By Dave LaFave
A message to the newcomer… AA, NA, Smart, Refuge, Hip, Detox, CA, OA, CMA or any other alphabet variation of “Please Help Me Stop Hurting Myself.”
“Reach out? To whom please. WHO am I supposed to reach out to?”
“No one waits for me.”
“No one cares.”
“My sisters? Nah. They have families already. They have things going on. And they don’t care.
My partner? Nah. I’ve pissed them off enough already and anyway they could care less.
Friends? No one will talk to me since that night at the game when I puked in that girls purse and stole that guy’s prescription and anyway they don’t care.
A treatment center? A therapist? Ha haaa please. I could talk CIRCLES around them.
I should BE a therapist after all I’ve been through and anyway they don’t care.
After what the world has done to ME.
After what I have ENDURED.
I am the victim here.
I am only hurting myself.
I can handle it.
Leave me alone.
Well, no….. pour me another drink and then leave me alone.”
That’s where my addiction wants me – alone.
That was me.
For 18 years.
Until two years ago when I put my last drink down and left my apartment, my dogs, my partner… to reach out.
To ask for help.
My name is Davey and I am an Alcoholic. A “Cross-Addicted” Alcoholic as we say. I liked pills. I liked cocaine, powdered and hard. I liked ecstasy. I liked beer, wine and liquor. I ADORED vodka.
I smoked weed. I liked to speed up, slow down and float. Why?
Because. I can’t, er… couldn’t…. handle being me. Ever.
The reasons for this are myriad. “I’m not handsome. I’m too handsome.
People hate me. People adore me. I’m too loud. I cower. I shrink, explode and vibrate.
I am completely hinged at all times and entirely together always.” My mind would race with feelings of inadequacy and grandiosity… and it all began in childhood. Again, we don’t have time to “deep-dive” into the History of Me as you sit there holding this paper you found somewhere. Suffice to say we are alike. If you are reading this – we are more than likely sharing some common traits. Feelings of less than and too much, not loved or smothered in love. We wrestle with regulating, don’t we?
Oh the drama.
That’s where the substance comes in…. the self-medicating.
We find our “Happy Place” in removing ourselves from consequence, accountability. We engage the dopamine our brain produces by demanding more. It just feels too good. It allows us to – as I said, speed up, slow down or remain completely still.
In my experience this follows one single road… because the world goes on around us, we float in our High Bubble avoiding and ducking, shifting and sliding by without truly connecting to anyone.
We are, we presume, alone. We are, we presume, unique or singular. The substance entices this thinking.
“No one understands me” and “I’m only hurting myself” begin to repeat on a loop. A remix mashup of Pity Party and Glorification.
As the drugs or booze climb to prominence in our choices our need for others falls away. Oh, well… sure, we need a FEW others don’t we. The job – our boss, to sign a check so we can attain money to attain our substance. The dealer certainly, to provide said substance. Perhaps our partners, maybe a few friends to be our audience. Ok, I take it back. We DO need a few people. Because we love an audience. Someone to SEE us falling apart. Someone to SEE us being hysterically funny or smart. So yeah… a FEW people. But. There are those we DON’T need as well.
We DON’T need someone poking around in our business.
We DON’T need anyone trying to “Help” us. We DON’T need anyone asking nosy questions about the yellow tinge of our skin, our missing tooth, our scars, our abscesses.
It’s a balancing act. Look At Me I Need Help/Don’t Look At Me Mind Your Own Business.
The isolation of addiction enwraps us slowly. So slowly we don’t notice it. There are paranoiac closing of shades, blinds and curtains. Hiding, calling in sick. Avoiding holidays, family and the all-encompassing escape of social media or “Self Care” run riot – Hiding From The World because we are too high or not high enough.
“We are only hurting ourselves!” we cry as we attempt to protect the Demon from being noticed or managed by an outside party.
It is here that the Demon has us. It wants us ALONE.
Not unlike a captor our addiction closes in and shuts us away from our lives.
Many of us have loved ones and family (chosen or not) who stand idly by or go berserk trying to help us, screeching at us or raising an eyebrow or deftly dropping pamphlets at our door.
We ignore them. Our secret might be revealed. Our weaknesses confirmed. The LAST thing we need is to reach out.
Admit defeat. Admit powerlessness over what we have done to ourselves.
We know it must happen, something’s gotta give. Maybe the money is gone? Were we fired from our job? Presented with divorce? Legal papers? Eviction? THE COPS? The universe, the balance of life, will right itself. “Everything comes out in the rinse” as the saying goes… eventually the final straw will reach the camel’s back. What then.
The panic. The realization.
The reaching out.
It begins there. The sudden, at times downright abrupt, halt of isolation is stunningly graceless.
It could be intervention on so many levels – family, job or concerned friend. The law, an accident, a social worker, a medical detox in some hospital trying to stop your slow motion suicide. Whatever it might be, it arrives and provides an option.
Continue and die or Stop Now and live.
They only way to choose Option Two is to allow the help to arrive.
Allow others in, admit that we – YOU – cannot do this alone. .
The reaching out aspect of early recovery and an approach to the 12 Steps is TANTAMOUNT to success.
The reaching out also makes clear some highly important ideas. You are NOT alone in this. You are NOT only hurting yourself and you CANNOT remain sober on your own, without anyone to share the struggle with…. to talk to… to laugh with.
Remember laughing? That’s one of the first gifts that return upon opening up and taking another’s hand.
Conversation, touch. Eye contact, smiling. Scent, hunger and warmth. Remember those?
Open curtains, books, rugs, dry socks, clean teeth. Remember those?
All are still here, waiting for you. Your life is waiting for you. And it will wait.
Wait for you to engage another human, tell your story, yell – scream – cry – be human, not a slave to your thinking and assumptions, judgments and claims.
This is what the fellowship is for. Fellowship. Google that.
The community of recovery is everywhere. I didn’t believe it either. I thought – meh…. AA or NA or whatever you call it – is just a bunch of old sad idiots sitting in darkened rooms bemoaning their bad choices.
The people who have lived our struggle, could tell our stories right back AT us and survived by reaching into the community that was there the whole time – waiting – are everywhere. Bankers. Grocery clerks. CEOs. Dishwashers. Politicians, Professors and Party Planners. You’ll see.
IF you can indeed let your guard down, reach out. Take advantage of the resources available, take advantage of the ones who have lived The Struggle of Addiction, who have succeeded in achieving recovery. They have been where you are and guide you into the life you were meant to live, have. It is NEVER too late to be who you were aiming for.
When you reach out you reach in. You find yourself in others and them in you.
It’s happening for me.
Until I remembered the world by seeing it in another persons eyes, in another person’s story, in another person’s tears.
Another person. That is what saves us.
We are waiting. Right here.
First published in The Recovery Advocate, Vol. 4, May, 2019