The reason I was finally able to get help for my SUD.
My substance use was never a problem. I told myself. It was the dentist, wasn’t it? It’s his fault. It was my childhood trauma, wasn’t it? It was my annoying neighbor, my annoying partner, and my annoying boss. It was never me. I was fine. If everyone would just leave me alone, I could get on with it. That was the key, you see. Leave me alone, I’ve got this. My liquor wants me all to itself, and anyway, if I drank the way I want to drink when I’m at dinner with you and your stupid friends, you’d think I was an alcoholic, which I’m not. I’m not a drug addict; I just need a little something to help me deal with YOU. I’ve got this. Look away. You don’t care anyhow. I stopped eating. I stopped smiling. So it went for seventeen years. 2000 to 2017. 30 to 47. Pills, vodka, coke, repeat.
Help was available, I knew about it, and I saw it in action. I even had friends who had found recovery, and knew what I was going through. They reached out, dropped off pamphlets, and drove me to medical detoxes. Nothing got through to me, not the cops, nurses, or social workers. Until, it did.
During my tenth and final medical detox, during which I was told further drinking would permanently damage my pancreas and liver and “all that jazz,” I was 12th Stepped by some random dude. A complete stranger. He sat down, laughed, turned the TV on, and invited some other random person into my hospital room. TWO OF THEM. I was in no condition to protest. I had nowhere to go. Small talk commenced. “What do you like?”, “When did you roll in?”, “How ya’ feelin’?”, “Are you over this yet?” There was no sales pitch, no big proselytizing. None of the “Are you aware of what you’re doing to yourself” lecture series chit-chat. It was just jokes. Making fun of the nurses. Smiling. They told me their stories, both were cross-addicted alcoholics in recovery. Not recovered, not ex-alcoholics, no, they spoke as if they still struggled but that they had found a way out, or up, or over, or whatever. A fellowship they called it, which to my ears was a red flag, but I listened. They described the meetings, the outpatient groups, and the parties. Parties? “There are people out here just like us who are still just as weird and stupid and dark and funny and lame as us, and they’re ok, they’re not drinking.” They had found a way to keep living that allowed them to still be THEMSELVES. Not a gang of platitude-spouting robots with grins and coffee cups and that infamous BOOK.
It’s not like that’s all it took, but darn if it wasn’t the first domino tilting to the right. Knowing that I could face my first AA meeting or, yipes, even residential treatment with the assurance that I am not alone, made all the difference in the world. Because I had indeed assumed that no one felt like me, anywhere, how could they? Man, was I wrong. I left that hospital on shaky legs a week later. Worried, nervous, itching and held up on either side by guys I’d just met a week ago while peeing the bed and pushing at loose teeth. I wasn’t going straight home, “you’ll f***ing drink” one said, smiling again. I went straight to another detox and then on to the “farm life” they called it. I rolled my eyes. This’ll never work I said. Until it did.