How Alcohol Saved My Life


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I know, strange to say on a recovery blog, but bear with me.

Let me state off the top that alcohol in any way, shape or form right now would kick in my physical cravings and mental obsession.  There is no doubt in my mind about that.  If I were to swig any alcohol in a knowing state (i.e. relapse), the wheels would come off that train very quickly.  I am singularly dialled into the notion that any start of drinking will lead me down a dark and narrow path, littered with destruction and my untimely death.  Dramatic, but that’s the case.  As my sponsor once told me, “Paul, if I ever pick up, you will never see me again.”  And I know that to be true of myself as well.  I might be lucky to get back, but I am not ever willing to play that game of Russian Roulette.  And why would I even entertain the thought?

So, so far, I know alcohol = bad.  Good start.  The cure for alcoholism is, well, alcohol.  But we don’t cure it.  We recover from the hopeless state of body and mind that wants us to pick up and guzzle.  So it’s a lifelong thing for a guy like me.  And so when I mention that alcohol saved my life, well, it’s not in jest.

Let me back up.

Untreated alcoholism looks like this for me – I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I don’t know how to deal with life. I don’t know how to handle people or situations. I feel like I am from another planet. I can’t relate to anyone. I am always angry. I am depressed. I am negative. I am unable and unwilling to change anything about myself. I am looking at other people’s shortcomings. I am emotionally distant.  I am unable to access my feelings.  I am explosive in rage.  My reasoning and judgement is flawed. I am manipulative.  I rationalize and justify poor decisions.  I blame others.

The list goes on and on, with the final product being that I don’t want to be alive.  I am too cowardly to end it, and perhaps I don’t really want to die, but I don’t want to be alive.  Difficult head space to live in (hello hard place, this is rock calling).

Alcohol was a way out of a lot of these things for me.

When I was introduced to alcohol, I could take it or leave it at the time.  I wasn’t one of those who knew immediately that it worked magic on them.  It was a slow build for this hombre.  One thing I knew early on though, was that alcohol was going to have a place in my life.  To what extent, I didn’t know, but I certainly didn’t know it would take me to hell and back. Alcohol helped me feel comfortable in my own skin.  It allowed me to talk to people.  It allowed me to not hate myself so much. It allowed me to view the world in a less cynical way.  It allowed me to get away from me. At the best of times, the debating committee in my head was nullified and allowed to rest for just a few hours.  There was total and utter release in my drinking.  I could function as a human. Sort of.

Alcohol gave me purchase to live the life I thought I wanted to live – carefree, joyous and with a sense of belonging.  Those were things that were absent when I woke up the next day, the high a fleeting memory.  I was stuck with me again and the merry-go-round continued.  So in those days, when I was so desperate because I didn’t know my place in the universe and wanted to lie on the subway tracks, alcohol saved me.  Alcohol saved me from myself, in some ways.  Alcohol saved me from wanting to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Alcohol saved my sanity when I thought I was thought I was going insane.

Until it turned on me.

They say that alcohol works until it doesn’t.  And I crossed that line and the cucumber turned into a pickle and I could no longer hold the fortress of untreated alcoholism coupled with the chemical C2H6O.  Alcohol on it’s own is a clear, inert liquid. It didn’t jump of the table and force itself down my throat.  My alcoholism that did that.  It was alcoholism which told me that I couldn’t live without alcohol.  Alcohol was the train, my alcoholism the conductor.  God wasn’t in the picture and I was on that runaway train that crashed and burned many years later.

What I have today is the rock solid understanding that I can no longer go down that path.  That door is closed to me.  Nor do I have romantic notions of what alcohol used to do for me.  I find that many relapse because they hold onto those lurking thoughts that since it worked before, it can work again.  But that window of magic shrank until there was nothing left.  And yet, for alcoholics of my kind, we spend years and years of destruction and heartbreak trying to find that window again.  I would always get close, but I could never find that space again.  Many die trying to find it again.

And just like feeling of falling in love for the first time, or having that first kiss, or any sort of “firsts” in our lives, the first time alcohol worked for me, it was fantastic.  Indescribable.  But the shine wore off and eventually dulled into a raw, open wound.  I can never turn that pickle back into a cucumber.  Nor would I want to.  Being an alcoholic is something I am grateful for.  I know it’s odd for people to hear that, but it’s true.  I would never want anyone to suffer from untreated alcoholism.  It kills people, and families suffer.  But for me, this journey has brought me to a place I never imagined.  I am at peace with the very things that alcohol helped to assuage.  I am at peace with Creator.  I am not perfect and I do struggle with a lot of things, but alcohol no longer saves me. I no longer need it, as long as I am fit spiritual condition.

I am free.

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37 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul, this is absolutely beautiful. There is nothing I can add of meaning here, but I just want you to know how moved I am by this piece. I hope everyone in question about recovery gets an opportunity to read this!

    Thanks for enhancing my morning coffee, and for keeping me sober another day 🙂

    1. Thank you Josie. I am glad you can relate. This is something that has been bouncing around my head for some time…it’s a strange concept, but there was a reason we did what we did at first, right? Let the insanity ensue…lol.

