August 29, 2016 at 11:39 AM #5492
I am Patrick and my story involves a long road of misunderstanding in who and why “I am”!
I would be writing here for days if I started from the beginning but for now I’ll concentrate on where I am now and how I got here.
Currently I have not drank for over 4 months and I’m on my 5th attempt at attending and being involved in AA. Since 1993 when someone first told me I was drinking too much and may have a problem I’ve had a number of periods where I didn’t drink. Some of them were with AA, some were just on my own, and some were with professional counseling. Most of these periods were about 8-10 months and the longest was 2 years. The 2 year stretch was with just counseling and didn’t involve AA.
Pretty much since that first time I walked into an AA meeting back in 1993 I’ve been hammered with the “fact” that I’m an alcoholic, and if I think otherwise, I am surely “in denial”!
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that now at age 50 I’ve lived my early teens and adult life completely clueless on who I really am and how and why I got here!
My new release on life started about 5 months ago when my wife filed for divorce after 20 years of marriage and blamed my drinking and living in my own world as the primary reason. At this point I was drinking 3-4 days a week and 4-6 drinks on those days. We never argued very much and I’ve never touched her physically. I would just set in my home office alone and drink.
Her filing for divorce was a devastating blow to me and for the first couple days I did the usually pleading that I would stop drinking and pay her and the kids more attention. She was steadfast and said after 20 years she just wanted out.
After a couple days I finally started to accept that it was truly over and going to end.
I had come to a cross roads in my life and in my mind at that moment I took a honest look at myself and simply asked “why”? I figured I could go one of two ways from here. Either call up some drinking buddies and go on a bender or go back to AA. I had been divorced before and had done the bender route before so I made a decision to go with AA.
But before I did that I also did something my wife had been trying to get me to do for years. She had bought numerous books on low self esteem and depression and tried to get me to read them. I always said sure I’ll take a look at them but never did.
So after she filed for divorce and I made a decision to not go down the drinking buddies road, I did three things. I made an appointment to see a therapist, I called an old AA friend and agreed to go back to AA, and I finally picked up one of the books my wife had tried to get me to read for years on low self esteem.
When I first picked up the book and opened it I didn’t expect much, but withing the first 5 pages of the 1st chapter it hit me like a rock. “Oh my God, I’ve been suffering from severe chronic low self esteem since early childhood.
For the most part I grew up in your average middle class American home, but my father whom had grown up fatherless himself had no clue how to be a Dad. It was through him I learned how not to be an adult or father.
As I feverishly read through the book on self esteem I started writing. It was a very simple exercise and honestly just two simple questions. Who am I, and how the hell did I get here???
I started writing from the beginning of my childhood when my relationship with my Father went south all the way up to where I was now facing another divorce at 50.
I didn’t just write so much about how I felt at the time but primarily how I reacted to certain conditions and problem I had faced throughout my life.
Over a few weeks of writing on my own and reading about low self esteem it all started to fall into place. It was like solving some extremely difficult puzzle that had evaded me for decades. My entire life and why and how I reacted to every major event started to fall into place and every puzzle piece matched perfectly to what I discovered about low self esteem. It was like my own personal “key to life” had finally been unlocked and I was learning who I really was.
I tried to share this self discovery with a couple people in AA and they just blew it off and stated “all that doesn’t matter, your an alcoholic and you just need to do the steps, go to meetings, and not drink”!
Their reaction made me extremely skeptical on AA and their opinions. This was nothing to do with denial in being an alcoholic, this was about me actually seeing for the first time in my life who I really was and why I got here.
Because of what I had written and studied loosely tied into what AA calls Step-4, I decided to continue to go to AA with the mind set that although I think they are misguided on many levels, the big book/12 steps does get some things right(even though I now think much of it is outdated and misguided) I figured as long as I understood “for me” it wouldn’t be too harmful to keep going.
A lot has happened in these past 4-5 months. Through my own writing and studying of low self esteem I’m starting to have love and compassion for both myself and all the people in my life. This has had little to nothing to do with AA.
I had given up on my marriage and accepted it was over then about 8 weeks into the divorce my wife came to me and said she was taking a big chance but for the first time since we had been together she was seeing “real” changes in me and never really wanted to end the marriage, but just wanted me to stop sitting in my office drinking and not paying her and the kids any attention. She halted the divorce and we are currently working things out and things are slowly improving.
