Psychic Vampires and the Reality of Addiction
I am an alcoholic. I refuse to call myself a recovering alcoholic, because I think that is a misleading label. I think addict is a more realistic term since alcoholic is just a fancy way of saying alcohol addict.
I never thought I’d live to see my 40th birthday. I believed with all of my heart that I would be dead by then, and even took steps to lessen the impact my slow, painful demise would have on my family. Or so I thought.
Then, almost 20 years ago I stopped drinking. Miraculous things happened next. More on that later.
As I said, I am not a “recovering” alcoholic. I will never recover. It’s not like I have an ear infection and some of the pills the TV tells me I should ask my doctor about are going to fix my problem. I will never get better, and I will never be healed. I will be an alcoholic for the rest of my life.
That is the kind of bold truth you need to accept in order to get addiction under control. You need to face those facts, and then you need to own them. If you are an alcoholic or addict, then own it and be an alcoholic or addict. Don’t pretend you’re going to wake up cured one day.
It’s not a game you can win (although you can definitely lose), but there are ways to control the addiction and the havoc that it wreaks on your life. You have to wake up every day and tell yourself, and truly mean it, I am an alcoholic but I will not drink today. Or do drugs, or whatever your favorite vice is.
It must be a conscious choice. In the beginning you might have to make that choice 100 times a day. If that’s the price of freedom, so be it. If you want freedom you pay the price.
You can’t choose whether or not you are an addict. But, you can choose to drink, or not to. You can choose to walk into a bar even though you know what it means to sit on that stool. You can choose to buy heroin or coke, and you can choose to ingest any or all of those murderous substances even though you know full well what that action leads to.
But, you can also choose not to. Maybe you can’t do it alone, very few people can. But there are lots of support options if you open your eyes and welcome them. You just have to choose to be open to the help that’s there for you.
Of course, you do not face an easy task. I should rephrase that. Making the decision not to drink is simple. You just decide not to drink. But, it’s not easy. There are landmines and trip wires everywhere.
One of the most effective traps that will be put in your path are the people who know you and can’t come to grips with your decision, and the people who don’t know you but can’t understand someone who does not drink. Both of these groups are like psychic vampires who suck the energy and commitment out of you.
And both will kill you.
Your most important tool in the battle against their pull is clarity. You need to understand that the people who knew you can’t accept that you could leave them behind. They also can’t accept that someone could escape the cycle of life that goes from work, to the bar, to bed. To work, to the bar, to bed.
How DARE you escape and find real happiness. How dare you accomplish something. They will never be happy for you or proud of you. Your existence will mean nothing to them once you’ve removed your ass from that barstool.
The other group will make you feel guilty. They can’t understand someone who cannot drink. They don’t understand addiction and they don’t care. They only see you as different, broken, “less than.” You will never fit in their world, and they will never stop offering you a drink and following up the offer with “Ah, go ahead, you can just have one.”
No, you can’t.
Who cares what people think about you. Why should you stop for even one second and consider what either one thinks of you. Is their opinion more important to you than your survival? No. They do not matter and you must not give a shit about their opinions.
To succeed in controlling your addiction, two things are critical. And I mean critical. Without either you cannot take the lead in race you’re running, and survival is the prize.
You must be open about it. You must be willing to talk about the issue with your family and friends. You can’t pretend it doesn’t exist- you have to keep it right out in front of you where you can keep an eye on it at all times.
Your family must be willing to listen to your struggles and be supportive. They must be willing and able to listen to you describe the hundreds of little decisions and distractions that made up your day, because any one of them could have led you down the wrong tunnel.
If you can’t talk about them openly then you’ll start to forget.
If your friends can’t deal with your sobriety, then they are not your fiends. But, in a social setting you must be able to confidently turn down an offered drink without shame or embarrassment.
That takes a little time but it will come. I carried a Gatorade with me everywhere I went for the longest time just so I could say “No thanks, I’m good.” I still carry a Gatorade with me but mostly because I just like Gatorade. I have no problem telling people I don’t drink after nearly 20 years.
I usually follow that up with, “I quit drinking because it made me forget little things like… going to work, coming home from the bar, pushing the brake pedal…” That usually gets a laugh now since people are far more understanding these days.
