My struggle with alcohol

Hi, I’m Pete, and I am an alcoholic (“Hi Pete!”)

Just to catch your attention: when I was seriously off the rails (many years ago), I was downing between a bottle and a bottle and a half of vodka a day.

Yeah.

I was sober for many years after coming out of that period of my life. And then I made a huge mistake. I thought that I had learned from that period, and this time, I would simply control my drinking.

This isn’t a story about how I turned my life around. It isn’t about getting your approbation or sympathy.

It is however about something I discovered about alcoholism as it affects me, and making the assumption I am not unique, I’m writing this so others may find some insight from it.

You see, I don’t ask for help. I’m very independent. And I take responsibility for (most) of my actions. I started drinking, it’s all my fault, I should stop.

“Just stop”.

There is a part of you that knows what you’re doing. It knows you’re going down the wrong track. It knows that eventually there will come a moment when things have to change.

But not yet.

Just then, the need to keep drinking is bigger than the need not to.

I am a strong proponent of personal responsibility. I knew I was using it as a crutch, and I knew I would have to pay for it eventually.

But the odd thing was that the part of me that was drinking had more control over me than the part that wanted to stop.

I know what that reads like.

It did my head in.

Why could I not control myself?  

It was hugely confusing to me. All I had to do was point the car home instead of drive past the liquor store. And with my sane mind SCREAMING at me to just drive home, my body turned the wheel, parked the car, and bought that night’s poison.

Why exactly was it, that I, a person who believes to my core that people are 100% responsible for all of their actions, was doing something that at least part of me didn’t want to do? It made no sense.

But since it was my problem, that I had caused, I needed to fix it. No need to run to anyone for help. My eff up.

Over the years I had occasion to wonder why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous work for people. The last thing I wanted to do is sit with a bunch of strangers and listen to their problems. I’m too self absorbed, and it’s all about me.

Another thing that put me off was the fact that the Twelve Steps require you to ask God for help.

What if you don’t believe in God? What if you’re not on the best of terms with God at the time?

I probably continued to struggle for another year. Two sides of me battling it out, the drinking side winning most of the time.

Then one day, I had a lightbulb moment.

Looking back, I obviously was not able to stop by myself.

I mean, if I could, I would.

Out of the blue, the Twelve Steps came to mind. Especially the one that says (I paraphrase), admit to God you have no power over alcohol and you need His help.

It started to gnaw away at me that this was such a critical and time tested part of the Twelve Step programme. At the beginning, I simply assumed it was there because the Twelve Step programme had been provided by religious organisations.

A thought came to me: What if that is an essential step? What if it isn’t just pandering to the organisation delivering the support?

At that point, I felt I had nothing left to lose. Although it screamed against everything I believed to be true, I pointed my awareness outside of myself, and I admitted I was in trouble. I admitted I wasn’t in control. I admitted that alcohol had a hold on me. And I asked for help.

From God? I don’t know. That’s a story for another day. But I asked. “I admit I have no power over alcohol, please help me”.

Next day I manage to drive home without taking that detour.

And the day after that.

It was so hard.

Every day my body and “that voice” was screaming at me to go to the store.

Yet somehow, since I admitted I had no power, and I needed help, the voice inside me that had been trying to get me to quit was finally able to have more control than the voice that wanted to drink.

To be honest with you, it rubs me up the wrong way. At some level I don’t want the religious people of the world “to have this win”.

“You asked for help and you got it, how can you still deny God”?

I have no idea.

All I know is that for the next year or so, every time my alcohol voice was begging me to have another drink, I put my mind in a place that said “please help me, I have no power over that voice”.

And as a person with an insanely strong sense of personal responsibility, that just bugs the hell out of me.

I’m not sure if this is something that is anything more than a personal experience brought on by some fortuitous timing. Perhaps I was on the cusp of quitting anyway. Who knows.

But it continues to gnaw at me that those organisations and people around the world that offer help to alcoholics continue to insist that “you admit you have no power over alcohol, and you ask [God] for help”.

If you are in such a spot, one where you made this a totally private battle, let this article sink in. One day you too might feel you have nothing left to lose but your sanity and ask for help. I hope that what or whoever gave me the strength to finally take control again helps you out too.

  • http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/ Whaleoil

    Well said Pete…even though i believe in God I get that others do not.

    But part of me can rationalise the 12 steps and that important step…ignore if you will the God part…it is simply a step to get someone to admit to a non-judgement (imaginary if it suits you) being that you can’t do it alone and that you need help…recognition of the problem to an impartial person…

    My grandmother and mother always believed that if you ask so shall ye receive…it might not be from god in your case, it may well be from your own inner strength, but you had to admit first that you had a problem and it was out of your control…after that your eyes were opened to the possibility that there was another or indeed many other ways.

