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The piss artist formerly known as J

So after around 15 months of sobriety, I started going to AA. This was a new turn of events, brought about by the fact that inadvertently, I had stopped relying quite so much on the sober tools I had been using up until now. A few other factors had come into play too – I had started a new job, picking up my old career 15 years after I left if to raise a family, and I had also started dating again, something which was hideously unfamiliar and an incredibly tricky and often disappointing minefield. I can’t remember exactly what sparked the thirst, I just know that suddenly it was back, causing a blind panic in me as to how to deal with it. By this point, I had finished my year subscription with my sober coach, but still needed the accountability, support and empathy that she had provided. Early one morning in August, desperately aware I needed something IMMEDIATELY otherwise I might not make it through the day, I scanned the internet for help. AA came up; it turns out there’s a meeting pretty much every hour of the day. I joined the next available meeting, which was peopled by an amazing group of alcoholics that I now call friends. I can wholeheartedly say from experience that 99% of the time, recovering addicts are the kindest, lovely and most empathetic souls known to man. It’s almost as if in recovery, we are all trying to reimburse the deficit in our karma bank, compensating for how much we took by being self-centred bastards in our former drinking lives (a friend also pointed out that addicts are by nature incredibly sensitive characters, and this also explains a lot).

So I needed this meeting quite badly. I had started to hear myself saying it might be OK to have a drink at the weekend, pretty much giving myself permission to do so – that given that I was in a new relationship, it might be the right thing to do, that if not I would come across as boring. Writing this now, it’s interesting how powerful that drinking voice is – I’ve likened it before to an abusive partner in the blog post ‘have a fucking drink’. And it’s true; it totally wants you to believe that you’re nothing without alcohol. When actually, what I really needed to do was take a good hard look at my own self-worth instead of listening to that poisonous bullshit.

Anyway, so fast forward three months, I’m still in that lovely group which has come to feel like a family, and I’m starting on my own AA journey and facing into step 1 of the 12 steps, the recovery system used by AA (you can read more about that here). Step 1 is about admitting you’re powerless over alcohol, and that your life has become unmanageable because of it. While everyone may do this a little differently, my sponsor suggested I think of a few different examples, and write them down. And god, that was hard. Pulling that from me was such an intensely emotional experience, unsurprisingly really; who the hell wants to think about how they’ve turned their life over to alcohol and allowed it to be the centre of their world? Worse still, the centres of my universe, my children, had to take a side step in order to allow that to be the case. Dragging out examples of how my life went south and the things that I allowed to happen was a truly harrowing experience, and not one I want to share here (although some of it may have already been covered in previous posts). Some people advocate burning step 1 once it’s written down, and I can totally see how this would be cathartic. However, I will say this: hard and harrowing as it is to face and to confront these things (and a big part of me resisted, insisting I didn’t need to drag it all up again) it’s important and necessary to look at and acknowledge it, in order to move on. To be honest, if we are sober now, it’s happened for a reason, and so we’ve already admitted that we have a problem and effectively that we are powerless over it. To face up to the consequences of alcoholism, whilst painful, is powerful – reflecting on my former shit self reminds me of where I’ve been, how low I went, and most importantly, why I should never go back. (Equally, self-forgiveness is also really important in recovery; more about that here). Whilst writing out my step 1 tonight, as well as sobbing my way through it all, I messaged two people – my inspirational father, who is a recovering alcoholic (18 years sobriety), who at one point in our messaging wisely pointed out he’s at peace with who he is; something I also feel about my current self, and not something I could have ever said whilst I was drinking. The other person I messaged was my ex, apologising once again for being a complete dick when I was drinking. As to be expected - because he’s a lovely – his reply started with ‘it’s all in the past’. And that’s exactly what I need to remember: it IS all in the past, and it’s my job now to ensure that going forward in sobriety, it stays that way.

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