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[ Personal Narratives ]

The addict’s mind

There are three clear, pertinent ideas in Alcoholics Anonymous. The first idea is that “we were alcoholics and could not manage our own lives”, which is basically the essence of step one. Based on my experience and many others I’ve heard, I’m going to attempt to explain what that means. Being an addict/alcoholic means that we cannot take as much as one sip, one pill, one anything like a normal person can. As addicts, we have an obsession of the mind as well as a physical allergy to anything that alters our minds such as alcohol, pills, drugs, etc.

We literally cannot take just one drink. We spiral into an out of control frenzy only concerning ourselves with finding another, utterly unable to connect with any logic, common sense, or morals that we would otherwise have in other life decisions- big or small. Our minds truly believe that we must have it in order to survive which originates from the most primitive part of our brains. Here’s a little brain lesson for you…the primitive part of the brain that tells us to do vital things like breathing trumps all other parts of the brain. It may be hard to believe and many non-alcoholics looks at this and think it’s just an excuse but it has been proven time and time again in the past several decades.

Consequences and repercussions mean nothing to us when we are in active addiction, not because we do not care, but because our brains lie to us making us think we literally need it over water, food, and breathing. Our addictions take such a toll that our lives become unmanageable, sometimes very quickly. We lose our good reputations, our families, our friends, our homes, our jobs, our lives as we know it. If we are lucky, we come to terms with our illness before we die, but unfortunately, many end up dying before they realize what this disease has taken from them. We do things we would never in our wildest dreams do. We are dishonest to everyone, even those we love the most and consequently ourselves. We steal, we manipulate, we cross boundaries that our moral selves would never cross. We are transformed into monsters, literally, concerning ourselves only with getting our next fix. Are we trying to be monsters and horrible human beings according to society? Of course not.

Addiction is the only disease that creates people to show abysmal actions across the board. We look like train wrecks, selfish, weak, destructive, uncaring, unable, and the outside world wonders why we can’t just stop creating such havoc in our life. Here’s the flat out truth, WE WONDER THE SAME THING. Why can’t we stop? Why do we keep going back to the same nasty things that have placed us in desperate situations? We care so deeply for those around us, why do we keep hurting them?

These questions bring me to the second pertinent idea, “that probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.” We try, we truly give it our best efforts to stop, to heal, and come out of our haze yet we continue to relapse. We continue to break promises that we vowed never to break. We fail over and over and over again. We become so frustrated, confused, and embarrassed that we can’t stop that we hide, we lie , we pretend it isn’t happening again because what normal human with strength and dignity wouldn’t be able to just quit. It truly feels as if we are banging our heads against a brick wall and each time it gets bloodier, we get more hurt, and we can’t stop the motion of doing it again and again. Many times, as it was the case for me, we hit rock bottom not just once, but over and over again. We think it’s the rockiest bottom we will ever hit, but we even manage to find a shovel and dig even deeper beneath that. I remember literally hitting myself in the head many times wondering why I had done it again.

All the self will and determination in the world cannot heal us yet we stubbornly refuse to believe that because in other matters, we’ve been strong, moral, capable human beings. We feel stupid. We ask ourselves what is wrong with us. The amount of shame and guilt that we have not only for our horrid actions but also our inability to stop corrode our self confidence and even our self worth. Each attempt at quitting we end up empty handed. We tried making promises to our family, reading self help books, confiding in our friends, putting ourselves on strict moral guidelines, creating boundaries, and seriously everything else you can pull out of your hat.

So, what option do we have when we have tried everything else? The ONLY option we have is to find a Power greater than ourselves. You’d be surprised to know that the 12 steps actually come from biblical principles. For many in AA, their Higher Power is God. For many, it is just something bigger than themselves. Either works. Thankfully, I know my God and it didn’t take much effort to seek Him. However, my addiction did bring me to the frightening conclusion that I had never truly surrendered to Jesus. I had always wanted and needed to feel as if I had some ounce of control in all parts of my life. Yes, I was at church most Sundays belting my heart out in worship, praying with all my might, and diligently listening to each message. But, did I really know Him? Did I authentically trust Him with EVERY thread of my life’s tapestry? Had I been willing to throw caution to the wind and give Him all of the power and glory? I thought so, but, no, I hadn’t. I always held onto some fear that if I relinquished complete control, I wouldn’t be happy or things wouldn’t go exactly as I had planned them. As if I know better than the same God that created the universe? How absurd is that when you really thing about it but also how easy is it for us to feel as if holding onto some piece of us allows us to feel grounded? So, what must we do? We must come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, which conveniently is step two.:)

The third idea is “that God could and would if He were sought” which leads me to the third step which is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. We have already sought Him and become willing to believe there is a Power greater than us. Now we must give Him everything. We must turn it all over to Him and trust that He will heal not only our bodies and minds but our broken relationships, our broken souls, our broken lives. Not only must we turn it all over to Him but we must have faith that He can do the otherwise impossible. No one else can do it, not our families, our sponsors, and definitely not ourselves. I had become so hopeless that I would never be joyful again that I honestly didn’t believe there was any turning back. Addiction looked like a dark hole that nothing can stop us from….except God. Isn’t that beautiful?

If we are true addicts, which I without a shadow of a doubt am, only a spiritual experience can conquer our disease. It doesn’t matter how much we want it for ourselves or how much other people want it for us, we cannot do it without God. And, sweet Jesus, how comforting is that? How comforting is it to know that if you are just willing to seek and accept and trust, that He can heal you? I believe in my heart that first, I had to truly be ready and willing to never, ever take another pill or drink for the REST of my life before I could get on a real path of recovery. I had to erase any notion in my head that maybe one day I could drink like a normal person. Not happening. Secondly, I honestly believe that God had his divine timing on when He would grant me my spiritual experience. I had been on my knees before begging Him to take it from me and He didn’t until He knew I was ready. If He had granted me my spiritual experience sooner, I may not have the compassion and the sincere desire to help and advocate for others fighting this disease. I would not have crossed paths with my sponsor who is absolutely, perfectly tough on me with much kindness and love. I wouldn’t have the grounded, unconditional, rip your heart apart love for my family. I wouldn’t even know my best friend exists. I wouldn’t have seen countless other women become fighters and survivors. I wouldn’t have the belief in myself that I now have. I wouldn’t have found my inner lion that knows that, with Jesus, I can fight. I am a survivor. I am not a victim. Instead of pitying myself for having this disease, I’m grateful. I. AM. GRATEFUL.