You cannot begin the work of releasing an addiction until you can acknowledge that you are addicted. Until you realize that you have an addiction, it is not possible to diminish its power. The personality rationalizes its addictions. It dresses them in attractive clothing. It presents them to itself and others as desirable or beneficial. A person who is addicted to alcohol will say to herself or himself, or to others, that drunkenness is a way of loosening up, of relaxing after a tense day, of having fun, and, therefore it is constructive.
Acknowledging an addiction, accepting that you have an addiction, is acknowledgment that a part of you is out of control. Once an addiction has been acknowledged, it cannot be ignored, and it cannot be released without changing your life, without changing your self-image, without changing your entire perceptual and conceptual framework. We do not want to do that because it is in our nature to resist change. Therefore, we resist acknowledging our addictions. [extracted from the “Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav]
My name is Sumi. I am an alcoholic. Ten years ago I never thought I’d ever feel comfortable saying that. In fact, I couldn’t say the alcoholic part for a good while, for I could not acknowledge it. I knew I had a drinking problem, but I did not believe I was an alcoholic. Alcoholics are those homeless people on street corners, holding a cheap bottle of wine, not someone with a job and a family, living in the suburbs.
Yet I’d tried everything to stay sober on my own and I could not. I read books on the topic, white-knuckled the weekends trying to curb my drinking but I always found myself drunk, hating myself for being so weak. You see I was the good wife, good mother, good worker during the week. But once the weekend arrived it was my time. And binge drinking was my forte. I had perfected the art of drinking over the years when my children were growing up. I was obsessed with drinking. I waited for the weekend and planned my life around partying and drinking.
I hit my rock bottom in 2009. My children were teenagers at the time. They questioned me about the things I did and said. My drinking had taken me to the point of black-outs where I could only remember snippets of the night before. Hangovers were my norm. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time. I hated myself for what I’d become. I wondered what would happen to me if I did not stop. You see I wanted to stop, but I did not know-how. I remember saying to my husband during a drinking binge that I would stop drinking when I turned 35. He replied, “Why not stop drinking tomorrow? Why wait so long?” I could not answer him then. But the seed had been planted. My words were echoed to the universe and I stopped drinking on 11 January 2010, the year I turned 35!
It was not easy to quit drinking. In fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life thus far. Every day was touch and go for me. It was pure torture knowing that my vice, alcohol could not comfort me. The one thing I adored so much, that had given me so much pleasure, was killing me slowly. Not in the physical sense, but in an emotional way, stealing my life, my dreams, my confidence. I also knew I could not do it alone. I needed to be accountable to something, to someone otherwise I would not make it.
I attended my first AA meeting on 11 January 2010. I’d researched the organization, the 12-step program, read the success stories from all around the world. If so many people could stay sober by going to a meeting, I could give it a try. It took all the strength I could muster to enter that meeting. A small group of people welcomed me. Mike, a dear soul was one of the first people I met. He explained how the meeting worked and said I did not have to speak if I didn’t want to. The group sat in a circle, each person had a chance to speak, to say what was on their mind. I was not listening to any of them, my hands were clammy, my mouth was dry and all I wanted to do was bolt out of the place. Then it came to my turn to say something and I stared at everyone like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. From somewhere within me came a small voice, “Hi, I’m Sumi. I have a desire to stop drinking.” The group said I was in the right place and continued with their meeting. After the meeting, we all held hands to close the meeting. They chanted, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, so work it you’re worth it.”
What a joke, I thought, telling myself I had no intention of going back to that meeting. I went home and went straight to bed. I did not drink that night. I never took a drink since. Something changed in me, at that meeting when I returned home. I could not figure what it was, but the next Saturday evening, I returned to that meeting. And I haven’t stopped attending meetings since.
My journey into sobriety was paved in emotion. I could no longer hide behind alcohol. I had to face myself, my demons, my past square on. After a few weeks of attending meetings, I was able to acknowledge and accept I was an alcoholic. A huge mountain of shame arose from my shoulders. I was not a bad person. I had made many wrong choices in my past, but it didn’t have to dictate my future.
I found the God of my understanding in the rooms of AA. When times got tough, when the withdrawals were too much to bear, I prayed and prayed for it to go away. One day at a time I was staying sober. I found a sponsor, someone I admired and respected to guide me through the program. She was hard on me, she wanted to know if I was serious about staying sober. I said I was and that meant working the program whole-heartedly. That meant admitting my wrongs and making amends to those I’d harmed during my drinking days.
Six months passed and I was still sober. I had a new lease on life. I had so much energy, I woke up early over the weekends with a pep in my step. I did not miss my old friend Hangover anymore. I wanted to exercise, to put that energy to use. I joined the gym and trained myself to run on a treadmill. I never liked to exercise before, it was not in my DNA and it was something I had to work hard at. I eventually joined a running club and so began my love of running.
Soon I celebrated my first AA birthday. It was the happiest day of my life. To be surrounded by my family, my new AA friends, my sponsor, I’d become a new person. The person I was always meant to be before alcohol stole my joy. The greatest gift I received was when the desire to drink left me. It took a long time to get there, but it was pure bliss when it arrived. No longer did I feel intimidated to go to social functions, restaurants or even watch someone have a drink. I had the courage to admit I had an addiction problem, I had bared my weakness and I had overcome.
I rarely divulge my sobriety status to those I meet. I’ve always felt it was and still is a personal part of my life and one I treasure deeply. But I am aware of how many people are affected by the disease of alcoholism and perhaps my story might assist them in some way. Many friends speak to me about family members who drink too much and ask how they can help them to become sober. Sadly, there isn’t much that anyone can do for them. Until they get to the point of wanting to help themselves, of acknowledging they have an addiction, they cannot begin to change. When people become uncomfortable, when their vices are taken away, when they see their true selves without the excuses, when they bare their souls, only then can growth and transformation occur.
The past ten years have been the most life-changing for me. My children have remarked that they cannot remember my drunken days any longer. It warms my heart knowing I’ve done something right for a decade. My husband now has a partner he can depend on. I’ve built beautiful friendships with my sponsor, with fellow AA members, running and writing friends. Everything I do now has so much more meaning, holds so much more promise knowing where I came from and how much I have to be grateful for.
By the grace of God, I have stayed sober. Today I celebrate 10 years of sobriety. It’s a milestone I treasure with all my heart.