Letting Go

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If you’re not an alcoholic, you don’t know what it’s like to NEED a drink. It’s quite normal for people who are non-alcoholic to say, “I need a drink” at the end of a bad day. Maybe they do. There’s nothing wrong with someone who can handle their booze winding down with a pint of beer, glass of wine, or a cocktail. I’m not referring to that. No, the kind of practicing alcoholic like I was truly NEEDED a drink. In fact, I could have died from withdrawal had I not thrown back a half glass of vodka when my body began to sweat and tremble. Non-alcoholics might experience a mild to heavy hangover, but it’s not possible for them to know the physical pain that sat in with me, or the helplessness of being so fearful, I could hardly think of anything else – the paranoia. Nor can they realize the intensity of my dry heaving that left me feeling like pins and needles were penetrating my skin – or the co-occurring migraine level headaches. And what a non-alcoholic doesn’t experience is the shame an alcoholic like me felt like handing over my last twenty to buy booze at a liquor store at seven in the morning; hands shaking so violently that I could barely place the money in the hands of the cashier. With vodka in hand, I remember the feeling of not being able to look at anyone in the eye as I left the stores. I hated myself.

In the wee hours of the morning, when I got to wherever I was calling home those days, or sometimes even beforehand, I would take those first couple of drinks. I felt more relief than any non-alcoholic can possibly imagine. It was then that the shakes would subside. My headaches, and body aches would go away. I’d stop throwing up. I would feel as though I had returned to some semblance of a human being who was well. But it would take more, and more alcohol for this reprieve of my sickness to happen. That is the progressive nature of alcoholism.

It was the increased need for alcohol that would eventually land me in the emergency room. It happened over and over until one day I was hospitalized or five days from severe alcohol poisoning and withdrawal.

Like many people suggested I do, I just could not simply stop. I could no longer live with it, or without it. I needed medical attention in order to live, in order to stop.

Today is day 50 of being stopped. I do not need to go to the liquor store at dawn anymore. I can look people in the eyes.

Alcohol was but a symptom for me. There was a lot of me that was sour underneath the mask of my alcoholism. I had deep emotional problems. I was battling bipolar disorder. I had a spiritual malady. I had strong resentments. In order to stay sober, I have to deal with all of that. I have to find out where I have been self-seeking, dishonest, and afraid. Setting this to paper hasn’t been easy. It has required a lot of soul searching.

I’m currently setting this all to paper. Its part of my recovery in a twelve step program I am in, and I have to share it with my sponsor. It requires rigorous honesty on my part. It requires a thoroughness from me that is sometimes hard to swallow. But I remember how sick I was and the uncomfortableness of this process is quite worth it all to me. Some of the resentments are surprising like I have a resentment against my dear mother who has passed. I resented her not going through with a surgery that could have added many years to her life. I resented my sister in law for the same reasons. And then there were the resentments that were easier to put down, like horrible bosses, friends who have wronged me – these resentments are seemingly ad infinitum.  At this point, it’s quite clear that I was angry at nearly everything and everyone. Resentments will take an alcoholic out quicker than anything else. We simply cannot afford to harbor them.

Resentments are like chewing on glass. While I am doing so, the person I resent has no clue; he or she might be at home chewing on popcorn watching Jerry Springer for all I know. The point is, resentments are only harming me.

In setting all my resentments down on paper, it becomes easier for me to see exactly where I’ve been self-seeking, dishonest, and afraid. Had I not been self-seeking in harboring resentments against my mother and sister in law? Sure I have been. Was I not dishonest and afraid in the areas of my resentments I carried against my bosses as well as those friends who I thought had wronged me? Sure I was. This soul searching is hard work, but it was much harder to live like I had been for so many years. I embrace this step with all my heart. I can begin at once to be free of all those cancerous resentments and emotions. I can begin to let go of the dishonesty, the fearfulness, and strive to be non self-seeking.

Life has taken on new meaning for me. When I look in the mirror, I see a noticeable sparkle in my eyes that have been missing for years. My whole being has changed. I am happy, joyous, and free.

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