I’m feeling fucking sad today. I suppose there’s a few things going on in my life right now but the jolt back into reality this morning as we ‘checked in’ at group, really rocked my world.
I started a ‘relapse support program’ 3 weeks ago — both as a client and also as a student with a view to become a peer facilitator of the program. I thought I’d cruise through it but I must admit, I’m finding it somewhat confronting — each day being a gentle reminder of where I’ve come from and how easily I could go right back there. But today was far from gentle. Today, two members of our group admitted to busting over the weekend, or ‘lapsing‘ as they call it. One of them didn’t shock me as he’d busted before but the other one, well, it blew my mind. This guy had it all going on, had his shit together, his mojo working, his map to recovery was planned out, organised, passionate. He was smashing all the goals he’d been asked to set at the start of the 8 week program — nothing was going to stop him. Until it did.
He said he’d already decided his fate in the days leading up to the bust. Drug and drink dreams and fantasies, that fucked up little voice that sits on the shoulder of an addict and tells that how wonderful ‘just one’ would be. The ‘stinking thinking’ as they call it in the rooms, the influx of insanity
that tells you ‘it will be different this time — despite decades of evidence that shows you that it won’t. He was at the supermarket, doing some grocery shopping, with that demon on his shoulder, jabbering on, up and down the aisles. The mental wrestling match getting more and more vicious as he collected groceries. The bright lights of the bottle shop seeming ever so appealing as the bottles twinkled like stars, only metres from the toilet paper aisle. Before he knew it, he’d gone through the checkout, two bottles of Coke amongst the groceries. ‘There was only one reason I was buying that Coke’, he recalled. A quick swing to the right of the checkout and there he was, surrounded by the twinkling bottles of seduction. The bottles that will carry the world away, if only for a handful of hours, and will land you back in the middle of a hellish combination of regret, shame and despair. Why would you go there, I hear you (the non-addict) ask? Because for us, the feeling of crawling skin, aching teeth and bones and a desire that, at times, feels more powerful than the universe itself, is just too great to conquer.
So what was the big deal with this member’s bust? Why did I drive home with tears pouring down my face? Why do I care? I barely know this person really but deep, deep down, we are one and the same. He is no different to me. Although he came from a vastly different background to me, had seemingly more struggles than me, has moved dozens of times more than me and is 10 years older than me, we are the same. We are addicts, we are alcoholics and no matter how much sober or clean time we have under our belts, we can never, EVER, let our guard down. So what made me so sad? The reality that no matter how well I may be doing, how organised my life may be, how many goals I appear to be smashing or how many fucking super powers I think I have on board, it’s only a short walk from the checkout to the bright lights of the liquor department.
After the initial discussion about this bust, our facilitator asked ‘is there somewhere else you can do your shopping?’. The answer is no. And what the fuck is the story with that?Last week I went to the pub for dinner with the kids and my Exhole. As we walked in, we were confronted by a darkened room, hidden by frosted glass and big warning signs plastered all over the doors. ‘No children allowed’ and ‘gamble responsibly‘ were two of them. I could see the twinkling lights of the poker machines behind the glass doors but only when someone walked in or out. It certainly wasn’t inviting, it wasn’t easily accessible and if I’d wanted to go in there, I would have had to leave the kids with their dad, or if it had just been me, they wouldn’t have been able to be with me at all. As we waited to be seated at our table, I looked across the multiple bars at all the alcohol. Alcohol on tap, alcohol on shelves, alcohol signage and advertising, special prices on alcohol, free alcohol with certain meals purchased and extra large glasses to hold far more than your standard drink. My children were by my side, also waiting to be seated at our table, experiencing the exact same thing I was. Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. So now I ponder the question, why is the gambling section so off limits or taboo yet alcohol, which kills over 155 THOUSAND PEOPLE each year in this country, so openly available, if not glorified? Why is it okay for my kids and I to be confronted by this drug, en masse, yet the poker machines are hidden away as if they were toxic waste?
So, back to the facilitator’s question, no, there is nowhere he could shop so as to avoid the temptation of this insidious drug. He, nor I, can’t even walk into some supermarkets without having to walk by walls of wine bottles, used as the store’s ‘eye catching’ entrance feature. We can’t go to a cafe for a coffee without the option of buying alcohol and even hairdressing salons now hold liquor licences! Only last week I tried out a new cafe in town and noticed they had a huge notice of ‘apology’ on their window because their liquor license was yet to be approved. And the sad part is, people are generally pissed off if alcohol isn’t available to them at restaurants, cafes, sporting events, weddings, parties, funerals, kindergarten picnics, Cub camps and I’m sure the list goes on. I understand that for MOST people, drinking isn’t a problem, and that’s fantastic. But for some, it can destroy everything they hold close and leave them with the following options:
PRISON, PSYCHIATRIC WARD, CEMETERY.
And no, I’m not exaggerating. These three places are where most alcoholics and addicts will eventually end up, if they can’t get clean. These three places are why today’s story of a weekend bust by a fellow addict, cut me to my core. These three places are not so far away, should I happen to walk into that bright and inviting bottle shop one day after doing my grocery shopping. Frightening? You bet it is. Possible? Incredibly. Cured? No, we are never cured. This battle is forever, one day at a time and our society’s unwillingness to recognise the seriousness of this indiscriminate drug, only makes it that much harder for us to fight.
A moment’s silence for all those addicts who are suffering as I write this. May your tomorrow come and bring with it renewed hope for recovery.
Serenity. Courage. Wisdom.