I concluded last night’s post with the following two sentences:
“I would implore any addict who knows he or she is an addict to step out of the darkness of denial and ask, ‘If I use again today, can my life possibly get any better?’
If the answer is an emphatic, No, take solace in knowing millions of us have discovered that, in the absence of addiction, there is always HOPE.”
I received more private responses to last night’s post than usual. One person (who will, of course, remain anonymous) posed the following question, which quickly set my wheels in motion:
“So when the answer is No, but there have been no bottoms, what is the next step?”
My response was genuine and straightforward. As I said in the post, answering No—for me—was a spiritual bottom lower than any other bottom I’d ever experienced. And once I put the plug in the jug, hope was almost instantly restored.
I went on to say that bottoms are by definition relative. Sometimes “bottom” is physical illness, sometimes it’s a jail cell, sometimes a divorce, other times loss of job, and sometimes, recognized early enough, hitting bottom is as simple as being irritable, restless, and discontent whenever you’re not at least “buzzed.”
The determination of whether one is an addict or an alcoholic, however, is not relative. It’s personal. You can call me an addict or an alcoholic, but no one can tell me, with authority, I’m an alcoholic except ME—just one more fundamental paradox of the disease of addiction. But if you truly are an addict or an alcoholic, the bottoms you’ll experience are almost always progressively worse.
My own career started early. I took my first drink at the tender age of 11 and didn’t finish until I was 38, with varying degrees of sobriety in between. As early as the age of 13 or 14, I can remember experiencing restlessness and irritability when I felt I hadn’t had enough to drink. I didn’t think of it as restlessness or irritability; I just knew that I found myself getting pissed off when all the booze we were able to corral as teenagers was gone, and I still wanted more. As clear an expression of the phenomenon of craving and its consequences as I would ever need to know.
My friend who posed the opening question (above) described almost precisely the same state of mind in the absence of alcohol. He confessed he found himself getting “pissy” and looking forward to a drink almost every day around 3:00 pm. He also confessed that he didn’t really enjoy drinking as much anymore, but still, he found himself in the liquor store day after day nonetheless. Whether he’s an alcoholic is not for me to say; it’s for him to discover.
But I do know this: If he or anyone else determines he or she is an alcoholic or addict, and they genuinely seek a solution to their problem, they are in for the ride of their life, and it is a ride that transcends all the stigma and self-centered pride that keeps most of us from getting sober in the first place.
It’s a little before midnight on the 30th of October, 2015. At exactly this time 17 years ago, on the patio of the Long Boat Key Club in Sarasota, Florida, I was busy knocking back what I hope is the last double Jack ‘n Coke I’ll ever order. Each and every day, 24 glorious hours at a time, I’m still the only one who can decide whether that had to be my last drink … and surrender to a power greater than myself is still the only way I know to keep it that way.
Now it’s a little after midnight on the 31st of October, 2015, so I can safely thank my sponsor and all the addicts and alcoholics I’ve come to love for another year of sobriety.
To the still suffering whom I haven’t yet met, all I can say is Please, sooner rather than later, “step” into a solution. If you do, many of us are willing to guarantee you, it won’t be long before you realize you just stepped straight out of hell.