Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Photo by Neal Hemphill
When alcohol had me by the throat and made my decisions for me, it was brutal.
I’d been given an excellent foundation on which to stand in my life. I came from a loving home, with my mom and dad and two sisters who were also my great friends.
A sense that I had a home and security was instilled in me, and we had an outlook that we’d be all right. Not that we were impervious to the pitfalls of life, but that we had the strength and a bond and a core belief in life being a good thing to experience.
How and why I became an alcoholic is irrelevant to me. The fact is that it happened, and once I learned that stark fact, it was my job to deal with it.
I’ve come to understand that I have a type of allergy to alcohol and that my body metabolizes it differently from normal drinkers. I developed a need for more, always more.
When one is out of control, it’s a bewildering thing. How and why can’t I get my shit together? Why did I do that again? What’s wrong with me?
That last question ran through my mind in an accusatory fashion. “WTF is WRONG with you?” I would say to myself, harshly, and with judgment.
It turned out that minus the vitriol, it was a more than fair and legitimate question, which has a simple answer.
I’m an alcoholic.
That’s the most important thing I’ve ever learned about myself in my life. Learning that put me on a path of freedom.
Before I learned that, however, it was bleak. I couldn’t believe my fate. I mean that literally - I didn’t believe that my lot was to be lost and confused and dismayed and hopeless. And yet there I was.
Now there’s a word. Hopeless.
It’s very hard for humans to go on without hope.
Going back to that foundation that I felt was under me, I want to say that it precluded suicide. Or so I thought.
Now, I never moved fully toward suicide or made any attempts. But dark clouds were on the horizon.
I fell into a period of knowing that I couldn’t live like I was, that I wouldn’t be able to stand it. I was having massive panic attacks. I was going to Emergency Rooms in fear that I was dying.
I was lost and troubled, and much of the time, I was hopeless. I didn’t know how to ask for help, or even to articulate that I needed help.
At just the right moment, I was thrown a lifeline. It came in the form of a recommendation that I make a call to the Alcoholism Council of Greater New York.
I made that call. And I showed up to meet a counselor. And although I wasn’t quite done drinking, I would soon put the plug in the jug, where it’s stayed for a few decades now.
But I was close enough to the edge of the cliff to understand that if there is no hope, and one doesn’t understand what’s happening and why they are such a fuck-up, and there is no choice, suicide is seen as the only option.
I once met a man who had tried through countless stints in rehabs and detoxes and long-term treatment and jail and pretty much every resource available, over the course of 18 years, to get sober. He lived a nightmare of consistently deciding it would be ok to drink, only to end up in the next ambulance. 18 years is a long time.
The incredible thing is that when I met him, he had 18 years of continuous sobriety.
Somehow he never gave up. 36 years after his first detox, he had an amazing glow, a beautiful man, living life.
I’ve lost friends along the way, to both suicide and to the effects of too much alcohol. It's horrific.
I’ve learned that if one wants to be sober more than anything else, it can be done.
Don’t give up.