In and Out of Alcoholics Anonymous For 25 Years
I have been in and out of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for 25 years.
I’ve gone to AA meetings on the East Coast of Canada.
I’ve gone to AA meetings on the West Coast of Canada.
I’ve gone to AA meetings in the Middle East, in the State of Qatar.
This journey, my journey of alcoholism started in 1997.
Recently, with the support and encouragement of my family doctor and the support of a coworker, on October 26th, 2022, I once again returned to the rooms of AA.
I honestly am not happy about this because I like drinking wine.
Just like, I’m sure a diabetic likes eating ice cream.
Or someone who is lactose intolerant likes to eat cheese.
Truth is, I LOVE drinking wine. The flavor, the way it pairs with and enhances the flavor of delicious foods, and how it makes me feel relaxed and at ease…. up until I cross a line and cannot stop.
I do not have an off-button when it comes to wine or any type of alcohol.
And, over the years, the off-button increased… as alcoholism is a progressive disease.
I’ll come to that later in this blog.
My Shame of the Label Alcoholic
I recently started drinking again after two plus years of living an “alcohol free life”. I put alcohol free life in quotations because to be an alcoholic and think I could manage it on my own was/is delusional.
First, I do hate calling myself an alcoholic because of the shame I think it bestows upon me.
Alcoholic feels like a dirty flaw in my existence that I inherited from my biological father. A man who doesn’t seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities about him. A man who once had close to 17 years of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous, then started drinking again. He is now living in a nursing home with alcohol related dementia.
More proof alcoholism is a progressive disease.
As well, alcoholism is on my mother’s side of the family. Something I never really considered until recently. I guess because it was never openly talked about as a problem within the family and how it affected everyone. It was blazingly obvious alcoholism was a problem on my mother’s side of the family as one of her brothers died from it, another brother struggled with alcoholism for years.
Making this additional family connection has somewhat softened my opinion on my being an alcoholic because genetically, I inherited this disease from both my mother and my father.
I now believe alcoholism is a genetic disease that is passed on biologically from parents to more sensitively hardwired children. Not all children of alcoholics become alcoholics.
Just like two siblings born into the same family and one sibling gets BPD and the other does not.
The BPD biosocial theory postulates that of these two siblings, one child is born more sensitive than the other and this sensitivity is not nurtured and needs not met in their environment resulting in the development of BPD.
The words diabetic and alcoholic both end in the suffix “ic”.
According to Merriam – Webster dictionary, the suffix “ic” means:
Definition of -ic (Entry 4 of 4)
: one having the character or nature of : one belonging to or associated with : one exhibiting or affected by : one that produces
That about sums it up. I am affected by alcohol. My body craves more, meaning the pleasure centers in my brain (according to my therapist) will never have enough.
According to AA, I have an allergic reaction to alcohol.
I have much more to learn about how alcohol affects the alcoholic as I start to read the AA Big Book, go to AA Big Book study groups, as well as listen to members within the rooms who truly know the AA way. There is a very specific AA language that is spoken within the AA rooms with those who work the 12-Step program.
In all my years in and out of AA, I only ever once worked the 12-Step program.
That was back in 1997, when I first entered the AA rooms. I had a sponsor and started working the 12-Steps. I attained five years of sobriety back then. However, my mental health at that time was misdiagnosed and that story is the very backbone of where I am today.
Similarities Between the AA Way and Dialectical Behavior Therapy
I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD).
I was finally properly diagnosed in 2021.
Since that time I have been, and still continue to work diligently on managing these diagnoses.
I have an entire blog series called Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.
In this series I touch base on my struggles with anxiety and alcohol addiction. The rest of the series is about my diagnoses.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy made by and for those with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a program made by and for those with Alcoholism.
DBT is built upon the foundation of mindfulness and meditation.
AA’s 12-Steps are built on the practice of prayer and meditation.
DBT has the term radical acceptance.
AA 12-Steps has the term surrender.
There are many more examples. I just wanted to touch on this today.
Here is a list of the blogs I’ve written about my alcohol addiction that is in the intro of each blog of Owning and Unraveling Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder:
- Mystic Order – Reiki Level IIIA – 21 Day Cleanse – A Miracle Has Happened
- Spiritual Discipline – My Alcohol Addiction – My Story Now
- Personal Development – Cutting the Ties That Bind – Saying Goodbye to Alcohol
- Is Too Much a Choice or Addiction?
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman’s Journey With Drinking and Hedonism While Walking the Spiritual Path
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman’s Slow Transformation Towards Her Best Self
- OYNB – One Year No Beer – This Wild Woman’s Successful Journey of the 28 Day Challenge and Beyond!
- Personal Development – A Wild Woman Walking the Spiritual Path – A Wild Woman Redefined? Absolutely!
