Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy Birthday to ME! 28 years sober today!

10,227 days; 1461 weeks; 336 months; 28 years. That's how long it's been since I took my last drink, on January 1, 1988.
It's been long enough that I forget the desperation and horror of not being able to control my drinking; and, in a separate issue, it's been a long time since I experienced the gnawing grief and anger that forced me to drink.
I can, sort of, prove this second premise in a backwards way. I've got a chronic pain condition, called ankylosing spondylitis. Think of it as arthritis everywhere, and you are on the money. It's because my ancestors were Neanderthals, and I still carry their DNA. HLA-B27, to be specific. And there is nothing that can be done for it. It won't kill me, just chew on me, and the only treatment is pain management with narcotics. I've tried frying the nerves with a microwave, acupuncture, and for almost a year, I had GREAT results with the anti-inflammatory meloxicam. I wish I could take that now, but unfortunately, it makes my stomach and intestines bleed.
I had a really hard time with the idea of using narcotics as a recovering alcoholic. I wouldn't take anything, if I didn't have to. Unfortunately, I have to. So, I take them as directed, for the reason they are prescribed, and I haven't ever, in over 10 years, found myself to be over-using. As recently as summer of 2014, I went through a risk assessment with an addiction counselor, and passed with flying colors. If you aren't one who struggles with addiction, you won't understand what a relief that was to ME. See, I am greatly suspicious of me; and I have a disease which is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and if it can, it will find a way to get my mind back on getting high, and away from living life. So, one way I can prove the second premise, that I have discovered a way of life that keeps me from obsessing on grief and anger, is that I came through the risk assessment with no problem. But the second way I can prove it is this: In March of 2012, I was taking a daily dose of morphine of 135 mg per day. I felt it was interfering with my ability to be a husband and father, so I quit, cutting my dose to 30 mg the first day, 15 mg the second day and third day, and nothing after that. I went into withdrawal, and the physical symptoms were rough, but not once did I experience psychological craving. It was just something I had to get through, and I did, eventually. What made the difference between stopping the morphine and stopping the drinking was this: in working the 12 steps, I found out I could effectively process the bad memories of times I had been hurt, times I had hurt others, times I had failed and times others failed me. That was no longer baggage I had to carry around. SO: the morphine was only a treatment for my PHYSICAL pain; I did not need it to treat emotional & psychological pain. I had taken care of that with Steps 4&5, 6&7, and 8&9. For those who are not familiar with 12 step programs, that means (my words) I made a list of the things that were eating at me, shared them with a friend (and God); got ready to give them up, and asked that they be removed; and made amends to people I had harmed except when to do so would injure them or others. There's a formal process for doing this, and I learned it by listening to Joe and Charlie on tape, and Dave in meetings.
Now, with regards to the FIRST problem I had: the nightmare of not being able to control my drinking. Even today, when I think about it, I feel a bit of a rush of adrenalin. I ALMOST didn't make it. It could have very easily have gone the other way. And I found that theme in the lives of the founders of modern sobriety as well; it very, very easily might not have worked for them. And if it hadn't worked for those two guys, Bill & Dr. Bob, it never would have come down to me.

A clarification: I have absolutely no issue with anyone else drinking. I'm definitely not in favor of re-introducing Prohibition. I am denied the comfort that drink brings because I abused the privilege when I was younger, and that responsibility is mine alone. I don't have problems with people talking about their favorite drinks; I even might have an opinion, based on my experience (ummm...scotch tastes like medicine).

There is a LOT more to my story than what I've written here, but this wasn't intended to be a telling of my story. It's just a birthday present to myself; Happy Birthday, me!

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