For the first time ever I really wanted to be sober but I did not know how to not drink.
The walls of the room seemed to be closing in on me and the panic I felt was getting worse every minute. I could hear screaming in my head and I was sure I was going to die or, at the least, go mad. I needed a drink. It was the only thing that would help me. Alcohol had always helped in the past, it had always taken away me fear, my shame, my guilt, my low self-esteem. It would take away this horrible feeling, it would save my life.
But, I didn’t want to drink. They told me in the psychiatric hospital that my drinking had damaged my liver and my brain and that I would be dead within six months if I drank again. But, if I didn’t drink, this feeling would kill me.
I had managed three months clean and sober now, the longest time in my 16 years of drinking. For the first time ever I really wanted to be sober. I didn’t want to drink anymore. Yea, I know I had said these words many times in the past and had even managed to not drink for a couple of months but this time was different. It wasn’t just the death sentence if I drank, it was the way that alcohol changed me into someone that I loathed, someone who would do anything to get a drink, who only thought of myself, who could be cruel, spiteful, dishonest. The list is very long and does not make good reading. I did not want that person in my life any more, the problem was that I did not know how to not drink.
I had been to two AA meetings that day. They had talked about a program, a spiritual program. They said that God was the answer. I wanted another answer, any other answer. I had tried God in the past and He had ignored me, besides the last thing that I needed was a huge dose of guilt. If He had any sense, and He is supposed to be all seeing and all knowing, he wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I had hurt everyone that came in contact with me, especially my wife who had had the good sense to leave me. So why would God want to help me?
However, that night I was being emotionally torn between the craving for alcohol and the desire to stay sober. I was desperate, ready to try anything – yes even God!
I had no idea how to do this, how do you ask God for help, especially if you’re not sure if He will hear you, or if He even exists. Desperation has a way of clearing all the BS out of the way and simplifying things. So, for the first time in years I got down on my knees and prayed and it was the most fervent prayer that I had and probably have ever prayed in my life. It was only three words, no big rituals, no complications, nothing fancy. I just prayed from the depths of my heart “God help me.”
I was not sure what was going to happen, whether there would be a flashing light, an angel with a message, a roll of thunder or a lightning bolt to smite me for my past sins. As far as I could see, nothing happened, big anti-climax. So, I just crawled into bed and fell asleep.
Next day I was at yet another AA meeting. I told one of the long-time members about the previous night. Well when I say I told him what I really mean is that I was complaining that God had not turned up, He had just ignored me in my hour of need. Luckily this member was a lot wiser than me. Instead of joining in with my complaint or reprimanding me or pointing out how busy God was and maybe that my ticket had not been called yet, he asked me a question.
“Are you craving for a drink?”
“And you slept last night, you were not kept awake all night with the craving.”
“Well, yes and no.”
“So maybe God did answer your prayer.”
“But I didn’t feel like anything happened.”
“But today you are sober, which is what you wanted and you don’t feel craving which is also what you wanted. Sounds like a good result to me.”
And the light came on in my head, it was a good result. God had not ignored me, He had heard, He had turned up and He had answered. I won’t say that I have never felt like a drink since that night, I have. But I’m thankful that I have never felt that intensity of craving ever again, it went away that night. That was over 30 years ago, (1984) and I have been clean and sober since.
As part of making amends for the hurt that I caused I started a website, in partnership with my wife, to help families of alcoholics. Lou, my wife, also lived with an alcoholic for many years, so she brings her personal experience. But there are two ingredients that make our website different. The first is that you get to hear the story from both sides, the family and the alcoholic, and that helps to explain some things that seem baffling otherwise. The other element is professional experience. Lou is a counsellor with her own private practice and I am a doctor of psychology who taught a masters course on addiction counselling. So if you want more information or support then come along to Bottled Up and let us help you.