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It is Taking Me an Eternity to Understand

April 5, 2018

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Years of heavy drinking led me to question everything about myself. When I drank, I liked nothing more than to do so alone. When I had to be with others I would hoard alcohol, lie about how much I drank, never, ever admit I was intoxicated and preferred to be left alone! When by myself I never had to lie, pretend I was sober, hide myself or my stash or be anything but what I wanted to be. I wanted to drink to excess, and that is exactly what I did. When I stopped wanting to do that, I did so anyway. When I finally got help, I still wanted to be alone and drink to excessively, but I wanted to be with the rest of humanity more, and I wanted it badly enough to stop drinking completely and rejoin the people I had forsaken.

Imagine my surprise when I learned, after lengthy sobriety, that I still wanted to be alone!

Maybe, I figured, my personality traits are what they are, and my drinking did not cause them. I always thought that everything that is wrong with the way I felt, and the way I acted had everything to do with my troubles with alcohol. Now, I’m starting to realize that the way I feel and act is not a result of my excessive drinking; rather, my drinking excessively was caused by the way I felt and acted.

Knowing that I am not the sum total of a thousand shots of tequila and a hundred thousand beers is a relief. I was this way before I did all of that, and I am still the same person now. In sobriety I have learned to recognize my isolationist tendencies, and give myself a choice; I can enjoy the solitude, and use it as a time for reflection, rejuvenation and serenity, or, if it just doesn’t feel right, (and I have learned to trust my instincts,) I can break out of my loneliness and connect with another person.
I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I was always self-conscious, never truly peaceful. Instead of growing up emotionally and learning to deal with those thoughts and feelings I disguised them with the effects of alcohol, and effectively stunted my growth for twenty-five years. Even now, with nearly two decades of sobriety I still revert back to the person I was before any alcohol fueled interventions.

Some people enjoy solitude, and thrive in it. I am not one of those people. I love being alone for brief periods, but always feel anxious when left by myself for too long. With my sidekick alcohol I was able to withstand longer periods of solitude, and effectively avoided growing. Now that I am keeping my alcoholic tendencies at bay I am able to begin to understand what makes me tick, and why I need both solitude and involvement. I now realize that the beauty of sobriety has a lot to do with possibilities. Before I managed to keep prolonged sobriety there was a very good possibility that every day would end pretty much the same way; me, alone and intoxicated. Now, there is that chance, but if that is how things go it is me who made it so, not my innate need to isolate. The options I have are limitless, and I do not have to find a place to hide away.

Understanding comes slowly to some people. For me, it is a journey, not a destination.

I think that if I ever do understand everything, I’ll have eternity to be by myself. In the mean time, it is nice to have the choices that sobriety gives me, and the knowledge that who I am I always was.

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