      Hope you had a wonderful Sat and have a fantastic Sunday 🙂

      Paul

  2. I know you did not write this for me, but it really closed the door to the luring! I have not been sober long, but longer than before and before and before. You said what I know is true, but it’s so important to be reminded.
    Thank you Paul!
    Blessings

    1. Congrats on your sober time! I find that those lurking notions are the ones that lure us back. The voice / idea that tells us “this time it’s gonna be different”. Ha! But we know that this gets only worse…never better. Ever. That was crushing at first, but the idea of continuing to getting my ass kicked by alcoholism was enough for me to put that baby to rest.

      I am glad that we’ve crossed paths. Looking forward to reading your words 🙂

      Paul

  3. ainsobriety says:

    Yes! I love being free. And I am grateful I’m an alcoholic because I found a path to understanding myself that I have been searching for my whole life.
    Recovery has saved me.

    1. Amen…well said! Recovery has saved me as well. I have no doubt in my mind that either I would have been killed, killed someone or have had some other horrible things happen to me by now. I have had a second life…as we all have 🙂

      Glad you’re here.

      Paul

  4. lucy2610 says:

    Yep yep yep 🙂 Thanks Paul you instill it to it’s very concentrated truth my friend xx

    1. Thanks Lucy – sometimes we gotta bring it back home, ya know? I need a reminder of what it was like and just how vicious it was. Ugh. Thank you for being here…means a lot!

      Paul

  5. jrj1701 says:

    Very good post Paul, this is a concept that blows the minds of the normal people, how something that caused suffering can be viewed with gratitude. Sorta like the cross wouldn’t you say?

    1. JR! Always exciting to see you here 🙂

      William James spoke about spiritual enlightenment in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience. One of his descriptions of a mystical experience is thus:

      “Spiritual awakening — A spiritual awakening usually involves a realization or opening to a sacred dimension of reality and may or may not be a religious experience. Often a spiritual awakening has lasting effects upon one’s life. The term “spiritual awakening” may be used to refer to any of a wide range of experiences including being born again, near-death experiences, and mystical experiences such as liberation and enlightenment.” (ref. Wikipedia)

      The gist is that many of us find a spiritual awakening as a result of suffering. And for me, finding my spiritual awakening was also a result of doing the work in reclaiming myself in God’s Universe. But suffering brought me to that point. As they say, God brought me to AA and AA brought me to God. Replace AA with any other suffering or healing process, and it’s the same, no?

      Blessings
      Paul

  6. furtheron says:

    So relate. Your description of how you couldn’t cope when drinking that was /is me I have to work to remain away from that madness

    1. Thank you Graham. It’s comforting to know when these things resonate with others. Ensures me that I am not alone in all of this 🙂

      Blessings
      Paul

  7. mssober35 says:

    Well said. Thanks for writing this Paul, its a very insightful view of the bottle.

    1. Thank you Mssober 🙂 Glad it resonated with you!

  8. Chris says:

    So good. I could see myself in there which was an affirmation and a comfort. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Chris…glad it resonated with you. We all really do come from the same place in many ways, eh?

      Paul

  9. Paul says:

    Wow, that was powerful Paul. I’ve never heard alcohol described that way before, but even my limited expeience tells me that your words are right on the money. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    1. Thank you again Paul for your continued support. Means a lot to me.

  10. hurthealer says:

    I love how you have turned alcoholism on it’s head and turned it into a positive experience for you. It takes a lot of soul searching and hard-work in sobriety to come to the point that you can embrace being an alcoholic as part of your being and say you are okay with it.
    I feel that way too, that despite all the horrendous times that I’ve been through because of my own misuse of alcohol, it was also through those times that I reclaimed my faith and started to live my life.
    Great post, I always come away from here feeling so positive!

    1. Thanks Carolyn for the wonderful and affirming comments. I think what you say about reclaiming faith is important, as that was where I needed to lay the foundation for my recovery. Knowing that I wasn’t in charge and that He was allowed me to start the healing process. Thank you for the wise words and for being here 🙂

      Blessings
      Paul

  11. annegillion says:

    A simple thank-you for this post. I too, weirdly, have given thanks for being an alcoholic, and have also felt strange about doing so.
    Most non-alcoholics/addicts never need to examine life in the way we must, in order to survive. I feel it’s a life-enhancing gift.
    We have to walk through life with mindfulness and never let our guard down, but this awareness gives us strength, tolerance and insight.
    Thanks again, Paul, for touching the right spot with your wisdom.

    1. I like what you said about examining our lives in order to survive, to have it as a gift. And while I may tire of it at times (I have heard others saying the same), it really IS life-enhancing. I lived a life of “ignorance is bliss” (until it wasn’t bliss) so coming to this new way of living gives me a chance to grow and stretch and learn.

