Using Every Tool.
November was a difficult month for me. Well, the last three weeks were, anyway. As everyone knows, the election hit me very hard, and I went through an anxiety spiral. I’m emerging from it now, but I had to reach deep into my bag of tricks. Because I was feeling things I hadn’t felt in a really long time. Things that scared me and that scared some of the people close to me.
As I wrote before, there were times shortly after the election, including election night, when I felt like I wanted a drink. Because I didn’t know what else to do to sleep. To relieve my anxiety. To make the world go away for a little while. That’s what alcohol does for me: it makes the world go away. It’s easy not to care about anything when you’re drunk. It’s easy not to hurt. It’s easy. I like easy.
But I’m no fool. I know what alcohol does to me. I know where it leads. I know that I can’t make the world go away for an evening and then wake up and expect it to come back again. When I go in, I go all in. I go in for life, and I go in for death. That’s how I drink. That’s how I drank, and how I will drink again if I do. Alcohol is not a companion for me. It’s an endgame. And I lose.
So this month I’ve deployed a lot of tools to straighten myself out. Because the idea of a drink is terrifying. It would immediately ruin everything I’ve spent almost nine years building.
Tools I have used this month: my program and my meetings; directed visualizations; talking to my sponsor; talking to my partner; talking to my friends and family; writing about alcoholism and my feelings here; talking to professional therapists. And, while it’s not optimal, suffering. Sometimes, if there’s no way out of intolerable feelings except a drink, I simply have to suffer through intolerable feelings. Being able to experience suffering and see it through to healing is a cornerstone capability of an alcoholic in recovery.
I’ve emerged now. While I am still greatly distressed by the direction this president elect is likely to take the country, and the methods he’ll likely use to get it there, I am not in a state of active, strangling despair. I am no longer in a state of peril. I don’t think I was ever in any real danger of drinking, but I know I felt things I hadn’t felt in a really long time. I needed to marshal much of my arsenal, not because of a true emergency, but because I don’t fuck around with my sobriety. I don’t walk on rails.
When something is off, I overcompensate. I have to. I have to take my disease and my life seriously.Failure to do that is how alcoholics relapse. It’s how we die. And I remember that I am not fighting. I don’t battle my addiction, my disease. I remember each time I am distressed that I have already lost this battle. I am in recovery because I have stopped fighting. I don’t fight the feelings I have. I surrender to them.
I am an alcoholic. There is nothing I can do about that. I accept it. I am even grateful for it. Because I can do nothing about my alcoholism, and because I know that, I don’t have to drink. I am powerless. I am abandoned. So I am free.