Let’s go through what really happened over the past week. First, I felt very sad, very ashamed, and very stupid (though stupid isn’t exactly a feeling). I called a lot of people. Everyone (other AA’s) told me it happens, everyone ‘slips’. People with 20 and 30 years of sobriety slip. It’s a part of the ‘process’. Sometimes it can be a long process.
So what did happen?
- I was physically ill. I caught a cold. I felt like shit.
- There were Cues. Some call them triggers, but really a cue is slightly different from a trigger.
- There was an open bottle of wine on the counter. It probably started there, a month earlier. Open wine on the counter; a cue, a trigger, a visual.
- There are smells. No matter what it is, if it’s got alcohol in it, there is a distinct smell. Smells are actually VERY powerful cues. No, I don’t drink wine very often, but like a dripping faucet, the pan fills up.
- There were other visuals. Every time I pass the case of wine in the box at the bottom of stairs. Drip, drip, drip.
- The dopamine pathways are like radar – the Limbic system registers them. Like a Geiger counter passing radiation, the limbic system lights up. Drip, drip, drip like Tokens in a bottle. The bottle fills, and pretty soon the bottle breaks.
- Pressure. More of the drip, drip. I was being pressured into finding a job; I was on a job search. Then she kept talking about losing her job. And on top of that I felt I was not holding up my end.
So, the cold, feeling like crap, cough medicine giving me a slight buzz, another kind of altered state, my feelings weren’t being validated, blah, blah, blah. All kinds of excuses. This is a constant theme with me; I have reasons and excuses for drinking. My reason is I’m an alcoholic, my excuses are myriad.
What I needed was resilience, I needed TIME. I hadn’t gone through all the ‘Stages’. Stages of change. It’s similar to what we go through dealing with death. Just like mental illness, it’s recovery just the same.
And so the ID took over. Not the I.D., but Freud’s ID. That part of all of us that tells us we can do anything we want to do. Addiction is like a sleeping dog with a voracious appetite. Actually it’s more of a wild animal than a domestic one, it’s like a wolf. It woke up. Feed me now. Rationality went out the window.
The whole scenario was innocent enough. I was in Albertson’s. I went by the alcohol aisle and my old enemy said: “…Pssst; hey buddy, this will make you feel alright…” My nemesis Jack Daniels says that to me a lot. I always have to remind myself, so you’ll see that reference a lot in these blogs. I have needs, just like all you other humans out there. I need to eat, I need to sleep, I need shelter from the cold and the rain. I have a pressing need to work on my Sobriety or I die. It always makes me a little queasy that the need for alcohol sometimes supersedes the other needs. My dopamine response superseded all those other needs. It took over. I went to Costco and got the biggest bottle of Jack they had. And I drank some. Instantly that feeling of ease and comfort returned. Euphoric recall. I was doomed. Or was I?
Here’s the funny thing: I CAN’T TELL YOU I WILL NEVER DRINK AGAIN! How Ironic. Really it’s a disease of sorts. It would be like someone who has heart disease saying they will never have another heart attack. I needed to go someplace where I would be safe. So I talked to my sponsor: maybe sober living he said, there were just too many cues; I was not safe. I’d need to feel safe in my sobriety, it’s hard.
Then there was the list game. My ‘to-do’ list. It kept delivering anxiety and resentment. That tool wasn’t working. The goal of a list is to resolve anxiety, not cause it! It is to resolve anxiety not to cause it. Anyway, drip, drip, drip. The tokens clinked in the jar. I went out. My friend Bill says it’s not going out. Going out sounds like a date, which in a way it was. I had a date with my fucked up friend Jack Daniels. No, I didn’t ‘go out’. I picked up a drink. Again.