Thrashing… Sinking… Drowning

I’m a recovered alcoholic, sober 2 years, and sobriety is a blessing.

I read the following passage in an AA E-mail early one morning. It awoke some vivid recollections and realizations, and I had to write them down. Forgive that it is about me, if you would, because I think most of our tribe will relate. This is what came out of my heart after reading it.

“Ask God in daily prayer to give you the strength to change.

When you ask God to change you, you must at the same time fully trust Him.

If you do not fully trust Him, God may answer your prayer as a rescuer does that of a drowning person who is putting up too much of a struggle.

The rescuer must first render the person still more helpless, until he or she is wholly at the rescuer’s mercy.

Just so must we be wholly at God’s mercy before we can be rescued.”

Drinking or getting high. Trying to manage everything, to make it work, to get what we want and feel we deserve, “Life” becomes a storm. It builds. It grows dark, and the seas swell up. Waves overtake us. Eventually we drown.

It happens in similar fashion for most of us, with varying surface details of drug of choice, time, place, how long we hold on, and so forth. We compare notes and find it so with nearly all.

My question for you is, how much longer will you fight to keep your head above water? How many more times will you pull down those who try to help you? We do that. Our track record shows we do. When will you break and go limp to allow yourself to be saved? Or will you die thrashing about, trying to prove you can save yourself? I almost did.

What I Lost Each Time I Went Under:

  1. Enjoyable drinking
  2. Friendship
  3. Job and Career
  4. Family
  5. Beliefs about life and the “Man” I was

God took these things away one at a time, like peeling away layer after layer of bad paint. He stripped me down to the rust and the rotted core. He rendered me helpless. Or, nature took its course in that order, if that makes better sense to you. Whichever concept you prefer.

1. The Party Became a Dud

Problems. Complications. Small consequences. I was restless, irritable, and discontent with everything. I drank almost every day. I didn’t feel good, was always hung over, often remorseful, and I felt like I was hiding something. I wanted to run away. I pictured a different life a million times. Somewhere in the first several years, the party had died. I was lonely, both while alone and when I was in a crowd,  in a relationship or single. I drank to feel better, or at least to numb all that loneliness, and pain. There really wasn’t any “fun” about it anymore. It was just dim, depressing, and gray. My attitude was toxic. Party over.

2. Friends Didn’t Like Eeyore

I just wasn’t putting out a good vibe. I whined and griped too much, or got too angry. I was too negative and drank so much that I made people uncomfortable. I embarrassed myself and my friends. Who wants to be around somebody like that? People began to fade out of my life. I just wasn’t invited or welcomed much anymore.

When people who cared or were brave enough pointed out the indicators of a problem, I pushed them away. I fazed them out. I stopped calling them. I’d say hello, but conversations were superficial and brief. I was dismissive. They recognized they were unwanted and took the hint.

The overall effect: “Leave me alone!!! Oh, poor me! Why am I so lonely?”

3. Work Decided It Wouldn’t Miss Me

I lost my career. I had previously hopped from job to job every 3 to 5 years. People would start to really see a pattern in my drinking and behavior, not be comfortable relying on me, and get rather tired of my attitude. I thought I was either the greatest or the victim, never just part of the team.

As the physical compulsion, or the necessity to drink, took over and I found I could not stop, the hidden drinks in the morning became morning and noon, then all night. I started showing up at work drunk. I knew I had to stop, that they would find out.

But, you see… They already knew. They had tolerated me and made excuses for me for a long time. Then the bomb went off.

One day, I couldn’t hold it together, and I embarrassed my employers and coworkers. I let everyone down and disgraced myself. My wife was humiliated.

They let me go. Losing my career took away my identity, and damaged my false self-image.

4. I’m Sorry! Don’t Leave Me!

That put the spotlight on my dying marriage and dead relationship with my son, and out of desperation to be allowed to stay, I set out to be the perfect husband and dad. I was going to “be there” for them. I’d get sober “for them.” “It’s for my family!” I thought I was heroic or something. I would hang myself from the Cross, or make some great sacrifice.  It was laughable.

I was trying to make things what they weren’t, trying to be a person I wasn’t able or ready to be. I was still drinking and hiding, and so I had to drink to calm the fear of getting caught. What would get me caught? Drinking. I was afraid to fail, so I drank, yet drinking was the one thing that would assure the destruction of my family. That’s the complicated spiral we alcoholics and addicts live in.

So, the problems at home that had been hiding in the closets, corners, and under the beds came fully into the light, revealing how faulty and damaged this situation was. White-knuckling David was an asshole. Drinking David was an asshole and a liar. Still thrashing about, I pulled my already very tired wife down with me. Every broken promise, slip after slip, hospital after hospital,  hurt her more. She finally broke and pushed me away for good. She swam to safety, and I went under again.

5. I Was Left with Who I really was

I was a drunk. I was left with loneliness, pain, bitterness, resentment, fear, selfishness, self-pity, depression, and sorrow. It seemed completely clear that drinking was the root of all my other failures. So, I got help with my drinking. The lifeguard had arrived!

And to my horror, what was left? Loneliness, pain, bitterness, resentment, fear, selfishness, self-pity, depression, and sorrow. Nothing was any different except I stopped crashing cars.

Still Drowning

I was still me. I hadn’t changed besides taking away the thing that killed the pain of hating who I was. That was the truly horrible part. Those things still had to be dealt with if I were to survive.

Foxhole prayers. Sincere promises. Pleading with God, and with others. But the harder I tried, the more I sank. I thrashed about and the lifeguard could not save me while I was doing that.

Who I really was, the basis of my emotional, psychological, and spiritual being, became clearly visible.

I, myself, was nothing. I could not survive as I was without alcohol. Yet, alcohol was going to kill me. There was no way out.

All of my thrashing about trying not to drown on my own power was in fact pulling me under. I would go under for good. There was just too much, and I was just too tired. Alcoholism, the spiritual illness, not just the booze itself, was too heavy.

I Wore Out and Gave in to the Waves

I was finally able to accept help. In desperation, I gave up. I stopped thrashing, and became flexible, and only then could the lifeguard do his job. And, therefore, I lived.

I felt I had “lost” those things I listed above, or that they’d been taken. But in losing them, I got down to who I really was. And by accepting a spiritual answer, I stopped resisting and allowed Him, or nature, to change me. I stopped panicking, and followed the directions.

There’s Always a Catch

I lost all of that, and had to be rendered entirely helpless in order to address what prevented me from having what I truly wanted or being the person I was meant to be.

I finally had to get down to the real problem: Me.

We Have a Proven Plan

I’m just a guy, and my story is only remarkable in that I survived fatal alcoholism and am now sober 2 years. I did not “accomplish” this. I followed the path laid before me. I trusted the process. The staff at Solutions of North Texas share this hope both individually and collectively, and have a plan that we followed ourselves to clean and sober lives. We’d love to share that path with you.

Originally published for Solutions of North Texas, September 13, 2016

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