The second thing that is absolutely critical is that you must change everything.
Like I said, you might have to divorce a friend or two if they can’t get onboard with the changes, or if they are a psychic vampire. But you will definitely have to change your habits and lifestyle.
You can’t go to the bar you drank at three nights a week and have dinner. I don’t care if you order Coke or a club soda with lime, you’re playing with fire. Habits die hard and sitting in an environment that you associate with drinking is like playing Russian roulette.
You need to change the places you go, things you eat, people you talk to. If you want to survive you’ll do whatever it takes. If pleasant, happy thoughts cross your mind while you are mowing the lawn, stop mowing the lawn. Hire someone to do it.
I know that’s unlikely but it’s just an example. You know what I mean.
I still have pleasant thoughts about drinking cross my mind from time to time but I’m conditioned to follow the slightest ray of sunshine with pictures of myself homeless, living on a street or under a bridge and slowly dying with a bottle of vodka on the ground next to where I lay in my puke stained clothing on a dirty piece of cardboard.
Hope that creates as vivid a picture for you as it does for me.
That life seems like it happened to someone else now, but that doesn’t mean I can pretend it happened to someone else. It didn’t, and I will never pretend the truth is any different.
The truth is another matter you need to deal with. You need to prepare yourself to face the things you did and said, or stole, or destroyed. Whether they are cars or relationships, you need to accept and face up to the aftermath.
But, you have to move forward knowing you cannot change the past, you can only promise to do your best to never repeat it.
You will bump into people you wronged, and you will have to apologize. That doesn’t mean you have to grovel and sob at their feet, begging for forgiveness. If you’re put in an uncomfortable spot you simply say “Hey, I’m sorry. I haven’t been drinking for XX years and I do my best every day to make up for the things I did.”
If someone can’t accept that, life goes on.
Are those past transgressions still your responsibility? Absolutely. But should they be your burden? Absolutely not. You can carry them, and you can deal with them. But you cannot let them weigh you down.
Make the decision today to survive. Make the decision today to stop doing whatever it is that’s slowly killing you. If you are still going to work and maintaining your relationships you are in an incredible position to put the train back on the tracks.
If you are past that point it doesn’t matter. You still have the chance to get control of your life. You just need to want to, so deep in your heart and soul that nothing else will change that. You have to want it so badly that no other thing in your life is more important.
If I can do it, you can. I have nothing you don’t have. I’m not a superhero or special in some way, I’m just an ordinary guy who woke up after one more crashed car, and on the brink of one more imploding relationship and decided I had enough.
My life still completely revolves around drinking, it just revolves around not doing it. I don’t think about drinking every day anymore, but it does still cross my mind. I still find myself in the grocery store once or twice a year thinking about how good a cold beer would taste.
Then I picture a burning car on it’s side with bleeding, dying children laying next to it and grief-stricken parents trying desperately to save them from the accident I caused while drunk.
This morning I made the decision, the conscious choice not to drink. I will make it again later. And again tomorrow. And my life will continue to take me in amazing directions and provide me with incredible opportunities. Those same opportunities were there before, I was just too busy staring into a glass to notice them.
I will continue to make the same decisions, and I beg you to do the same. I left behind a life of despair and destruction and within one year began to win back people’s trust. With that I began to find opportunities. And, I began to accomplish the things I only talked about doing for 20 drunken years. I have done and seen so much, all of which I never dreamed was possible.
I was sure I would be dead by 40. I accepted my fate and did my best to ensure it would come to pass. I came close more than once but something always intervened. Something always stopped me from causing my own death by drunkenness.
A drunk I know always makes big, bold statements like “I’m going to go out in a fiery wreck of twisted steel” or something equally “romantic.” The truth is, if that does happen he’ll probably rob someone of a family member at the same time. Fortunately his death is much more likely to be similar to the one I described earlier; a slow, increasingly painful process while lying in his own piss-stained clothing alone under a bridge.
It doesn’t have to be. If I can do it so can he. And so can you. Make the choice. Make the conscious decision to stop allowing your life to be controlled by a bottle full of liquid. Or a bag of powder.
If I can do it, anyone can. So do it. Just… stop.