I’ve had the phrase “cunning, baffling, powerful” stuck in my head for awhile now. This, of course, is drilled into us like a reverse war cry. We hear it every time we go to a meeting unless we slip in late and after all the boilerplate is read.
Something about calling alcoholism cunning, baffling, powerful used to embarrass me. Maybe because it sounded melodramatic or attributed human qualities to an inanimate object, though that is something I’m normally fine with.
Now that a little time has passed, I see the description is too accurate to be melodrama.
Lately I’ve taken to pinpointing the exact moment my drinking got off rail. I can name the exact date I took a beer out of the fridge midday because something happened that I didn’t have a clue how to deal with. I also started smoking again, thinking “fuck it, I need this right now”. I can remember the first occasion, about a year and half later, that I poured an orange juice and vodka midday to calm my anxiety much like someone suffering a panic attack pops a Xanax.
These memories, though accurate, are cunning in that they imply my drinking was on track to begin with. It was not. I’d already been drinking for roughly twenty years and had progressed to a daily drinker with impressive tolerance. Why I would even want to pinpoint the moment my problem drinking got out of control is baffling. The fact that I still entertain these thoughts is even more baffling.
I accept these thoughts, though, and know this is the alcoholic in me talking. I know this from reading the big book, listening at meetings, and talking to other alcoholics for the last six months. This desire to self-destruct is powerful, if not unique. I’m certain that if I hadn’t found my way to recovery meetings in the beginning, I’d be drinking again today. I need constant reminders that I’m not unique and alcoholics who go back out get worse, never better.
I know I can’t drink safely anymore, but that’s only because I tried moderation several times towards the end and failed miserably each time. It happened gradually and quite naturally because when I drank normal amounts, it was about as fun as drinking non-alcoholic beer, which I also tried. Why drink if not to get drunk? This absence of denial is a gift I am extremely grateful to have.
Now that I’ve gotten over the six month hump I struggled with a couple weeks ago, I feel refreshed and ready to clean house. I’m excited to strip down and name my flaws (pride, procrastination, perfectionism — to start) because I believe I can change and that things will get better. At the very beginning, all those steps looked so overwhelming. How do I do them? What do they even mean? I don’t feel that anymore because time and the program gave me the courage to push through an emotionally hard time and my reward was a sense of peace and hope. Every feeling is transient. This is another phrase I get stuck in my head, but it’s much more comforting when I’m struggling.
I feel very lucky that I breezed through the first 6 months of sobriety. That was yet another gift, though I’ve always been slow to question things and experience the dissatisfaction that others seem to recognize right away. I’d call this a flaw too, but being clueless offsets impatience and impulsiveness and so turns into one of my best assets.