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Thinking it Through

February 23, 2017

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Addiction is a tricky thing, always lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to get back into your clean mind and body.

Without something to live sober for it is difficult to maintain sobriety.


Considering every person is unique, and their path to and from addiction just as unique, a cookie cutter definition of sober purpose is useless. For me, my purpose is home. Without my family I have nothing, so I hold on to the people in my life with everything I have. When the temptation to escape reality gets fierce, which it often does, I think not about the immediate relief of a quick buzz, but more about what comes after that harmless little deviation from my sobriety.

One of the best things I learned in treatment was to “think it through.”

There is no such thing as a harmless little deviation for people like me. I might get away with a beer, or two, or three, but eventually, and the eventuality will be quick, it will turn into what my mind and body craves; at least a dozen, with maybe a shot or two for a kicker, and then…

When the bender is through, and the damage is done I’ll have to put the pieces of my broken life back together. It gets harder, if not impossible to regain a person you have betrayed’s trust, and the first person you betray when slipping is yourself. But you can always work on yourself later, and try to win back the family, only this time it is not as easy, they are not as willing to risk betrayal and all of the hurt that comes with it. Being thrown out on the street is no way to stay sober, and living in your car not quite the glamorous life you had envisioned, but it could be worse. That little bottle of vodka that used to make a dull life more vibrant is waiting at the neighborhood package store, but you can’t go there because somebody might see you and know what you are up to, and we can’t have that, heck no, so you drive two towns over for your little magic in the bottle. Seeing you had to drive so far you get two, one for today and one for tomorrow, but like they say, tomorrow never comes, so down the hatch they go.

You always liked drinking and driving, and actually drive better when you’ve had a few, but the officer who pulled you over doesn’t see it that way, and for some reason you just cannot walk the line, and before you know it you are back in the jail cell waiting for arraignment. They give you one phone call, so you call home, and the relief you feel when she answers on the first ring is short lived when she hangs up after a few words…

Yup, thinking it through works for me, so far.

Not everybody has a family to keep them grounded. Their purpose in sobriety is likely far different from mine. Some people find satisfaction in their work. I have known more than a few recovering firefighters who lived for the fire service, and found all the satisfaction there that I found at home. Others seek comfort and human companionship at any of the hundreds of 12 step meetings in their area. Those connections cannot be overstated; when the urge to give in is overwhelming a base of phone numbers and places to go and share what it is like to struggle with like minded people who understand makes what once seemed impossible reality.We do not need to give in to our addictions, nor do we have to lead miserable lives fighting uncontrollable urges. We are just like everybody else, the same problems, the same worries, the same dreams and the same opportunity to make the best of the life that was given to us. By learning how best to live with ourselves, our best selves show up, one day at a time.
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