Yesterday, my buddy and I got to help change the trajectory for a couple of young men. It’s impossible to say for sure that the changes were for the good, but I believe it was. I think we all believe it was. Both of these young men had the courage to tell us some very uncomfortable truths. They told us truths they could have easily hidden, and in the past would likely have kept them hidden. But they seemed to understand how vital the truth is to recovery. “To thine own self be true” is one of the most crucial ideals we strive for, and the closer we are to that ideal, the more living truthfully seems to follow.
In my disease, I had to hide. I had to hide because my behaviors had become socially unacceptable. I had to hide because I feared getting caught, feared getting in trouble, being shamed for the way I lived. I had to keep it a secret. Eventually, I tried to hide from myself and from the shame of being me, the shame of who I had become. I tried to hide from my own secrets, to pretend it was ok. In the book Gwendy’s Button Box, Stephen King writes, “secrets are a problem, maybe the biggest problem of all. They weigh on the mind and take up space in the world.” “They weigh on the mind…” oof, I feel that. I spent so much time trying to justify my behavior, trying to make my twisted indulgences and desires look okay. Living in self-centered fear, my instincts had gone awry. Self-will run riot. I lived with the twin fears of despair. Not getting enough or getting too much? Obsessively grasping for control where there is none. Hiding from you, me, life, and my own secrets.
I learned these (dysfunctional) behaviors trying to avoid the discomfort of everyday life. Unsurprisingly, I turned to alcohol to escape… but that escape was temporary. My friends liked to drink too. I don’t know how much they drank to escape though, maybe not at all. They liked to drink but they also liked to be sober. I did not. That made me less ok with being me. So I drank more. A couple of shots before work and beers at lunch led to keeping a bottle in my truck or at my side, all the time. Breath mints and eyedrops to keep anyone from figuring it out. Literally and figuratively distancing myself from humans. What it means to be human. This obsession with getting enough, hiding it (and myself) from you, and getting away with it became non-stop. I became a slave, with alcohol my master. The yoke of alcoholism. What I had used as an escape became inescapable.
Recovery has shown me a way out. The way out for me, anyway. There may be other routes, but for me, I can’t imagine a better alternative. I’m able to live a more honest life than ever before. More helpful than ever before. More comfortable in my skin. Before, alcohol was my answer to everything, but answered nothing, now recovery answers everything.