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A Good Base for Recovery

January 11, 2017

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I’ll take the hard road…

Sobriety is easy. Drinking is hard.

It took me forever to get that straight. I wish I had taken the easy route when I chose to stop drinking alcoholically; things would have been a lot easier. Instead, I white knuckled myself into sobriety, day by day. Surviving each day rather than living it, I hated my newly sober life, wishing I could drink and praying for relief from abstinence.

  • Why I feel like a loser every time I drink escapes me.
  • Why I have to do things the hard way is beyond me.
  • Why I find it so hard to ask for help is a mystery.

It took me forever to reach out to others, people like me, mystified by the grip of alcoholic patterns.

You Take the Light Road


When I finally reached out to others, I gathered strength from their experiences and gained wisdom on how best to navigate a difficult road.

For they have already done it, and made it. Until I reached out and listened to their stories, I didn’t have a good base. I didn’t even know what that was.

  • A “good base” is a “911” contact list in my head.
  • A “good base” is a trusted backup I can turn to when the urge to drink is overwhelming.
  • A “good base” talks sense into me when I start talking to myself.

The elusive good base will not simply appear; it must be sought, established through connecting with like-minded people, nurtured, and shared.

I had to face it: I wasn’t born with the means to drink like an alcohol tourist. I had to take a clear-sighted inventory of my tendencies. And those tendencies implied the genes of an indentured servant, born to carve out a lonely existence tied to a bottle.

So every day of my life, I need to work on overcoming my instinct to isolate. When I was a drinker, I was so good at withdrawing from the world around me, I did not know how desperately I wanted to be part of that world, how badly I wanted to fit in, how much I missed by avoiding it, how lonely I had become.
Now I come from a different perspective. Every bit of wisdom I can gather from others is ammunition in my war against my inclination to self medicate. Every word of encouragement, every sentiment, admonishment, and compliment goes into my arsenal, ready and able to battle this thing called addiction.

I didn’t ask for addictive tendencies that refuse to go silently into the night. Like most of us who have these tendencies, I yearned to be “normal.” And before recovery, my idea of “normal” typically had a drink in its hand. It looked like casually socializing in a drinking environment. If you’re like me, you will waste a lot of time trying to find this elusive normal for yourself, thinking all you need is the right tweak in your planning, your self-discipline, your diet – whatever will allow you to continue drinking.

There’s a new trick on the block

Even an old dog can learn new tricks, and I have learned to ask for help. With help, I put the fantasies aside and dive into the sometimes-cold waters of sobriety. It’s real, not always easy, and it can even be boring once the nervousness has been left behind.

I don’t always turn to a 12-Step environment or even to recovering alcoholics and addicts. I’ve found plenty of helpful people to act both as my sounding board and in my best interests. For example, there are clinical people in the industry who have made recovery their life focus. They know things that addicted persons have barely begun to consider. In many ways, their passion for addiction treatment surpasses our own, for it is their livelihood, their purpose and their main focus. I used to think that firefighters were the only people who did that.

Recovery’s always “Far from Finished”

AAC Alumnus Cameron echoes Michael Morse’s insights as he tells about his bumpy road to recovery in his American Addiction Centers “Far From Finished” podcast. As putting work and time into recovery gives many people the chance to come at their lives from new angles. Cameron says he has developed his base and learned to appreciate it. “These people I’m meeting in recovery are special people,” Cameron says.

“I gotta say that the company I’m choosing to keep, I never gave myself a chance to dive into having these relationships with other people.  I had that knowledge that I was going to leave or they were going to leave. I never gave myself a chance to connect with other people. And I’m not scared to do that now because working in recovery has given me an entire different perspective.” – Cameron, AAC Alumnus, “Far From Finished”

While using, Cameron also developed a co-occurring eating disorder. Even after talking with others about his drug addiction, he kept his eating disorder a secret. He found it embarrassing –  “being a guy.”

“But that’s not something I’m afraid to discuss now. Working with my sponsor, letting other people know about this, I found out it’s actually a pretty common thing.” Read more of Cameron’s story at “Far from Finished.”

Chancing to go-it-alone leaves no chance at all. It usually takes that first radical step. Talk to someone.

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