling, demanding job it is trying to prove it.
Many of us lived too long in the slums of our mistakes. We lived in a gated community, that in the beginning, appeared to be both exciting and appealing. We roamed about freely in the fog of its deception, oblivious to the cost that it would eventually extract. In our false sense of euphoric meanderings, we stumbled over our broken promises, inflicted pain, and became burdens to those we professed to love. We abused ourselves and others and continued down a dangerous road without as much as a quick glance in the rearview mirror. We hardly noticed the retreating exits as they slammed shut behind us. Until that is, we were sealed in. Suddenly we found ourselves gridlocked, flailing about in our own crap.
Some of us searched endlessly for an escape route. We considered a variety of ways out. There seemed to be many options. Paths marked: You can do it alone; drink only on weekends, switch substances; only drink at home. Some of us traveled down each and every road but to no avail. It wasn’t until we were exhausted and beaten to a pulp that we saw off in the distance, a small crack in what had become our prison. It was just around the corner from the very last signpost. Unlike the others, it offered no excuses, led not to easy fixes, nor did it minimize the situation. It simply read recovery and attached to it was a key to unlock the gate.
For those of us who were willing to dump our false pride, box up our misery, and leave it behind in yesterday’s ruins, a new journey began. The road was less rocky, the scenery was paved with petals of hope, and we were never alone. Those who had traveled it before dotted each and every turn with outstretched hands and giving hearts. The journey is not a means to an end, but rather a never-ending path to enrichment that gets better and better, one day at a time.
Once clean and sober, we learn that in recovery we can participate in creating a brand new environment; one specifically designed to lift us out of the mire of our past and point us in a new direction. Suddenly, we discover that we have choices. A new future is spread out before us like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be fitted into the framework of our willingness to move forward.
Who would have guessed that we could move into a new neighborhood chock full of hope and promise?
Rituals, especially for those of us in recovery, can impact the quality of our sobriety. Established early on, mine has remained basically the same throughout the years. They require minimal effort on my part and include prayer and reading my daily meditations. They are my number one priority every morning. No matter how lackadaisical I might be in other areas of my life; no matter what kind of a mood I wake in, or no matter that I might be running late, I rarely leave the peace and quiet of my home without taking the time to gear up for the day ahead.
How many tools do you have in your toolbox? Is it time to add a few more?
In the beginning, I depended on just three essentials to lay my foundation: Meetings, sponsorship, and the twelve steps.
The meetings were the brick and mortar that gave me a sure footing in order to navigate the peaks and valleys that stretched ahead. They provided a temporary shelter that housed a support system, where my equilibrium could be restored. Inside the rooms of AA, reconstruction was soon underway. Old ideas and beliefs that tethered me to my distorted view about the disease of alcoholism were swiftly replaced by new concepts, ones that promised hope instead of damnation. I learned that recovery, once I had put the drink down would be a choice available even to me. All I had to do was keep coming back and listen to folks who shared with me, the heartache of their addiction, and more importantly the miracle of their recovery.
I have encountered alcoholism both in my personal and professional life. The damage done is incalculable and recovery is long and arduous. Who better to tell about it than someone who has made the journey herself?
Here I present a series of guest posts by Dallas Hembra titled Shaking the Family Tree on Alcoholism from a layman’s point of view.
Shaking the Family Tree is a book by Dallas Hembra; a double genre memoir/poetry offering that looks at the genetic predisposition for alcoholism from a layman’s point of view.
The victims include the alcoholic, adult children of alcoholics, and family members and loved ones who suffer the shared consequences.