You guys I bought some fancy schmancy leave-in conditioner to repair my ridiculously dry and straw-like hair and instead of having shiny luxurious locks like Gloria in Modern Family, I look like the victim of a low-flow shower head. Remember that episode from Seinfeld? When Kramer goes “low-flow”!?
Anyway. That’s what I’ve got going for me today. It’s a holiday week with the Fourth of July and all things USA taking place. I’m not sure how patriotic I feel, especially after just returning from our trip to Europe. I guess I just don’t feel we have a whole lot to be proud of these days.
With the holiday festivities and all that goes with that, naturally the subject of temptation and relapse has been popular in some of my recent discussions. The topic of relapse is always swirling around in the circles in which I run now. Whispers in hallways, slow nods in meetings, and heartbreaking embraces in parking lots alert me in to their presence and unwelcome intrusion. Like death over our shoulders, the threat of relapse is ever-present, promising twice the doom and bowel shaking destruction as before we quit, vowing to take us down with it this time. I personally have not suffered a relapse. . . YET. We drunks love to use the word “yet”.
- “Well, I haven’t gotten a DUI….yet“.
- “My spouse/family/children/lover hasn’t left me…yet“.
- “It’s not like I drink during the daytime…yet“.
It may seem overly dramatic but it’s the truth, Ruth, because if you do in fact have a drinking problem and do NOT get the to root of things, it WILL continue to progressively get worse and THAT I CAN ASSURE YOU LIKE I’M SITTING HERE TYPING THIS.
The other day I was listening to another alcoholic wax poetic about his impending relapse. I use the word impending, because he used it as well. Over the years I have heard many a drunk express FEAR AND ABJECT TERROR at the thought of a relapse, sure, but never have I heard someone casually mention the inescapability of its IMMINENT arrival, prior to actually having done it. I’m using the word casual but he wasn’t what I could really call casual, he was visibly upset and anxious about this blip on his radar screen that only he could see. As I listened I was somewhat incredulous. If you can foresee a relapse than ostensibly, you can prevent it, right? Not always. Therein lies the insanity, you see. YES, IT IS INSANE BUT NOW I GET IT, BELIEVE ME.
“Sometimes you have to fight a battle more than once to win it”
– Margaret Thatcher
People say that a relapse begins LONG before you pick up the drink. It can be a break or a snap in your psyche, your heart, your serenity, your situation, your mood/feelings/spirit/soul, WHATEVER, it starts LONG before you find yourself clutching a bottle of cheap vodka while sobbing and watching “Under the Tuscan Sun” for the zillionth time as you scream into your pillow about how you’ve wasted your entire life and every single opportunity you’ve been given. Say, just as a completely random and unrelated example.
I know when I’m getting “twitchy” and that’s my word for it. Some of you out there know what I mean. You’re just “off” a wee bit. It’s sensing that whisper and attending to it that prevents it from steam-rolling over any last thread of rationale you have, a week or a month later. I don’t care HOW you’re getting sober, if you SENSE that twitch, pay attention because like the Divine Miss O says about the Universe and communication; it will start as a whisper, like a feather gently dusting over your intuitions, and again as a soft nudge as it gains strength, but if ignored long enough, it will result with the feather transforming into a mace protruding with rusty spikes and it will beat you within an inch of your life. This, I know.
He ended his observations with a terrifying final thought. “I don’t think I’ve had enough pain”.
I knew what he meant. For years and years the consequences of my drinking didn’t outweigh my desire. I had a lot of “YETS” still, you see. In a larger medical sense, I’m certainly considered lucky, and some would even say somewhat of a miracle, if you believe in those kinds of things. Early on in my recovery, I joked about how I hadn’t really “lost” anything due to my alcoholism. I mean, I still had my husband, family and job, after all. Another alcoholic looked at me wide-eyed and confused. “You have Cirrhosis. You almost died.”
Oh. Yeah, that. I almost lost my life. You wouldn’t think you’d need folks around to remind you of that sort of thing but I’m here to tell you, YOU DO if you’re an alcoholic because ONLY another alcoholic will understand the fundamental insanity of that last paragraph.
I will continue to reach out. I will continue to remember my pain. I will do the work. I will try to help others when and if I can. I refuse to keep tripping over things in my past but I cannot let myself forget it, either.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my damn hair because I look like that thing that crawls out of the well in The Ring.