I remember when I was near the end of my drinking and using how I could not imagine being able to go through a day without the ingestion of whatever it was at the time that I thought allowed me to safely venture out into the world and not be riddled with anxiety and fear of just the basic interactions with other human beings. It was obviously a physical craving as the effect those substances were having on my perception were a living breathing part of how I was able to function - though we know now looking back at the facts, over a period, drug doses need to be continuously added to achieve the effect of what was initially likely a small dose of said substance. But when I think about the psychological hold this daily ingestion had on me, I realize that was what really had me for a loop. My mind had been conditioned over time to truly feel as though as a diabetic needs insulin to survive, I would die or go insane if I did not have that mother’s helper available with plenty of inventory in the back room in case of a force major. The psychological grip felt like an insurmountable obstacle. The only way to stop the cravings is to stop the behavior.
Being an alcoholic or addict, there is something known as the “phenomena of craving” which is the conundrum of every person with this affliction. This phenomenon shows up at the beginning of our first ingestion of the substance - which no matter how terrible it tastes - the wanting more seems automatic as it seems to soften our anxiety and we feel a bit braver in social situations. For many of us, once we get that feeling of relaxation coupled with the effect on our ability to talk to people and even “dance” - we find ourselves having shaken the hand of the devil without even noticing it.
There is also the psychological effect which grows more intense as the using becomes the norm. If it’s a daily affair like it was with me, I think about it constantly, at work, at home, in the shower. The hooks are in me like piercings that cannot be taken out - and away we go on that hamster wheel we call our life. Drugs are a part of my story too, and for what it’s worth, I was even more addicted to the uppers than the alcohol, though it was the combination of both that I was certain I could not function without.
Herb K. who is a long time AA member who takes people through the Big Book of AA in a yearlong zoom study each Tuesday, says that there is something in our DNA which others do not have. If we don’t take the first drink, we are fine. But when we do take the drink, our bodies respond physiologically to a need for more. And once we start, we cannot stop. And if we stop, we cannot stay stopped. Therefore, the first order of intervention for the addict/alcoholic is abstinence and ideally, AA meetings daily, sometimes more than once a day, for us to be with those AA’s who not only know exactly how we feel, but genuinely want to help you beat the habit.
Another point Herb K. emphasizes in his workshop is that our drinking/using is but a symptom of our dilemma. Our real problem once we get clean will reveal itself as our “thinking problem”. Without our elixir, we soon find out what we were trying to mask - and lucky for us, Alcoholics Anonymous was there to encourage us and inspire us that the end of drinking and using drugs will be the beginning of our new life, our real selves. The 12 steps are there to guide us through the wreckage of our past, help us sort out what happened and where we are today. There is self-discovery beyond the self-loathing. And the proof is in the rooms of AA. All you must do is look around the room at those who have been sober awhile. We are not a glum lot! Out of the darkness and into the light we go. One day at a time.