I had two choices: addiction or freedom. It took me far too long to decide which path to choose. I had convinced myself that drinking freely, with nobody telling me when I’d had too much, was freedom. Sure, sometimes I overdid it, but that was on me. The freedom to choose whether or not to drink to excess rested squarely on my shoulders. So I did what any self-loathing alcoholic would do: I drank the burden away. With nobody to blame for my behavior but myself, I was free to do whatever I wanted. I had it all, I figured.
As my disease progressed, it became increasingly clear that the freedom to drink excessively was not very liberating.
In response, I did what any self-respecting alcoholic would do: I dug in and drank harder. The more I drank, the more I became a prisoner to my addiction. By refusing to allow other people in on my big secret, I created an impenetrable fortress built on isolation, stubbornness, loneliness, and regret.
And the only thing that alleviated my pain was drinking even more.
Alcohol is a wicked brew; for some, it allows the release of inhibitions, a temporary sense of well-being, and peaceful camaraderie. For people like me, it offered the only sense of tranquility I knew. The only times I felt comfortable in my skin were those magic moments between drinks 3 and 6. When relief from the symptoms of alcoholism came most easily in the form of alcohol, it is no wonder me and millions of people like me suffer in a maze of contradiction every sober moment.
No alcoholic can stop drinking when they feel good. We want to feel better. We want more than enough. We don’t know it while we are active, but the peace we seek is what people without our disease feel the majority of the time. Everybody has moments of isolation, shame, pain, and frustration. But I think people prone to addiction always feel these things, rather than sometimes. The first time I felt “normal” was when I experienced the effects of alcohol. What to me was delicious relief from myself was to others a pleasant intoxicating experience and nothing more. They did not live for the chance to do it again. They did not obsess over ways to get it, to not get caught getting it, to get enough of it, and to eventually keep everybody else from knowing how much of it they were getting.
Freedom isn’t free. My concept of freedom nearly cost me everything. At the lowest point of my life, I reevaluated what was so freeing about drinking my way, and I had a moment of clarity. The very thing that I believed in so fiercely was killing me, and had been doing so for years. I had to stop drinking. It took me 2 weeks to find the courage, but find it I did. Now, with more 24-hour victories under my belt than I can count, I realize that I would never have found the freedom I now enjoy without facing my worst enemy: myself. I fought fiercely for my sobriety, and I enlisted an army when it became clear that the battle needed to be waged by more than one warrior. Little did I know that all the help I needed was a phone call away.
The battle for sobriety is well worth the effort, and once I learned how to be sober, I stopped fighting myself and felt the serenity to accept the things I could not change, found the courage to change the things I could, and was granted the wisdom to know the difference.
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