“My Journey Healing Alcoholism”
“Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell; spirituality is for people who have been in hell and don’t want to go back”.
Hello, I am an alcoholic and I don’t want to go back to hell.
“I grew up in a poor environment. If I had breakfast, I couldn’t have lunch. I didn’t have shoes and grew up without a father. My mom asked me to thank God for what I had and it made me really angry at God, there was no God for me. I started drinking when I was 13 and I couldn’t control it. I had to realize after many years that I couldn’t do it alone and that I needed to receive help from a Higher Power and connect with God the way I conceive him. This helped me stay sober for many years”.
My own hell was to not be able to stop drinking. I was drinking 4 times per week which made me tired and exposed myself to difficult situations. I made myself promises that I would only have “one drink”. This is how you know that you are an alcoholic: you have the first drink and then you lose the count of how many drinks you had. You can’t control it.
“Whatever happens, don’t touch the first drink”.
I was angry at God like the person that didn’t have shoes. One night a bartender friend of mine said to me: “You should go to an A.A meeting and I am not giving you more alcohol”. This hurt me. While I was home, I heard a voice that told me I should apologize to the people I have hurt because of my drinking problems and I decided to go to an A.A meeting that night. I couldn’t believe I reached the point of having to join A.A. After hearing people’s stories I realized that I needed to stop taking my drinking habits lightly. I couldn’t postpone this problem anymore.
In A.A they give you different chips similar to the ones in casinos, which symbolize the days you have been sober. You get a coin as a reminder that when you drink, you are gambling your life. The coin is a reminder and motivation to stay sober. There is a white chip that represents one day, another one represents 30 days and so on. Many times I heard: “I would be dead by now if I didn’t recover; I attempted suicide”. “For me waking up on the street was normal”.“I woke up in jail and I don’t remember what happened”.
Alcoholism is a disease. This means that even if a person has been clean for 10 years, if he/she drinks again, he won’t be able to control it. Complete abstinence is required in order to recover. An alcoholic knows alcohol is not good for them, but still drinks: It’s similar to someone crossing the street when the light is green just to get an adrenaline rush. He gets hit by a car, recovers and then once he can walk, he crosses the street when the light is green again. This is similar to what an alcoholic does.
After my first meeting, I put myself on my knees and for the first time I gave up my own will and said to God: please help me, I can’t do it alone. I lost my battle with alcohol. My solar plexus and heart became very warm and I knew God was with me. It was the most honest prayer I’ve done. I felt God’s presence with me many times when I wanted to drink. I had to surrender my will to him and let him take me home without having a drink and then teach myself to fall asleep without drinking. That was my favorite excuse: I can’t sleep so I’ll drink to relax and a few hours later I will find myself on a club.
What unites our group in A.A is our common pain. It’s a pain that feels almost unbearable. They tell as there: “Let us love you, until you love yourself” and part of our program is to recover to be able to help others. One girl said once: “I didn’t have self-esteem, for me to be sober was enough to increase my self-esteem, I was doing something good!”
We have to learn to cope with life in a way that doesn’t involve alcohol and to tolerate the intensity of our feelings and the depth of the pain. On my 4th day sober I was so overwhelmed; I found out I had to move out of my place in a month. I was at work and I was shaking. I was thinking if I could have one drink I will stop shaking and relax. I hit a wall that day; I realized that there is no escape in life and that I needed to face life without alcohol. That day, for the first time I started to compensate by compulsively cleaning everything at work; I needed a way to feel in control of something.
On the meetings at A.A we take a moment of silence for those who are suffering in our group and outside our group and then we make a serenity prayer:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
People drink because they are suffering. I suffered from a deep disappointment that drove me to self sabotage and destructive behaviors. I felt like a monster was eating me alive and that drinking will make that go away. That day I wanted to throw my sobriety to the garbage. I told that to my group, it was hard, almost unbearable.
The person who was directing the group said to me: “You’ll be okay”. This helped me because the alcohol cravings made me feel that if I didn’t drink, I will die. It took me time to understand that isn’t true. It’s just the way I feel if I don’t drink but it isn’t real.
“Maybe life will not get better, but I know that if I don’t drink, it won’t get worse and that for me is hope”.
It’s very important to have a list of people to call when you crave alcohol. Alcohol seduces people and sneaks back into your life for any reason. Sometimes I had to say no when a friend said lets go for a drink, even though I really wanted to say yes. Just remember: “You will get through it. One day at the time”.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Some people say it’s a disease of the soul. In reality, there isn’t a medical cure for alcoholism but spirituality has helped many of us recover. People start drinking on the weekends, then, every other day and as time goes by they find themselves drinking every day including during the morning after waking up.
“I found the perfect job on a cruise ship. I could drink while I was working and alcohol was unlimited. I didn’t leave the cruise ship for a year. I am 63 now. I have been sober for 5 years. After I accepted God in my heart, it didn’t feel right to put alcohol in my body anymore. I can’t go on trips anymore; sometimes I feel as if it was the first day I was trying to be sober, the cravings are very intense. I just wake up, meditate, go to an A.A meeting, work and go back home. I am ok to live like that because I know I am sick”. (This person right here has been a big help in my recovery, he is always checking in and he always tells me exactly what I need to hear).