    I am lucky, I don’t have an addictive personality…I can stop smoking or drinking just as easily as I start…most of the time I simply can’t be bothered…

    Like I share about my depression so people can learn I thank you for sharing so other may learn and in turn save themselves.

    Thanks

  • 4077th

    Hi Pete, thanks for the post it is not easy to admit your faults and flaws. I have to admit as soon as you started to mention God I found myself skimming toward the end of the post. I’m glad I read the rest.

  • Pete George

    Very good post. The key point is that what you did worked.

    How it might have worked is interesting. Perhaps a switch of focus switched you to a different, stronger part of your brain. And if that’s the case it might explain why religion/God is such a strong influence for some people.

    Like Cam I’m lucky I don’t have problems with addictions, I can stop drinking alcohol easily. In fact while I enjoy a drink or two I’ve developed an aversion to drinking too much. I’ve also never had an inclination to believe in God, maybe I already have a connection with that stronger part of my brain.

  • Blokeintakapuna

    Pete – thanks for sharing such an insight into such a personal battle. Thank you for being brave enough to share it to us all.

    …and when things get tough as they often do when least expected, for all those out there fighting their own personal battles, just remember that you’ve had a 100% success rate in facing the day.

    One might not win the daily battle, but the war will be won… and it’s not how many times you get knocked over… it’s how many times you get back up!

    Rock on!

  • kaykaybee

    I was going to write screeds in response to your brave post Pete, but I’d just like to say thanks for posting on this. Like Cam said ” it is simply a step to get someone to admit to a non-judgement (imaginary if it suits you) being that you can’t do it alone and that you need help”.
    What I do know is that we need the help of our fellow man to conquer life’s tribulations and it seems to me that while I am not religious 12 steps has the greatest success with alcohol addiction.
    x

  • http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/ Keeping Stock

    Kudos to you for your honesty and candidness Pete. I’ve been down the same road with an addiction (not alcohol), and it was only eased when I admitted that I could not overcome it on my own. As a typical bloke who liked to be in control of everything, that was an alien concept.

    I’m open about my faith, and open-minded enough not to try and ram my beliefs down other people’s throats. I know the source of my inner peace, and I am delighted that you have found the strength to battle your demon. I wish you well.

  • Pissedoffyouth

    Thanks for the post, and well done on finding the trigger which made you stop.

  • Alfred12

    Thank you Pete for sharing your story. Very powerful & moving. Like Pete George says below I also enjoy a drink or two but gave an absolute aversion to over doing it, unlike when I was younger. All power to you!

  • Col

    If it helps, and your not a believer, that’s ok, as I was told God does not judge.
    “Seek and you will find, knock and it will be answered,ask and it will be given” that’s what my mum told us to do.

    • Night Stick

      Isn’t that what Len said to Bevan?

      • http://elephanza.blogspot.co.nz/ Duncan Brown

        Call me a stick-in-the mud, but there must be some times some humour is inappropriate….

        • http://elephanza.blogspot.co.nz/ Duncan Brown

          I’ve been thinking about that. Sometimes I use humour as a cover. My response was a reaction. At the risk of over-thinking it, my apologies :-)

  • GregM

    Thanks Pete. I hope that one day I will find the strength to ask…

  • Cowgirl

    There’s a saying “Let go and let God”. Sometimes you just have to ask for help from whatever powers that be and stop trying to be in control of everything all the time.

    EDIT: Excellent post Pete and very brave. I don’t have an addictive personality so I’ve never really understood the battle that others go through. So thanks for helping me understand that little bit better :)

    • http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/ Keeping Stock

      It’s no fun Cowgirl. And in my case, it’s probably not conducive to blogging!

      • Cowgirl

        Blogging – the ultimate in drunken texting :)
        It doesn’t sound fun – I’m lucky not to have this battle.

      • Cowgirl

        Blogging – the ultimate in drunken texting :)
        It doesn’t sound fun – I’m lucky not to have this battle.

  • Garbageman

    Nice work Pete, i have to admit i tried AA i mostly struggled with the intimate sharing side of it than the God aspect, as you say no matter what your own mind tells you its not usually something you can do on your own, unfortunately i still pop off that wagon every now and then, but the battle will go on …and on

  • kiwiinamerica

    Excellent Pete – in secular NZ very brave as well – I’ve supported a number of addicts in recovery and been to my share of open AA and NA meetings – keep writing about this because it helps whittle down stereotypes

  • Lux

    Very interesting post, thanks Pete, and well done.
    The mind can be a spooky complex place..

