One of the biggest lies people in recovery unconsciously lather themselves up with is the notion that the more time you have sober the less chance you have to relapsing. This is also usually paired with the belief that an old timer is more spiritually fit than someone with only 30 days.
Both assumptions are highly fallacious.
My home-group is filled with old timers( AA members with multiple decades of sobriety). After a few years of getting to know some of these kind souls, it has become quite apparent that the 24 hour period of relief from the insanity of Alcoholism is really all we get. 30 Years of spiritual progress is often seen to evaporate into thin air after listening to some of these kind souls sharing their mental, emotional and life struggles in meetings.
In the first early months I was blown away by how someone with so many years could be so blinded by these character defects. What that really proved to me is that these twists in thinking alcoholics have that come that pair with the disease almost perfectly is not something I need to be taking lightly. It also humbled me to hold a varied perspective on my own spiritual connection in a positive light. Just because someone may be in their 70’s with over 4 decades of sobriety doesn’t automatically make them more ‘woke’ than you, or have a stronger connection to Gods.
Often you will hear from people coming back after a relapse that they actually had planned initially started their relapse months or even over a year before they finally picked up that first drink. Ever forgetting the problem that it is not the caboose that kills you, it is the engine. We can never safely pick up that first drink again.
The subtle and merciless foe that is alcoholism never ceases. An infection of the mind and soul that once activated will be with you until you pass on from this life. While it never really dies, it can be placed on ice through the power of the 12 steps, and making a spiritual part of your life the priority in existence. Some call that seeking connection, God, source, higher power, or what have you. To me, they all mean the same thing. There is a guiding power that flows through everybody that when tapped into can change your life for the better.
Over the course of this last year I have been battling me own demons. The break up of a relationship, the rejection of two law schools, the lay off of a job, the day to day struggles of living with a parent with dementia, and the multiple failed attempts of titrating up and down from several antidepressants. As I reflect over that list I just wrote out, the potency hits me with force. I guess I’ve been just barely treading water and pretending like I have it all together. Yesterday it became apparent that I really am far from OK.
Joy hasn’t really been a part of my life for a while now, and it has finally caught up with me. Having a had a sour taste left in my mouth the last couple weeks by a few fine individuals, I decided it was time to do rid myself of these resentments, and take action via a step four inventory about it all. I figured I had lingered enough over the situation and was ready to say detach myself from that experience. Inventories are a highly powerful tool for an Alcoholic mind yearning for freedom, and have proved to be hugely effective for me over the course of my sobriety. But, it is far from an easy process.
Even to this day as I begin inventories, just like clockwork uncomfortable feelings awaken and avoidance techniques kick in. The excuses I come up with to get me out of the chair are laughable. This is something I can see coming in advance though and don’t pay it much attention. I let the resistance rise within, “should I go do some cooking or cleaning of some sort”, I think to myself, in hopes of avoiding the discomfort that comes with the inventory process. All of a sudden I’m willing to challenge myself with the most decadent cake creation, even though I rarely bake or feel qualified to do so. Avoidance is real.
Keep in mind, I still attend AA meetings a couple times a week and have continued with regular prayer and meditation sessions. I still talk with my sponsor, and work with sponsees as well. But last night something happened within me that truly shocked me to the core, a waving of a red flag I haven’t been witness to for a long time. This transparent revealment of the sickness is quite telling for me.
There is a part of me that is still diligently plotting for my demise. You might call it serendipity that it took place while watching Elton John’s biographical film Rocketman, being as Elton himself is a fellow member of the fellowship and in longterm sobriety. Now, I’m not outing Elton, as he did that for himself in the movie. Yes, his anonymity is now blown. As the film worked through the details of his overconsumption and using lifestyle, I couldn’t believe how envious I started to become. Not over the rush of the stardom and fortune he was amassing, but over him powdering his nose in cocaine and devouring copious amounts of vodka. I stat there in that theatre seat holding immense excitement towards that thought of intoxication and began to long for that experience. This romancing of thoughts hadn’t really really crossed my psyche in years, and it was strangely powerful. This taking place just hours after completing a freeing inventory process, I somehow forget about my broken relationship with alcohol and begin to ruminate on that feeling of obliteration.
Lucky I catch myself in the downward spiral of thought mid movie, and the guilt and embarrassment that I would have gotten so caught up in that kind of thinking takes over. I subtly gaze over out of the corner of my eye to make sure my friend wasn’t blank face staring at me aghast to the destructive thoughts I was just devouring upon. Fortunately for me, his mind-reading capabilities must have been put on hold and I was in the clear and only had my own punishing self-judgment to reconcile with.
As the movie ends, the reality of the power of the disease of addiction is frightens me into a waving of a white flag of defeat. I think to myself just how quickly a shifting of thoughts can sideline you from your clean time and begin to lay a foundation for relapse. This just goes to show how vital it is to stay connected with self. To remain steadfast in your healing journey, and to always remember that pithy truth that once an alcoholic always an alcoholic.