- Personal Development – Living Alcohol Free – Musings During Day 78
- Just For Today – I Will Do My Work Honestly
- Just For Today – I Will Do My Work Honestly
- Personal Development – Living An Alcohol Free Life – Year One
- Alcoholics Anonymous – The Journey Began in 1997 – 2022, I’m Back – Again
- Accepting I Am An Alcoholic With The Help of Joe and Charlie
Spirituality Not Religion
Along with the emotional support of the AA fellowship, what I also welcome is the spiritual nature of the AA 12-Step program.
DBT does dip in a wee bit to spirituality – more-so in finding places like going into nature that brings peace. Perhaps DBT does have a more spiritual side, but at this time I haven’t really experienced it.
AA was formed in 1935. The first AA Big Book was published in 1939. There is for sure a heavy Catholic undertone that fits with the time because God is part of the AA program.
I can probably say (now that I am back in the rooms, again) that God means a Higher Power.
A Higher Power is something outside of yourself and your ego.
God can mean Good Orderly Direction.
A Higher Power can be nature or an AA group itself.
Bear with me as I try to explain this.
I have mental health diagnoses and DBT is the main therapy I practice to navigate it.
In the world of DBT, if I understand this correctly, a target behavior is a behavior that one turns to instead of using Distress Tolerance skills taught within the DBT program.
A target behavior example in DBT is drinking, drugs or cutting.
I recently turned to drinking to make me feel better instead of the Distress Tolerance skills taught in DBT.
Because I wanted to blow off steam, have fun and let my hair down, I wanted alcohol to take me away…
Thing is, is that I do not have an off button with alcohol.
If I turned to shopping, that can be an addiction for some and is something I do enjoy when I buy new clothes or boots or shoes or purses, I do feel better. I do have an off button for that. My husband might disagree but in comparison of how my drinking gets a hold of me, he might agree I do have an off button for shopping.
Drugs – I was once on medical CBD and THC and came off of that for many reason. I get paranoid when I smoke weed and in my youth I tried an assortment of harder drugs that, thankfully I never acquired a taste for.
Cutting – I never did that.
Other examples of possible target behaviors:
Gambling – no way – I just do not understand how people would freely give their money away (that’s how gambling feels to me).
Food – I never did have an eating disorder or had an addiction to food.
And so on…. all those things people can get addicted to to take them outside of themselves, their uncomfortable feelings and/or make them feel good if only in the moment .
It seems that alcohol is what has its grip into me.
Maybe someone else with BPD who has used alcohol as a target behavior can recognize what they are doing and stop drinking without any help at all and easily replace drinking with a Distress Tolerance skill.
I could not. Drinking grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
This is why I know I have the disease of alcoholism.
I cannot have just one drink.
Slowly yet quickly the desire for more alcohol grew in me that took me to where I was when I stopped drinking two years before, then I quickly surpassed that.
So, what I am trying to say here is that once I had my mental health in order and had an understanding of target behaviors, I could see/can see that I truly have a problem with alcohol because the target behavior of drinking was just as unmanageable as BPD and HPD without therapy and DBT.
I see my BPD and HPD mental health journey in a bubble with Dialectical Behavior Therapy as the helpful tool in navigating my mental health diagnoses.
I see my alcohol addiction journey in a bubble with Alcoholics Anonymous as the helpful tool in navigating my alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a Progressive Disease
I can from my own experience tell you that, as the old story in AA goes, when you stop drinking and start drinking again – you pick up where you left off and it gets worse.
This last time I started drinking, I can tell you my husband noticed how much more alcohol had its grips into me. More-so than any other time in our seven years together.
Alcoholism truly is a progressive disease.
On page 58 of the AA Big Book, it states:
Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful!
It sure is.
Fresh Start, Working the AA Program and Balance
I have an AA sponsor now.
I have AA phone numbers – women in the program I reach out to.
I read the AA Daily Reflections.
Since October 26th, I’ve gone to 11 meetings in 10 days.
I didn’t get to meetings this past weekend or today because I’m down and out with a miserable cold.
I spoke with my family doctor this morning who is closely monitoring my drinking as I am on Effexor for anxiety and drinking effects that medication and drinking also affects my mental health diagnoses. I told her my plan was 90 meetings in 90 days – but I pushed myself too hard, got run down trying to do it all and ended up with this cold.
My doctor told me 90 meetings in 90 days is unreasonable because I work full time.
She suggested and I gratefully agreed that five meetings a week is a reasonable start.
I am still very much at Step 1 in the program – 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
I do not like this and struggle to surrender to this.
Because I liked drinking wine and for a variety of other reasons.
Thankfully, I am back in AA.
I’m enjoying the AA fellowship, the camaraderie, and the spiritual nature of the 12-Steps.
So…. for me it is….
One day at a time.
One moment at a time.
Let go and Let God (the non-religious one)
And the Serenity Prayer….
Photo credit: wallpapertag.com
Feature Image Photo Explained
I chose this picture because it looks like I am holding a heavy boulder over my head.
This truly is a great metaphor for what the weight of addiction can feel like.
I guess that is why I have to surrender….. so I can put the boulder on the ground and be free of its weight.