Dr. Audrey, my therapist, thinks it would be helpful if I wrote about us. “Help me or someone else?” I said. “Maybe both.” I’m not so sure. …
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Dr. Audrey, my therapist, thinks it would be helpful if I wrote about us.
“Help me or someone else?” I said.
I’m not so sure. By now I know what to do. I just have to do it 365 days in a row, year after year. Unlike baseball, where you’re in the Hall of Fame if you are successful 35 percent of the time, 35 percent isn’t good enough for us. Addicts. I have to bat four for four every day.
Knowing that daunts a lot of addicts, along with thinking we are never going to have fun or be fun anymore.
My ebb tide was in the 1990s. I looked at my life and I was disappointed. I fit the profile – a middle-aged man looking back on his life and being disappointed. That was me. Instead of appreciating my accomplishments, I wished there had been more, and more approbation.
The countermeasure came in a bottle.
There was an intervention and years and years of in-patient and outpatient treatment and counseling and therapy and AA meetings. I think I get it, but if you have been there you know there is no such thing as a recovered alcoholic. The trick is to get started.
I’ve heard that it can take as long to “get it” as it took to become an alcoholic. I was a freak. I didn’t drink in high school or college. I didn’t begin until I was 30. It didn’t become a problem until I was 40. In my late 40s I was drinking every day, all day. At work. Later I became an isolation drinker, and no longer drank socially.
I stopped painting, exhibiting, and writing. Why bother? I wasn’t where I expected I would be; I thought I would be a star.
The hangovers and withdrawals, along with the humiliation, became unbearable. I asked for help. Just saying the word “help” was nearly impossible. If you’re not done drinking you’re not done drinking, and we resent preaching.
I woke up once. On the floor. With my head on an opened phone book. I looked down and the pages were turned to “Alcoholism – Information & Treatment Centers.” My ex-girlfriend had it up to here with me.
The good news is that there is good news, if you live through the darkest days. One of my AA pals was found in her car, parked in a hospital parking lot, three days after she had her final seizure and died. She was beautiful. She had a beautiful son, whom she loved. It wasn’t enough. Whatever it is – and I still don’t know – that compels us to drink against all reason and common sense, it wasn’t enough.
When I began my recovery I looked in the mirror again and liked what I saw. I changed (overnight) from an image painter to an Abstract Expressionist – roughly the equivalent of changing parties or sexes. Little by little approbation followed. I was offered this opportunity, to fulfill a lifelong ambition to write for publication.
But. I am mindful of my addiction every day just as often as I am mindful of my dog and my girlfriend. It never goes away. My addiction is waiting for me, around the next corner.
I was very lucky. I could and can afford the help and guidance I need. Many others cannot. I wish we allocated as much for addiction treatment as we do on other – vital – services.
If you’re reading this and the sound of ice in a glass is nearby, at least give recovery a thought today. I have been told that the best time to plant a tree was five years ago.
The second best time to plant a tree is today.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at email@example.com
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