It’s hard to describe what makes an alcoholic tick when people are already convinced that they know the answers. We will talk to you but constantly hedge away from areas we don’t want to talk about. For every alcoholic who will be completely open with a non-alcoholic at least a hundred won’t be. I’m in the hundred group. I’ll write honestly today but only because I’m dictating the subject matter.
Everyone has an opinion on why alcoholics (they often mean street drinkers) drink but at the bottom of the bottle there’s only one reason why we drink and that is to change the way we feel about ourselves. It brings confidence to those who don’t appear to need it; courage to those who feel they lack it, a suit of armour to those of us who, without it, would be as vulnerable as peeled babies.
The trouble with alcohol is that initial reaction to one drink quickly becomes something that can only be found in two, four, six, eight drinks. On and on and on until it works no more to change the way we feel. To make us feel better about ourselves we will lie, cheat and steal. We need to obtain our drink of choice. We will feel worse about ourselves than before we tried to change the feelings.
Alcohol strips you of all that false bravado, robs you of your dignity and turns you into a shivering and shaking piss stained wretch who would willingly die if only to change the way you feel.
There are no good times with alcohol for an alcoholic but there may be many half-remembered incidents posing as happy times when viewed through a misty haze.
The recovery rates for alcoholism are depressingly low. For those who find Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or get into a treatment centre only 3 out of 10 (30%) will find permanent sobriety. There are thousands of 28-day sober people in the UK but only hundreds with 20 plus years of sobriety. I’m a lucky one and, with more luck, a guiding hand and a following wind, I celebrate 21 years of sobriety this year. I’ve learned that is no need to change the way I feel by using noxious substances: a good honest look at myself helps that process.
Often I look at street drinkers with the sure knowledge that when I stopped drinking I was months away from joining them. I was months away from being despised and derided by anyone who cared little enough to. That could still be me because if alcoholism strikes in an arbitrary fashion then it is equally random with recovery. It could be taken away from me with the blink of an eye if I take my eye of the ball. If I were blinded tomorrow I wouldn’t, and couldn’t, take my eye off the ball.