Alcohol Recovery: Looking In or Reaching Out?

January 5, 2016

Sometimes reaching out is better than looking in

Captain Michael Morse

Captain Michael Morse

“Man up!”

“Suck it up, buttercup!”

“Dig Deep!”

“Time for the Big Girl Pants…”

Yeah, I’ve heard it all. It’s sometimes difficult having a firefighter’s mentality. Somewhere, somehow we’ve all learned that our strength lies within.

We adhere to the philosophy that digging deep, finding ourselves, and learning to navigate this existence from the inner voice builds our strength. And in times of crisis, our entire being screams out, over and over, “DEAL WITH IT!” In fact, that voice may help us on the job. But what if our inner voice needs guidance? What if we find ourselves stuck in a difficult situation, and all of the meditation, contemplation, and searching for that elusive voice that will lead us to contentment decides to go silent?

This is especially true in the personal realm. Contrary to all the screaming, times of personal crisis are often the very times we need to put our ego away and reach out to somebody else. We need to know when to turn off the dig “deeper” mechanism. It’s a kind of discernment we cultivate – the ability to recognize that point at which the rest of humanity actually comes in handy. My alcoholism would never have been triggered without my being introduced to alcohol. Alcohol is not something manufactured deep within, so why should the solution be found only within?

Maybe I was born to be a firefighter, but I did not come from the womb dressed in turnout gear, looking for the glow. I may have the genetic predisposition for alcoholism, but the alcohol, the opportunities to drink, the drinking buddies, all formed the chain that got me to alcoholism.

On the positive side, I needed others to teach me how to be a good firefighter, just as I need others to teach me how to best live sober. The innate skill set that allowed me to follow my true calling could very well have died inside. And it’s easy to see that without the support of others along the way, I could have died from alcohol poisoning, the ultimate cause of death – however late in life – for those who cannot stop.

I Reached in…
till I had to reach out

I tried and failed to control alcoholism’s uncontrollable growth. I tried for years, but the solution remained elusive. My body simply would not produce the ingredients needed to keep the growth under control.

Slowly, it began to sink in that I couldn’t think the problem away, couldn’t rationalize a way out of my predicament, couldn’t ignore it or wish it away. I needed something other than myself to get things back into harmony. My mind was in a loop, or rather, an orbit, ever so gradually sinking towards the gravitational pull of a crash. In other words, my mind was ultimately not on “my” side. Once I realized that there was an enemy within, it was only a matter of time until I found the solution. To totally misquote Camus, survival is other people. For me, it was the people I met at the 12-Step program Alcoholics Anonymous. The ones who knew exactly where I was at – no BS and excuses – and could see a way out that made sense to me. It can be any kind of reaching, a relative in recovery, the team of people at a treatment center, a therapist.

If you are reading this, you have likely already begun the journey to re-claiming your life. It is not failure on your part that you cannot harness the beast and bring it under control. It is, however, your duty to do everything in your power to do what is best for you, your body, and your mind. By allowing outside forces into the fight, you increase your chance of success exponentially. Just as we introduced our system to the problem, we need to introduce the solution to our system.

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