My Underground, Grungy Oasis

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This heart beats rapidly in my chest; It’s a chore to breathe. I feel the room shaking; an earthquake of my soul and the walls disintegrate around me as the familiar darkness closes in. Rationality is hijacked and replaced with impulse. Reason is extinct. The panic is overwhelming and eventually, I’ll break – I incessantly do. I resort to what I know works; what’s comfortable; what feels safe – that destructive dance with unpredictability. I yearn to be absent from self. It’s too much to handle in the moment. Instinctually, I grab my bottle and head underground. The basement of my now empty home, devoid of love or happiness – and furniture for that matter, provides the environment I prefer to escape in. I sit still, a broken man; distant memories painted on all the toys around me; now motionless, scattered about and seemingly lifeless. Dwelling on what could have been; what should have been, I think how my children will grow up in a way I never wanted them to – how I modeled a life I don’t want them to live or endure; or suffer through. I can’t bear the thought of it so I take bigger gulps of my mind-numbing potion. Ultimately, the tragedies of my life start floating away and a warm, heaven-like peace washes over me – temporarily relieving the guilt, shame and failure of a life that’s being wasted and destroyed by a liquid demon. The same demon that has authority over me and decimated everything I’ve come to know, also provides the peace and escape I crave – if that’s not evil, twisted stuff – I don’t know what is.

Fear is the driving force behind everything I do, although I don’t like to claim ownership of that. It’s an incredibly powerful energy that manifests itself inside my head. I’m afraid of change, but scared that outcomes will always be the same. I’m intimidated by the thought of success, yet I’m panic-stricken to fail or be rejected. I find comfort in the chaos as well as in the order of things. Essentially, I’m a walking and talking hypocrite; stuck in the nonsensical with no means to an end. Alcohol makes that disappear and it becomes bearable to sit comfortably with myself, at least for a short while; at least until my next self-destructive episode takes place and I start the cycle all over again. How do I break the cycle? My active alcoholic status was always my excuse; my go-to when blame needed to be appointed. If and when I failed or was rejected, I could always point to that as the culprit or reason why. It provided a sense of comfort and essentially became my defense mechanism against futility. The biggest fear of sobriety is all my failures or rejection being placed solely on me. I have nothing or no one to blame but myself and in my egotistical, narcissistic world that’s a hard pill to swallow. Personal responsibility in its purest form – no sugar coating, no scapegoat.

The fact that I am an alcoholic comes with certain personality traits and characteristics that I must learn to cope with in a healthy way, rather than how I have dealt with them in the past. Resorting to the bottle is never going to make life better – this I know, but still it consistently whispers sweet nothings in my ear; promises to ease my contrition, and provide a euphoric experience. The thought of being defeated over and over by anything does not sit well in my stomach, let alone something so presumably unsubstantial. I like control. I like to dictate how things are going to be and for the most part I can. With alcohol, I can’t – and the involuntary battle to beat it has put me and those around me through perpetual tribulation and heartbreak – not to mention being the catalyst for an inability to manage everything else in my life. Almost unconsciously, I try again and again to drink with success; to prove to myself once and for all that I can do it like other people.

The mere fact that I need to try and prove this to myself should be red flag number one. “Normal” people don’t even consider needing to prove they can drink only one beer or knock back only one shot – it never crosses their mind. But like a good alcoholic, I don’t give up, which is both a curse and a blessing I suppose. I want to drink successfully. I must beat this unbeatable disease. The fact that I can’t and never will is something I don’t want to come to grips with. It’s incredibly difficult for me to concede, admit defeat, and throw in the towel – but really winning means doing just that. Addiction will always be lurking in the shadows of my life and it’s my job to make it stay there; to hold it at bay; keep it in check. Today I have that choice. Not too long ago, I didn’t. Like so many others who suffer the same circumstances, my personality traits are described quite accurately in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This particular passage convinced me to acknowledge and embrace my alcoholism and start down the path of recovery:

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“Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is seldom mildly intoxicated. He is always more or less insanely drunk. His disposition while drinking resembles his normal nature but little. He may be one of the finest fellows in the world. Yet let him drink for a day, and he frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees. He is the fellow that goes to bed so intoxicated he ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next morning he searches madly for the bottle he misplaced the night before. If he can afford it, he may have liquor concealed all over his house to be certain no one gets his entire supply away from him to throw down the wastepipe.”  

-Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 21-22

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