  • Mad Captain

    Well said Pete, my wife of many years has the same affliction and I can empathise, albeit from the other side. So many things you mentioned hold true for many alcoholics: Hard headed, in control, successful, obsessive and hard working. I guess that’s why many find it hard to share the perceived weakness with others – or to admit that it’s beyond their control – or even that it’s not someone or something else’s fault.

    The hardest thing I saw my wife do was admit she had a problem and to go to an AA meeting. She had preconceptions on alcoholics; she was suprised to see celebrities, business-people and ‘normal’ people like her. Older people, young people, grannies, students, people from all walks of life.

    I think she initially saw the admission as a failure – on the contrary, it takes huge balls. Much respect to you, as I have towards her for stepping into the unknown. She has thrived without the alcohol for many years now, as has our family and relationship.

    And I wouldn’t worry about the God thing (she doesn’t),

  • justin

    Great post Pete. You’ve taken some great steps. I appreciate your heartfelt message.
    God bless.

  • Sym Gardiner

    Awesome post. My guess is you will probably save someone’s life because of writing this.

  • Statehousekid

    Thanks Pete great to hear you have been able to take control of your life again.

  • steve and monique

    Pete, good on ya mate. We have our demons, and it always gives me strength hearing other peoples stories,how they overcame theirs. Faith in whatever form, be it God, or other, has the power to move mountains.

  • Bart67

    At the risk of being ever so maudlin, that is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have come across in a while. Thanks for sharing Pete, and may the infinite being, in whatever form it chooses to reveal itself to you, keep making this wonderful life just that little more mysterious and wonderful for you!

  • motorizer

    I really like you Pete.

    • 4077th

      Man Hug!

  • Saggy

    RESPECT! Good post Pete. Big thing to share online. You will help others.

  • Richie09

    I am a long term m of AA. I wished at one time it wasn’t the only route out of a chronic addiction to drug alcohol. Unfortunately I haven’t found anything strong enough to keep me sober and sane-ish. Being a recovering alcoholic has its benefits. I have a certain gratitude that my main affliction in life has been one I could deal with through some meetings in church halls and adopting certain principals. I have watched others suffer with cancer, mental illness and heart disease who don’t have any way out at all. It’s not a bad life at all really.

  • http://elephanza.blogspot.co.nz/ Duncan Brown

    Because I have different (not alcohol-related) addictions, I Googled “Do AA 12 steps work for other addictions?” Apparently Yes, but I am still left with the choice, Do I really want to stop? I know I should, but I’m trying to figger out why I don’t want to more. Addictions are destructive, but they are addictive. I also found the 12 steps don’t work for everybody, but that’s not surprising, people are complex beings.

    Wikipedia has some good info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program#Twelve_Steps, and here’s the NZ AA site http://www.aa.org.nz
    My sincerest best wishes to those who are struggling.

  • Jeff S

    keep trudging Pete

  • tesrodnz

    Bloody hell Pete, this rings alarming bells!

    I have the same issues but have not got to the stage yet where the positive voice outweighs the negative (or want) desire. I understand that I have an issue but can’t seem to get past recognising that fact to the stage of acting on what is necessary (and my logical side understands it’s necessary).

    I used to smoke 40 cigs a day and one day decided to stop – never had a desire to have another since (now 22 years ago) but this is alcohol addiction is a whole new ball game.

    This has given me serious concerns – I know that it causes issues at home but can’t seem to get over the final hurdle. I will struggle along until I get down to a level where I am able to do something.

  • Mark

    Pete I had been just going to “Vote Up” some posts;
    From Cam “after that your eyes were opened to the possibility that there was another or indeed many other ways.” & “most of the time I
    simply can’t be bothered…”
    From 4077th ” I have to admit as soon as you started to mention God I found myself
    skimming toward the end of the post. I’m glad I read the rest.”
    From Pete George “maybe I already have a connection with that stronger part of my brain.”
    From Bart67 “At the risk of being ever so maudlin, that is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have come across in a while.

    This is me also Pete “Why exactly was it, that I, a person who believes to my core that people
    are 100% responsible for all of their actions, was doing something that
    at least part of me didn’t want to do? It made no sense.”
    Like Cowgirl I have trouble understanding the addictive personality,though I have a good friend whom I support and struggle not to enable,so I thank you for your insight.
    “And as a person with an insanely strong sense of personal responsibility, that just bugs the hell out of me”
    I am glad you found your trigger,I do believe it is yours alone,but I do think your post is brave & profound as other have said.
    According to the quizzes,I have multiple addictions, they allegedly impact on my life in a negative manner,personally I chose to embrace my passions & revel in them.Should I ever feel things have progressed to a point where I need help,you post has certainly given me food for thought and I thank you from my heart for it,you are a good man Pete.

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