On Relapse

My name is Geoff and I’m an alcoholic.

Like a lot of alcoholics, I can live in a black and white world. Things are the worst ever or the best ever. All or nothing. Credit myself for only huge victories and make no notice of increments. Ego-centric aggrandizement or the depths of despair.

I was 8 years sober and thought I had it all figured out. This is surprising, as nothing was going well. No career, no house, no intimate relationships of any duration. It was awful. But I felt fine. I was on meds and they were working. I only randomly thought of suicide, the kinds of thoughts a Philosophy major is doomed to consider. Nothing active. Then the bottom of the bottom fell out.

Alone and isolated, I took a job doing manual labor and hurt my back. I’ll smoke some pot, I figured. Everyone else on the job did, and it was only pot. What’s the worst that could happen. Well, I hate smoking pot. Always have. A shy introvert at the best of times, pot amplifies this and I go deep inside. I go deep inside in a neurotic paranoid way. Just not my thing.

That job didn’t work out and I ended up in Glacier National Park working as a housekeeper. It was a hard and humiliating job in the best of circumstances. Everyone around me was 20 years younger, beautiful and full of life. My need to fit in has always been a weak spot, and if I wanted to fit in I had to find a way.

I remember the first thought. A guest left ½ a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red in his room. One of my favorites. Protocol was to turn it in and dispose of it. I kept it. That was the moment. Dishonest, hidden, making the actual drinking of it relatively moot. I was done.

The bottle sat on my desk for a few days. Even tried to give it away. But eventually I poured it in my coffee and went to see what the young and the beautiful were up to. I got drunk, and drank every night for the next 2 years. Sometimes very heavy, sometimes not, but the thought of my next drink, submerged into my subconscious at the best of times, was the guiding thought of my life. 2 years.

They say it is the dream of every alcoholic to one day drink like a normal person. I don’t know what that means because I don’t have any clue how a normal person drinks. I drink like me. Obsessively, often and plenty.

Today I pick up my (3rd) 30 day chip. I happened upon a book study the other day and read the part where it says “became necessary to admit to our innermost self that we are alcoholic.” I have to do this, only a daily basis. As we grow, mature, change, evolve, that innermost self becomes a moving target. Checking in where we are, at the ups and the downs, and admitting to THAT self, at THAT time, that I am an alcoholic is what I need.