Truce with the Devil

So, alcohol. I haven’t written about it in months, and that’s because I want my story to be a tidy “I saw the light and got sober and now I’m all better” narrative, and it’s not. I know there are people out there with stories like that. In AA they call that “getting the golden ticket.” Golden ticket holders are a tiny minority.

Like most people who have dealt with substance abuse or addiction, my story is more meandering, tricky and sticky. I started by joining AA, and have ended up pretty much wholly rejecting every aspect of their method and philosophy (with the obligatory note that if the 12 Steps work for you personally, that’s great and you should keep it up.)

I’ve been thinking about alcohol for the last few days, trying to tease out exactly what it is for me. A quick and dirty solution to social anxiety, sure. The most easily available and socially acceptable drug in my culture, yes. A substance deeply steeped in mythology and romanticization, an elixir that makes you tragic and beautiful and happy and poetically miserable – or even just normal. A little treat to get you through the day. The key to a parallel universe, a lazy and confusing and magical place.

At one point in my life it seemed like even more. It felt like something I needed to live, like the fuel I ran on. That’s where I was when I sought out help from a therapist and ended up checking into an intensive outpatient program. In retrospect, I call that decision the nuclear option. It was supposed to change everything about my life, and in some ways it did. In others, it didn’t.

I guess what I’ve been dancing around is that I do still drink. Not like I used to – not in the same amounts, and not with the same intensity. I don’t think I’ve been cured, like I used to be an alcoholic and now I’m not. I certainly don’t think I’ve hit upon any kind of program for people to follow, or that I’m an example of anything in particular. I do know that my relationship with alcohol remains different from an average person’s – but also different from an AA “real” alcoholic’s.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m still trying to sort this shit out. I have a couple of books on my “to read” shelf about the ongoing research and various debates surrounding addiction. Maybe one of them will offer the kind of narrative I’ve been looking for, the kind that actually fits my life and past. I know there are other stories like mine. I don’t know what we’re supposed to make of them.

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1 Response to Truce with the Devil

  1. Thank you for writing this. I relate a lot. I was alcohol dependent, a daily blackout drunk. I wrecked my entire life, went to rehab, sobered up for a year and half, fell of the wagon horrifically, climbed back on, fell again…. In the past few months I have drunk occasionally, sometimes to serious excess but in general it has just been a couple. I can’t even remember the last time I drank and that’s not because I blacked out!
    I also drank to deal with social anxiety (among other reasons) and I think sober time helped me learn some new skills to deal with that. I think for people who have struggled with alcohol abuse/addiction/dependency choosing to drink is extremely risky but I don’t think it is impossible to learn to drink in more healthy ways. The question is, is it worth taking the risk? Evidently I think it is. Perhaps I will think differently at some point in the future but for now I am ok saying I was alcohol dependent/an alcoholic and now I am a very occasional drinker. I know I am playing with fire but with the right safety precautions I don’t think I have to get burnt.

    Liked by 1 person

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