I’ve been to a fair few AA meetings now. One of the most challenging concepts I’ve had to embrace is that I am no different to anyone else in recovery. I am an alcoholic. I am just an alcoholic.
From the age of three years old, I’ve had a number of psychiatric diagnoses, ranging from childhood psychosis, ADHD and bipolar disorder. I was therefore brought up ’different’ and have only known myself as being different. I was an intelligent child, yet I had a true inability to get along with my peers – a very low emotional IQ. My mood was either ecstatic or depressed. There was never an in-between. When someone first insinuated that I had ‘terminal uniqueness’ shining out of me, I was horrified. I was angry. “How dare he suggest this?” was my immediate response. “Does he know what I’ve been through…?” Ha! To be fair, no-one actually insinuated anything. He simply was sharing his experience, strength and hope. My mind interpreted this as a personal attack on my character. Me, me, me!
But if I’m truly honest with myself, as much as I don’t want to be a self-centred ****, I am able to recognise this. But at least I have insight. In a flash, this honesty can dissipate, but over time I am becoming more and more honest with myself. I’m told honesty is key, along with open-mindedness and willingness.
If I’m having a bad day, I’m far too proud to admit to any one of my character defects, not least myself. A bad day consists of self-will running riot and sheer selfishness. But, I recognised early on that if I was being honest, and listened with an honest ear, that I would identify more and more with what I heard in the rooms. That is why I go meetings – to listen, to learn, to share, to recover.
A change of mind and an open-mindedness on all matters in life on its own terms and which is of utmost importance for this alcoholic to recover, one day at a time. I need to hold on to that concept. It’s all very well me saying it, but I have to believe it. I have to adopt these principles. Because I have too much to lose.
I did my first ‘proper’ share last week and shared with my fellow alcoholics, that this sick, 22 year old, alcoholic was astounded, and bitterly disappointed (!), to have not been the youngest person to have sat down in the rooms. I remember thinking to myself ‘How on earth can anyone my age, or anyone younger than me, have been through anything like I have? Stinking thinking!
Still, despite my pig-headedness, I sat in my first meeting (a mere five months ago) and experienced something I cannot describe in words. I’d imagine, however, that this feeling is felt around the rooms, around the world by many millions. The entire altruistic set up was bemusing: “Why on earth are these people thanking each other all the time?” and, “Christ, he only opened the bloody door, what does he want? A gold star?” This, of course, begged the question, “What do they want from me?” I soon learned the answer!
My ego was deflated even further when I made the disclosure at my first meeting that I suffered from Bipolar Disorder. Poor me. I am a victim. This alcoholic was different, you see. He had to be different. Yet, most felt no need to comment.
In fact those who did remarked along the lines of, ‘oh, don’t worry, we’re all mental in here!’ I thought I was making a huge disclosure – akin to a gay man coming out. But there was no drama. It hit me, there and then, I was just like them. I’m just an alcoholic.
I maintain contact with my doctors with regard to two illnesses today. Modern medicine treats my Bipolar illness, and Alcoholics Anonymous provides me with a daily dosage for my alcoholism. I’m lucky. For today I have a primary purpose in life: to stay sober (just for today) and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
If I don’t take my meds, I’ll get high or low. If I don’t go to meetings, I’m playing Russian roulette – simple.
Five months ago, I chose to start living. I made an honest effort to stop drinking. Not like before. It wasn’t to please anyone nor to make a point. There was no drama. I wasn’t sectioned or dragged off to rehab, nor did I sign myself in to a hospital. All of those methods hadn’t worked before for me.
It was a case of yet another blackout that put me to my knees. I just cried like a wee boy and surrendered there and then. I cannot fully remember what happened that night: but maybe that’s a good thing?! It was enough for me to seek medical help and I started a community detox.
For the first 9 days of treatment, I stayed sober. I can’t really remember the really early days, but on the 10th day, I got in touch with AA.
“One day at a time!”
Article featured in RecoveryTimes Issue 2