To Be Honest
As part of the groups, therapies and meetings at the core of my rehab plan, I recently
unfolded a piece of paper to one word that I had to spontaneously share about.
Ironically, it was precisely what has unfolded within me – powerlessness.
Admitting I am powerless over alcohol is the first part of the first step in my 12 step
recovery programme, and thus a timely place to start sharing my recovery journey with
On this occasion, I was the girl with the ‘fuck its’ who‘s done with getting fucked up
because it fucks everything else up, even more than before.
“I came in here thinking I’d be a shining example of sobriety,” I said.
“Now I’m just a shit show of what not to do.”
Sometimes I open my mouth and insert my foot like a steak that’s raw in the middle. I
don’t mince my words.
Surprisingly, I was commended on my most honest share yet. Then I was told the same
again a day later by a different facilitator who asked the group to ask ourselves how
much we want sobriety.
“I want to drink,” I said.
“But I don’t want the consequences. So I can’t.”
My newfound honesty with myself and others means I’m facing my biggest challenge
yet and that’s to lose face itself – to unmask.
Admitting I’m powerless over alcohol has been easy for me. It’s accepting it that I’ve
found hard. Really hard. I’ve done some stupid things drunk and they just kept getting
stupider. Really stupid.
The anecdotes I’ll share with you won’t generally be war ones. I swear so many people
make those up. Or glorify them. If one is well pissed, how can they truly remember what
they’ve said and done? They often rely on others to tell them. Been there, done that.
Got the (nude) tee shirt. Woke up in it. Forgot their name and my location.
I’m here to talk about recovery, not drinking. After all, it’s the latter that’s resulted in the
former. Fortunately. Don’t get me wrong – I have had some great times drinking. I’ve
done ‘the parties, the places, the people, the faces’, as I refer to the lifestyle I once
dreamed of living. I can still live it if I want to. I’d just want to live it differently. But I’ve
got some new dreams now.
When I first came to rehab, I couldn’t walk. Alcohol had taken my most important asset
– my health. Yet upon feeling newly empowered, I tested my power over my self-
confessed powerlessness. Three times.
Alcoholism is a progressive and fatal disease that has very nearly killed me. More than
once. Sadly, my condition wants its sufferers dead. I’ve been hospitalised 11 times
within a year from some scary situations, including seizure, blood poisoning, alcoholic
hepatitis, days in black out, and sudden loss of consciousness both whilst out and at
home – alone – where I hit my head. I was told I was lucky I fell backwards on my
carpet as opposed to forwards on my tiling, where I probably would’ve cracked it open
and bled to death.
This time I have do things differently. The keyword being do.
After my last relapse, I whittled my options down. I can fully commit to recovery, drink
and die, or commit a sudden suicide. To be quite frank, neither of these excited me.
Although I’ve reached points in my life so low that I’ve lived like it didn’t matter, suicide
has never been and will never be an option for me personally. Yet one may waver that if
to drink is to die for me, then in active alcoholism I’m also effectively killing myself
–slowly, and for all those I love to watch on helplessly. That’s if they stuck around.
Active alcoholism has made me a selfish and lonely drinker. Isolation is a highly
dangerous place for an alcoholic, and when I thought I was only hurting myself, I was
No one of sound mind would seriously contemplate the best of the above options.
That’s why restoration to sanity is an important part of my programme’s success. After
all, I’ve made the craziest decisions to drink when I’ve been stone cold sober. I got the
knowledge of my disease, I got sober and then I picked up that first drink. I’ve even
made a list of the worst things I’ve done drunk and that’s worse still, because what led
to them was a result of the same sober decision.
When I was first told to pray, I prayed to be a ‘normie’. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that
way. A ‘normie’ is someone who can actually relax and enjoy a drink with an impunity
that still annoys me, because I want it. Instead I just wind up wanting the whole bottle.
Forget everything and everyone else.
I arrived back to rehab from my last relapse in a vehicle with other guests after a
recovery meeting, smelling like a vineyard. The CEO of my treatment facility, Christine,
is very dear to me. She rightly described my behaviour as self centred because it can
be a trigger for other people struggling with early recovery.
She also said, “You can’t stay... but you can’t go.”
Her words broke my heart and I’ll never forget them. It simply isn’t safe for me to live in
my own home alone just yet – and in that moment I had nowhere else safe to go. But
living at my rehab is not an entitlement. It’s a privilege. I’m very lucky to have been
given another chance to get with an infallible programme, when it’s thoroughly
practiced. I am the flipside of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s not my
programme that’s broken. It has been me.
I was taught that, even when sober, a true alcoholic is someone whose powerlessness
over alcohol even extends to the choice not to drink again, on self will alone. I am
scientifically wired to drink whether I feel shit, meh or amazing.
So my real problem is not drinking but lack of power – lack of power not to repeat the
desperate experiment of the first drink and the inevitable subsequent lack of power in
my life. Lack of power to have a relationship with family, friends, colleagues, a
significant other and my real self. Lack of power to avoid depression and anxiety. Lack
of power to find the direction to realise my talents and dreams.
That is why the concept of a Higher Power is vital to my programme. It is my only option
and it is proven to work when it’s sought.
My programme is designed to help me live a spiritual life by dealing rigorously and
honestly with difficult emotions, like depression, anxiety, lack of direction, lack of
purpose and hopelessness. It teaches me how to let go of old ideas which led to my
survival in active.
I cannot promise I’ll never drink again. All I can say is that now, when I say my morning
prayers, I ask my Higher Power – my Mum – to please remove my desire to drink,
instead of asking her to make me a ‘normie’. I’ve had to listen carefully for she has
blessed me with a whisper. Whilst I still think about drinking, my desire to act on those
thoughts is gone and my cravings are slowly lessening. I don’t know what the future
holds. But I do know that if I continue to truly work my programme, one day at a time, I
won’t pick up that first drink. I can leave it and have everything, or take it and lose the
same. Including my life.
It’s as simple – and as hard – as that. But the more light I shed on my darkness, the
less power it has and the more empowered I become in who I am becoming.