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.
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.
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.