Sitting at the lunch counter with Mase I twirled a straw wrapper between my fingertips and tried not to meet his eyes. “So, I, uh, so I… I relapsed.” He was the first I told in person. The weight of it on my shoulders was released, then quickly replaced as tears came to my eyes and shame moved in. It’d been 36 hours since I sat in an old friend’s apartment with a bottle of bourbon, but I was still having trouble believing it happened.
He didn’t ask me why. He knew why I drank after over three years of sobriety. The only reason anyone ever relapses, I couldn’t find a reason why it mattered if I stayed sober anymore. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t go looking. I didn’t make phone calls. I didn’t go to a meeting. I just gave up and I drank. Another split-second decision that I’d have to pay for.
I didn’t keep drinking. I went to a meeting as soon as I could. I earned my 24 hour chip and then sat in my car sobbing. Not for the things I’d lost, but for the things I am. For the places I keep coming back to. For the selfish, self-serving, and stupid things I find myself doing over and over again. For my carelessness. For my apathy. For my lack of patience. For my passion and stubbornness. For my hurtfulness. For how pointless and hopeless this all feels. For all the things sorrys and sobbing won’t change.
Yet I continue forward. Despite my current inability to see why. Though I feel I don’t deserve it and it doesn’t matter anyway. I climb back up and I put one foot in front of the other and I go looking.
Go looking for something–for anything–that makes this feel a little more manageable. That reminds me I am someone worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness. Which proves I can change and grow. Something that will tell me it doesn’t always come back to this. That I can keep looking. That I will find the reasons and learn to keep them close.
Some things are true only because you believe them to be. Some things are true whether you want to believe them or not. One of my truths is that I’m an addict. It doesn’t matter what the substance is, if it has the potential for abuse, I will abuse it. I try to tell myself it’s just booze. That since I’ve been sober for so long I’m in the clear, but it’s never just been booze.
It’s obvious some places. Of course I can’t have just a little bit of cocaine. But it gets fuzzier and fuzzier the more socially acceptable the drug is. Prescribed anti-anxiety medications that are known to be habit-forming are out. Anytime my psychiatrist wants to change my medication I have to ask if any of them have known potential for abuse. I can’t have just a cup of coffee, because soon I’ll be drinking coffee all day, pushing my anxiety through the roof while my sleep bottoms out. Unless I want to smoke a pack a day again, I can never take a drag from a cigarette. I can’t even smoke pot without it quickly consuming my whole day. And forget about sugar. There is no such thing as moderation when it comes to substances with me. It’s an off/on switch.
I guess that’s just another personality trait I need to learn to deal with. But the first step to dealing with it is probably recognizing that it’s a personality trait and not a character flaw. That it does not mean I am fundamentally broken or there is something wrong with me. Moderation is just a thing I can’t do and that’s okay.
That’s why they make you say you’re powerless in AA, I guess. I never went to AA precisely because I hated that part. I didn’t want to powerless, I wanted to be powerful. Vibrant. I wanted to feel like I could do anything. Not powerless. Powerless feels so small and weak. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe it can be liberating.
Maybe by admitting I am powerless over addiction I can stop trying to be something I’m not. I can stop testing the waters of substance abuse and finally walk away.