      Thank you for the kind and warm comments, and for the keen insight 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  12. Once again, you’ve nailed it Paul. As I was reading, I kept thinking of the audio book that helped me become sober, “Alcohol Lied To Me.” It’s a powerful, all-consuming substance and I’m so glad we are rid of it! Wonderful post. Trish

    1. Thank you Trish. All consuming certainly, as I tried my best to consume it all!! lol. It’s all about the self-deception, isn’t it??
      Thanks for being here, my friend…I really appreciate it 🙂

      Paul

  13. What a perfect ending to a beautifully written post… “I am free.” And I love the photo you chose to accompany those simple, yet infinite words.
    Funny how things eventually turn ugly after we have abused alcohol for so long. Before, our comrade and now, a distant foe. Where we once depended on it to give us that escape or self-confidence, it now feels like a dirty label that still lingers around our aching minds.
    I wish I could say alcohol saved me but I still live in regret to how much I abused it. And when I look at my mom and everything she has gone through after her liver transplant, I loathe alcohol.
    But we are all different. For me, I never wanted to die but I was willing to risk my life for an all day/night binger. I remember waking up every morning, promising not to go to the liquor store and buy a jug of wine. But every night, I faltered to my foe.
    And you right, it doesn’t start out this way. In the beginning, during our teen years, we never foresee a life of constantly submitting to alcohol. Hell, I know I didn’t. But somewhere down the road, the addiction grew with the lack of self confidence I had when I wasn’t drunk. Oh, alcohol how I once loved thee but now cringe at any remembrance of you.

    1. I understand your point of view, Gina. I guess I look at it like that ex who I hurt and who hurt me and can look back and say that I learned a lot from that experience, ya know? I would never want to be in that relationship again or anything similar, but I come away with a certain gratitude for going through it. It sounds weird, as we are conditioned to embrace the positive, but I find that I have learned a lot more from the troubling times than the not-so-troubling. It’s kind of hard to describe in how I am indebted to alcohol(ism) in some ways, but it’s a strange proposition…lol.

      Anyway, the final thing is that we are not living like that any more. What a relief and joy! We are in different places with it, and have a new lease on life 🙂

      Hope you’re doing well!!

      Paul

  14. xx566819xx says:

    Hey hey, articulately put. Am new to this and have just started on a topic with some overlap – if you have a minute to stop by http://soberinlondon.wordpress.com/ xx

    1. Hey there and thanks for the shout out and hello! Welcome to the blogging community here – lots of wonderful support and learning opportunities. I read one of your posts and sounds like you’re in a place where you want off the not-so-merry-go-round. I hope that you continue your journey 😉

      I look forward to reading more in your blog 🙂

      Paul

  15. mike says:

    gotta have something to fill the hole, no?

    1. Absolutely, Mike. I unconsciously and consciously tried to fill it with other stuff, but that only worked for so long. I’ve been on a bender lately of just “being” and living in the moment…and it’s been pretty cool. Also giving back in other ways has also given me some fulfilment that I never was able to capture in my old life.

      Thanks for being here, Mikey. Hope you’re well.

  16. mishedup says:

    such a good post.
    i absolutely get this, and yet i still cringe at the term “grateful alcoholic”….
    weird.
    but i appreciate all that AA has given me in terms of tools and understanding of myself and the opportunities for service, the feeling of not being alone. so many gifts i am grateful for.
    I’ve actually been pondering this lately, maybe it will turn into a post…who knows.
    meanwhile, stellar from you, as usual. you are such a gifted writer and help so many. that’s a really cool thing Paul!

    1. I know what you mean, M. I think I am in the minority who use the word “grateful” when identifying myself. Obviously I wish I never had the -ism, and would have saved me a ton of heartache, money, pain, time, etc. but it is what it is and might as well try to find something positive…lol.

      I would love to hear your thoughts in a post!! I would certainly be all over that one 🙂

      Thank you for being here, and for the kind words. Also glad to see ya posting again 🙂

      Paul

  17. byebyebeer says:

    I nodded my head from the title on. It is so freeing to give it up. It liberates do many other hang ups and hold backs I didn’t even know I had, much less tied to nightly drinking. Yes, alcohol saved my life, grateful for it too. Just beautiful writing, Paul.

  18. You described how being an alcoholic is for me too. A part of me is glad I fell down that rabbit hole because of what I gained when I dragged myself out and into recovery. I still have trouble with being in my skin, but I’m aware of it now. Alcohol won’t relieve me from that any more. But I at least I am sober and have the opportunity to really become a better me, not just a numbed down me.

  19. DB says:

    Amazing how all of my thoughts and feelings are perfectly layed out in a comprehensive, fluent piece.
    I have told a few close people that, “alcohol actually used to work, than it stopped working”. I can
    recall feeling silly, humiliated, and even angry with their lack of understanding that was reflected in their responses. But, deep down I always knew it was a true statement for me. Keep writing.

  20. Don Birnham says:

    This is a good thing you are saying here and I thank you for saying it.

    1. Thank you Don for the kind words and thank you for being here. Look forward to checking out your blog 🙂

      Paul

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