Step 1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Acknowledging weakness is very scary. It means letting go of the one thing that may have kept us alive–substances. These steps pertain also to any other addiction whether it be gambling, narcotics, work, shopping, sex. The addiction seemed to have been the only way to go on in the face of great, unimaginable pain. Now you are faced with a realization: To whatever degree it worked, it has also wreaked havoc with your life. What to do?
Do you want, finally, finally, to be in charge of your life?
The beginning is the acknlwledgement that addiction was only a temporary solution and not a great one. It required an unimaginable cost. Consider the paradox: It is possible to gain control over your own life by acknowledging a lack of control over alcohol. But it means letting go…
And what does powerlessness really mean anyway? Alcohol is one of the great cop-outs for not facing our pain. If we use substances–or other addictions–we have a dandy excuse for not being in control of our lives. The moment we admit we are not in control when we drink, we are forced to take control when we don’t drink. That is what’s so scary. We are scared of so many things:
- of feeling
- of failing in life
- of being rejected once the veil of alcohol is removed
- of sharing secrets
- of betraying our abusers
- of discovering we don’t know who we are
So alcohol serves as a pretty good excuse to stay stuck.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
1. Feeling is good.
Pain is good. Suppose your little kid put his hand on the hot stove and didn’t feel the pain. What would happen? His hand would get burned up. Pain is a necessary source of information. It tells us what’s going on so that we can get away from that source. When you were little and you were being abused, you couldn’t get away so it made perfect sense that you would use any means you could to not feel the pain. That’s how you started your addictions. But now, you can get away. Now, you can take that very important data, the pain, and use it well. You can change what has to be changed in your life to leave the painful people and situations behind. And just think of the feeling of joy.
Uh-oh. You’re afraid of joy. That’s the other half of the equation. You have no clue what joy feels like. It’s alien. Naturally, you’d be scared of it. There’s all kinds of feelings underneath that one: Feeling like you don’t deserve the joy; feeling odd because joy is weird; feeling like joy just is not part of life.
Here’s the truth: The things that hurt you in your childhood were not your fault. I don’t care how much they told you you were “bad.” Not true. Little kids are supposed to be raised to be good. If you misbehaved, it was your parents’ job to correct it. YOU WERE NOT BAD. Misbehavior is normal for children. It is not bad. Your soul is and always was good. I understand that you don’t believe me. But remember, this is a healing site. This site is meant to help you in your recovery. Bear with me. Give these ideas a chance. Just suppose they were right? Let’s follow this one out to its logical conclusion: You are good. You always were good. Those who told you you were bad were wrong. Maybe also uninformed, maybe abused themselves, maybe evil, maybe incompetent. I don’t know. But they were wrong in any case. So, you DO deserve the joy.
Is joy weird? Yup. So what? Go for it. Do you want to live like a casualty the rest of your life or like a normal human being? Joy is good. Joy is enjoyable and that will be good. So what if it takes a getting used to? Every new shoe feels a bit stiff. It gets worn in, doesn’t it?
How about the sadness? That feeling that joy has no place in the world? Well, nowadays, that feeling is very pervasive. The world is a tough place, no doubt about that. Yet, oddly, those people who survive wars, the holocaust, torture, and abuse, and make it to a real life, a normal life, have to find the place for joy in the world. It may be in just the little things. The smile of a child; the crisp air on a sunny day; the sound of a bird; a job done well. There IS a place for joy in the world and we all have to search for it.
So don’t be afraid of feelings–good and bad ones are all good.
2. Failing is impossible. Life is not a test; it’s an experience.
You can’t fail in life if you earnestly try to make a good life for yourself. Failure–ironically–only happens when you run away from it. Why? Because not living life is failing. Failing is not doing anything. You’re reading this, right? That means you care. Right there, you have succeeded, big time. Caring is the beginning of doing. No matter what you do, you can’t fail. You can only make choices. Some are good, some you find you’d rather do differently next time. That’s ok. Life is a learning process, and the good Lord gives us umpteen chances to learn however and whatever we want. Wow! It’s like life is this table spread out with a buffet, all kinds of interesting dishes to choose from. What will we take? Try and see! If one choice wasn’t right for you, so try another one next time. The only way you’ll find out what you like is if you keep trying it all. There’s plenty of time. You’ll learn a lot about yourself–but you’ll never fail if you engage.
3. Being rejected by the wrong person is a good thing.
You can do the rejecting or the wrong person can reject you. Either way, getting out of the wrong relationship is a good thing. Will you be lonely? Nope. You have yourself after all. Yes, it’s natural to want to be connected, of course. But being connected to the wrong person is not the way to live life to the fullest, is it? So without that veil of alcohol, when the two of you see each other as human beings, several things may happen: You may discover that you get along much better, that you like one another much better. Or, you may find the other is not right for you, or that person may find you are not right. Or, most interesting of all, you may both want to share the process of healing together, of getting better together. All it takes for that to happen is courage to put that bottle down. You obviously have it in you. I mean, you’ve read this far, haven’t you? What about your significant other? Does she/he have the courage that you have? Getting better is scary. But so is a rollercoaster ride. And people say that is fun. Life can be fun too, even the unknown.
4. Sharing secrets is like cleaning the pus out of an infected wound
YOU were not dirty. You did nothing to be ashamed of. You were not bad. So there is nothing wrong with your secrets. All you do by holding onto them is protecting your abuser–who should have known better. And if you did do something awful yourself, the first step in penetence is confession. There’s no two ways about it: To heal, your secrets have to come out into the light of day. And that’s a good thing. You’ll feel so much lighter not carrying that 600lb burden.
5. Your abusers have to do their own work; you can’t live for them.
Don’t give a moment’s thought to betrayal. You do NOT have to believe what your abusers told you. And the truth is, you can believe what you want about life, about yourself, and about them; it’s a free country, and you’re allowed. You do not have to share their perspective on the world in order to be a loving child, spouse, worker, or whatever. You are you. You have your own values, beliefs, preferences, opinions, tastes, talents, interests, loves. That’s who you are. To live, you have to be you, not them. Leaving behind your abuser’s values is one part of the recovery process.
6. No one knows who they are.
Do you think I am the same person I was 10 years ago? Of course not. In fact, I’m not even the same person I was before I started this website. It is only sitting here, typing, that I discover so many of the thoughts in my head–and that I can share them with you. Wow. A discovery about me. That is really the process of living–just discovering who you are, day by day. Is it scary? Again, think of that rollercoaster ride and substitute the word “fun.” Exciting. Interesting. You’re just so used to feeling badly that you assume all feelings have to have shades of black and gray. Nah. Discovering “you” can be fun.
So you see why it is so convenient to remain powerless over alcohol and so difficult to admit it? Once you admit it, you have to give it up. Once you give it up, you have to face Life. But go ahead. You can do it. You will find you are not so bad as you think. You will find it can be fun. You will find you can enjoy it.