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.