In the past few months I’ve joined jogging clubs, meditation groups and really gotten out there in the world and started meeting people and living life. I’ve never felt better about myself and where I’m going!
My wife has went from “I want a divorce” to “your not going to leave me are you”? I assure her that is not the plan, I just want to get out and live life!
Through all my self study and talking to my therapist I believe without a doubt that I have used and abused alcohol in the past because I had no idea how to cope with life. Not understanding myself has played a major role in that. Another piece in the past was not taking alcohol seriously in that it is a drug and a depressant and when over used and in the wrong mindset will make things worse, not better.
I’m still attending AA right now but slowly feel myself wanting to ween off of it(which completely goes against the “must go the rest of your life” theory). I feel like my life is much more fulfilling and I’m achieving much more personal growth through my involvement with family and new found jogging/meditation friends.
At this point in time I do not believe I am a alcoholic. I’ve never felt like I absolutely “had to have” alcohol, but through much of my life wanted it to escape or forget. The answer for me was in finding why did I want to escape and forget. In AA I feel like they don’t really want you to discover that. Your an alcoholic so just shut up and go to meetings.
Well, I can admit I’ve suffered from chronic low self esteem and periods of depression leading to self medicating through alcohol, but I can no longer believe I was born with some predestined disease making me crave alcohol.
Some may disagree but I firmly believe if I do the things I need to do to maintain a healthy level of self esteem, I don’t have to worry about addiction any more than the next average Joe.
I haven’t drank or tested the waters so to speak for two main reasons. One is I just really haven’t had the urge or need to drink. I run and workout and feel better than I have in years and in that I handle and deal with day to day stress much better this way than not working out and sitting at home drinking.
The other reason is the situation just hasn’t presented itself in a while where someone has offered me a drink. When that happens I will accept it with my new found knowledge and understanding that this is a drug and a depressant and overuse is just a not all around healthy idea both physically or mentally!
I wrote this here because this is nothing I could say in AA without getting completely obliterated. If some of you have had similar experiences, or just think I’m fooling myself feel free to comment.
I just don’t think every human on earth fits in this nice neat box or category. I think humans are much more complex and through different experiences and environments we may share similarities but are still very different.
I’m starting to believe how we treat alcoholism is very wrong and that many people may be able declassify themselves as “alcoholics” if they actually concentrated on their real problems and not just the outcome of heavy drinking!September 1, 2016 at 8:21 AM #5494
I liked your story because it was, in some ways, similar to mine. Except I was in “the cult” for almost nine years. I also met my wife in the meetings. She left the meetings first and we divorced when I responded in cult-like ways to her leaving. We have long-since reconciled, but only after we came to a more honest self-assessment of our problems. I honestly had a lower bottom in the program than I ever had before recovery.
Ultimately, of course, your decision to stay in aa or leave aa is entirely yours, something you know intuitively about yourself. The trouble is that intuition may be buried beneath, as you say, low self-esteem or years of aa propaganda or, in some cases, a pre-contemplative stage of change. I strongly recommend you work that out with your therapist. If you can.
On that topic, I happen to be a therapist. (Though I am not speaking professionally here.) My curiosity is this: I wonder how your therapist responds to your contemplation of leaving aa. Chances are high you may run into a rather dogmatic outlook, though I think this might be a good acid-test for how rigidly (either pro or con) the therapist’s thinking is. If you can follow up, that would be something I would be interested in hearing about. Myself, I am very closeted about my former 12-step membership, as there are plenty of knot-heads in my profession who would and could use that against me.
Contrary to the talking points in the cult, there are many different kinds and levels of substance abuse. Also, people come and stay in the meetings for a lot of reasons other than to achieve sobriety. Some of the old-timers stay because that is the only place in their lives that they feel important. Some people stay because they like to hear themselves talk. And some people may actually stay for the intended purpose of the meetings. In my opinion, perhaps due to court orders or treatment or lack of other options or a kind of generic spiritual void, the genuine alcoholics with pure motivations are probably the exception.
Just a few thoughts. Love to hear your therapist’s reaction. And, more importantly for you, your wife’s.
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