Twenty-Three Years Without Alcohol and Drugs
Cross-posted from the Francis L. Holland Blog.
Since alcohol and drugs are currently destroying so many individuals and families, I figure it's worth mentioning that this season marks twenty-three years for me without the use of alcohol or non-prescription drugs. The reason is simple: I've seen literally dozens of people in my own family destroyed by using alcohol and or drugs, but I've never heard a single person anywhere say,
'If I hadn't turned to alcohol and drugs I could never have been as successful as I am today.'
Here in Brazil I've heard a lot of tourists' sad stories of victimization, lost passports, money and credit cards, and the stories usually start with the preface, “I had just had a few beers when . . . “
My father drank a quart of vodka per day throughout most of my childhood. I don't need to tell a whole lot of horror stories, because anyone who has been through this has countless horror stories of their own to tell. Meanwhile, anyone who hasn't been through this need only read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to discover thousands of reasons why drinking is not a good idea today or tomorrow.
For me, it came down to this. In 1986, just before attending a meeting of Adult Children of Alcoholics, I met a young woman from the program at a bar-restaurant; we ordered some food and red wine; and we began to discuss all of the havoc that alcohol had wreaked in our parents, our families, our homes and then like a plague, in ourselves whether we drank or not. It suddenly occurred to me that it was immensely hypocritical of me to damn my father for all that his drinking had done to me while continuing to drink myself. Did I expect to get something from drinking that my father had not, even after decades of trying?
Then and there, I decided that I would no sooner drink alcohol again than I would drink bleach. It just didn't make any sense and there was no upside.
I had already stopped using street drugs, but two incidents convinced me never to use them or alcohol again:
(1) I heard a guy describe how he had been washing his infant son in the tub, when he suddenly got an uncontrollable urge to go and have a hit on the crack pipe in the livingroom. When he returned to the bathroom, his son had slipped under the water and drowned;
(2) I remember a scene from the movie New Jack City in which Chris Rock's “Pookie” character was in a dark, crack-head filled crack den, literally begging the crack dealer to give him just one more rock. When the crack dealer refused, Chris Rock's “Pookie” got down on his hands and knees and begged to suck the crack dealer's member in exchange for JUST ONE more piece of crack.
I saw that movie with Arlene in 1991, and that movie is the only movie after seeing which I have had nightmares. I don't want to be Chris Rock's “Pookie” and certainly Pookie didn't either when he first tried crack. Like most alcohol and drug users, he just got on a turnpike that didn't have any easy off-ramp.
Now, there's a certain logic to this. Some people can use alcohol and drugs and never become addicts, while others are as good as addicted after their first drink or hit, with others taking a little bit longer to become utterly powerless over their addictions. Unfortunately, there is no way for any individual to know which of these alternatives will occur as a result of drinking and/or drugging.
Likewise, if fifty people walk across the Cross-Bronx Expressway with their eyes closed, some of them will live and some of them will die, while others will only be maimed for life. None will know which group they fall into until they give it a try.
Wanna give it a try? Trying is the only way you'll know what group you fit into! Trying repeatedly will increase your risk of finding yourself in the maimed, dead hamburger cohort.
Some people want to try anyway. That, in itself is a sign of insanity, particularly if they come from a family with drug addiction and alcoholism or other dependencies, because these dependencies have been found to run in families.
I would be lying if I said that I had been “clean and sober” for 23 years, since I've spent most of those years struggling with sex and love and vagina-chasing addiction, and a couple of years chasing pornography online. It's a lot harder to define “sobriety” when your “drug of choice” is searching for “love” and “understanding” and “connectedness” (or food, for that matter). Let's just observe that I've been married twice, divorced once, and had sex with some twenty-six women since I decided to stop drinking alcohol and refrain from non-prescription drugs.
I haven't been “clean and sober.” I've just refrained from the identifiable “drugs of choice” that were most problematic in my family of origin.
If you find yourself counting the number of men and women with whom you've had sex, you might want to have that conversation with a psychiatrist who specializes in (or at least understands) sex and love addiction.
There are even Twelve Step programs and inpatient treatment centers for sex and love addiction. (A psychiatrist is better than a psychologist for this kind of treatment because a psychiatrist can prescribe psychoactive medication, like anti-depressants, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs), anti-seizure drugs (for bipolar disorder), etc.
Based on personal experience and the accounts of hundreds of others, I am certain that such medications can be helpful or absolutely necessary in the process of successfully abstaining from addictions and maintaining that abstinence.)
This may be the first time I've written about this at my blog and it may well be the last. I'm not trying to convince anyone. Those who don't believe me might live perfectly happy lives in spite of drinking and/or drugging, or they may find themselves at a meeting of “I've lost everything,” wondering how the hell they got to that place and how they hell they are going to get back out.
“God” didn't really give us each “free will,” because he gave us nature (genetics) and nurture and (environment). I believe that genetics give some people like me a higher likelihood of becoming addicted to substances or processes (like c**t-hunting), and then the environment we grow up in determines, at least to some degree, the choices that are set out before us as examples to follow or reject.
We are very fortunate indeed if we have alcoholic, bi-polar, drug-addicted parents and other relatives and still we don't end up in at least one of those predicaments ourselves.
At some point, we do make choices, though, even if the deck is stacked against us. If we choose to walk into the forest, then only we will be able to choose to walk back out, unless we freeze to death first.
We don't have total control over our destinies, but only we can take responsibility for making our destinies what they can be, in spite of others' intentional and unintentional efforts' to flush us down the toilet.
Ultimately, we all do as we choose and then live (and maybe die) with the consequences, whether we like it or not.