It’s weird, all the literature about addiction and recovery. Alcoholism is psychological, they say. No, physiological. No, biological. Alcoholism is genetic. No, it isn’t. Yes, it is. Well, that’s partly true but it’s all very misunderstood and the doctors fight with the psychiatrists and the researchers don’t believe the evidence and some people have this kind of personality, or that character trait, or kink, or bend, or curve. Or whatever.
I was trying so hard to understand. I really was. But even after reading mountains of books and doing hours and hours of online research and taking in the AA stuff, it feels very much like it felt at the beginning. Nobody knows but they all think they do. Some believe in God and some are offended by God (I’m leaning toward the latter if I’m being honest). I think I liked things better when I just decided alcohol was definitely somehow strangely and mysteriously killing me and I was done with playing along so I quit.
If I stopped counting days, would it matter? If the days and nights became weeks and months which fell forward into years, who would care about numbers in the end? I think it was Allen Carr who asked the very poignant question: what are recovering alcoholics counting towards? Towards nothing happening?
I get that. I mean if I had an allergy to penicillin I just wouldn’t take penicillin anymore. I wouldn’t sit around counting days between turning down a random drug I know I cannot have. It all gets a bit head-trippy is the thing, I guess.
Now truth be told, I am a person who likes a morning ritual so I almost don’t mind that I have this new AA app on my phone that offers me a daily “spiritual reading.” But the repetition of ‘God’ and then God as ‘He’ is fucking exhausting. And the readings are so aloof and vague and condescending. It feels like a lecture or going to ‘confession’ like I did when I was a kid. It’s all sweaty and freaky and you feel like you are squirming with worms inside because you did something bad but you don’t know exactly what it is. And the longer you bow your head and listen you start to feel like the reason you are there at all is not just because you did bad things but you are bad things. Very, very bad, abnormal, wrong things.
I’m not here for it. Half the reason I fucked around with alcohol in the first place was to escape the bullshit patriarchy of organized religion and all the ways it destroyed my sense of worth as a woman. By ‘organized’ and ‘religion’ I mean simply anything or anyone who refers to God as He. Do not start with that shit it is so glaringly disgusting. You think ingesting alcohol is toxic? Try ingesting hate disguised as redemption. I do not need that mess coming back to me now. Not now, when I am just finally getting free of all the old baggage and trauma that held me hostage all my life.
I realize that if you are not a person who ever became addicted to drinking that all of this may sound pretty bonkers. But I really couldn’t stop unless I made stopping my first priority. My number one focus. The foundational endeavor that would rebuild my entire life.
In a book called Under the Influence, the authors James R. Milam, Ph.D. and Katherine Ketcham talk about how alcoholics process alcohol differently in their bodies than nonalcoholics. That alcoholics do not want to stop drinking once they start, whereas a regular person will not want to keep drinking once the sedative effects of the alcohol start setting in. Nonalcoholics only want the early-on effects, the stimulant, the happy energetic euphoric feeling you get from one or two. After that they feel sick or disoriented or whatever and this turns them off to having any more to drink. The stopping happens all very naturally, so to speak.
There are all kinds of scientific reasons for this cited in the book. And if you believe it that’s fine. And then of course maybe we believe what we want to believe about ourselves, our chemistry, our makeup, our genetics, because then we are not to blame for any of it. And then it can at last be explained and your frustration about what the fuck is wrong with you can be laid to rest. But we do not know what we do not know. And even if you’re like me and you read everything you can get your hands on to try to understand, you still don’t know.
I know I’m not drinking today. Or any day. For the rest of my time here on this planet I am not fucking with alcohol anymore. What I don’t know is if I am supposed to count days. Or continue researching. I don’t know if I am supposed to build my life and sense of purpose around a disease that may or may not be a ‘disease.’ A ‘flaw’ that may or may not be ‘real.’ There are people out there who just stop. They just fucking stop and that’s the end of it. They move on and live and never go back.