While I was in treatment I had lots of time to think about the things that continually trip me up in my quest for sobriety. I targeted PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome), depression/anxiety, lack of assertiveness and ability to effectively deal with daily problems and an ambiguousness when it comes to defining the illness. What I mean by that is that I fluctuate between thinking/believing it's a disease over which I have no control except abstinence and thinking/believing it's something that with enough personal, psychological and/or spiritual growth, I can overcome, meaning in my mind that I will be able to drink normally.
They talk about this very thing in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous when they say that the great illusion of all alcoholics is that they will someday be able to drink like normal people. Many, they say, pursue this illusion to the gates of insanity and even death.
The first time I went through treatment, in 1988, I was taught about the disease concept and it made a lot of sense to me at the time. I held on to that belief during all the six years I was sober, but after I relapsed I wanted to think there was a way I could drink. I just wanted to be like other people; I just wanted to be able to take it or leave it, but I never could. And because the drug had re-entered my system, the insanity of the addiction returned. I spent many years trying to find a loophole - maybe if I do this drug and just don't drink, it'll be okay; maybe if I only drink wine with dinner it will be okay; maybe if I just ignore it it will go away or if I read just the right book or pray just the right prayer. . .
I can't do any of it because it's a disease that causes my body to react differently to alcohol and drugs than "normal" people's bodies do. It's not caused by a psychological or spiritual condition, it creates psychological and spiritual problems. I got a double whammy with having clinical depression/anxiety along with alcoholism and they will both need to be treated for me to live a whole and fulfilling life.
So the foundation of my recovery is accepting that alcoholism is a disease and that I have it. It's accepting that I can't drink or use no matter what if I want to live. It's accepting that the majority of people in the world will still think it's a character weakness and there's not a damn thing I can do about that. It's also being grateful that I've made it this far and that I still have a chance. It's being grateful that maybe my story will stop someone else from making the same horrible mistakes that I've made. It's realizing that I still have time to put this disease into remission and keep it that way.
I think it's a good foundation. Tomorrow I will write about PAWS which I believe made it very difficult for me to get out of the relapse cycle. I underestimated its power; I underestimated a lot of things about this disease.
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