I remember someone who said “I am tired of starting over and over again. That’s why I am sober. I had to start a new job many times because of alcohol. I had to find a new home as well, I got kicked out; I had to make new friends. I lost everything because of my addiction. Alcohol was my best friend and heroine my lover”.
Most alcoholics need to touch rock bottom to join A.A. Some examples of bottoms are: memory loss and brain damage, being sent to A.A by court, being homeless, waking up in a garbage can. Even though really bad things happened as a consequence of my drinking problems, my rock bottom was that my bartender friend asked me to go to A.A and said he wasn’t selling me more beer. The next day he texted me and said: I really enjoy spending time with you, but not when you are drunk. I wish you the best in life and God bless you. Goodbye”. This was my rock bottom, he gave up on me, he didn’t want to see me anymore unless I recovered and losing a good friend made me realize how far my drinking problems were and it hurt me deeply.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life”
So why share all this experiences with you? Because that’s how people recover: by sharing their stories, listening and identifying with other alcoholics that share the same struggle and by understanding alcoholism. This paper is a healing transmission for an alcoholic. This is written specially for you: the person who needs help right now. You are the most important person in this moment.
Alcoholism affects our families and friends. Some people just decide to take a year for themselves while in recovery; they cut any friends or temporary romantic relationships that would give them an excuse to let loose and drink. They make supportive friends that they could see as examples in A.A and many of them say the recovery is miraculous. You don’t go to a gynecologist if you have a cavity. You go to a dentist. The same thing is true for alcoholism: you go to Alcoholics Anonymous. It makes sense.
“My father was an alcoholic. Alcohol made him a beast. I remember having to pack a bag with my mom and leave home when he was drunk, quietly. One time my mom didn’t want to open the door to him: he broke the door. He broke the chairs and tables of the living room; he was throwing them to my mom. My brother was holding my hand and we were just watching. In a way my brother meant protection to me, and now that I stopped drinking I am feeling this old trauma that I was numbing before: I feel unsafe, my hands shake from time to time and I really wish my brother was here to protect me. When I sleep now-a-days and I am woken up by a noise I get a pain in my neck and I feel really tense even though I am not in danger. Recently I understood that I feel in this way because it reminded me of my dad arriving home late, drunk and this meant danger to us”.
Being sober is not only being clean from alcohol. I learned that sometimes people lose their sobriety while they are driving and start a fight with another driver for example, we can learn to be sober in many different ways.
“I learned not to drink when I am feeling deep emotions, but I started to compensate by having sex, shopping or eating. Now I am learning to just go through my emotions without doing that. I did that yesterday night, it was the worst night. I called my *sponsor and she walked me through it. Today I feel really happy and had a great day. Maybe I am bipolar”.
*Sponsor is someone who had recovered from alcoholism and you can call anytime.
“To help someone with alcoholism, you need to identify if the person suffers from alcoholism, remember, this is a disease and you can’t treat it lightly. Encourage the person to make an A.A meeting. You need to hold your full presence, you need to be neutral and let your higher self be very present. You need to bring presence and you need to understand that alcoholics don’t think straight, you need to help them see what they are doing, help them realize what’s happening in their life because many times they are unconscious or in denial about it. Two things about alcoholics: They don’t want to change. They don’t like how things are. Alcohol is the coping mechanism, the relief, the escape. You don’t need to tell them what to do you need to help them realize that they need help and that they need to accept that their life has become unmanageable. They need a higher power to help them”. This last part is one of the 12 step program to recover.
“What was helpful for me? I needed to identify with people’s stories and be in a place where I am fully understood and not judged. A place where I receive encouragement and where a group claps at me for staying sober, they feel happy for me and I feel happy and inspired by them. This has been crucial. Hearing people’s stories everyday is a reminder of why I shouldn’t drink and why I shouldn’t take this lightly. I don’t feel misunderstood anymore or as if I am alone with my problem. I felt like I belonged to this group since the first meeting. We stay together as a group with the intention to solve our common problem.”
Here are the 12 steps from A.A, please read them carefully.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
The relative success of the A.A. program seems to be due to the fact that an alcoholic who no longer drinks has an exceptional faculty for “reaching” and helping an uncontrolled drinker.
In simplest form, the A.A. program operates when a recovered alcoholic passes along the story of his or her own problem drinking, describes the sobriety he or she has found in A.A., and invites the newcomer to join the informal Fellowship.
The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so.
They will usually be asked to keep an open mind, to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety, and to read A.A. literature describing and interpreting the A.A. program.
A.A. members will usually emphasize to newcomers that only problem drinkers themselves, individually, can determine whether or not they are in fact alcoholics.
At the same time, it will be pointed out that all available medical testimony indicates that alcoholism is a progressive illness, that it cannot be cured in the ordinary sense of the term, but that it can be arrested through total abstinence from alcohol in any form.
Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
I wish you the best of luck and remember: “Life is like an ice cream cone, you need to lick it one day at the time”.
I want to close this with a prayer:
May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe. May all beings awaken to the light of their nature. May all beings be free
And may the light guide your way.