In AA meetings I have heard people share the thought that drinking saved their life. Another goes along the lines of drink was my medicine. This post is about these two things as I have some doubts that this is true – however I might change my mind by the end.
Like many, perhaps most, I started drinking as a 15 year old teenager. This is a time that is challenging for most people, I think drinking and using it to over come fear and fit in took away some of those challenges. In a way these challenges are voluntary, whereas dealing with the fallout from drinking behaviour can’t be avoided.
I had to deal with the effects of my drinking fairly early on. Getting into trouble while drinking, fighting, being noisy, there were lots of crap decisions made by me.
Drinking alcohol enabled me to escape. It was a form of running away from situations that I felt unable to cope with.
An Inability to Tolerate
I look back to those years and see a thread that is still in my life today; that is an inability to tolerate. I could not tolerate frustration, rejection, loneliness, the feeling of being different, and fear. Fear above all I found impossible to live with.
Drinking changed how I felt and made all of the above better and easier to deal with. I could talk, rejection scared me less, loneliness disappeared, and even though we are all different the feeling of being different did not matter anymore.
Getting Sober and Learning to Tolerate
You can watch young children at 2, 3 or 4 and see some that can accept situations. Then you can see others that scream and cry because they don’t get what they want.
The ones that scream and cry remind me of myself when I stopped drinking. The skills required to tolerate life situations had never been learned by me. I had one way of dealing with situations when I felt like things were out of control – I got angry.
I remember quite clearly a situation after being sober for a year or so and someone had hurt me – emotional. I thought at that time I can hold this, I don’t have to go running to someone immediately and complain. This was new for me. I often still viewed myself as the victim, but I could begin to sit with pain.
Twelve years sober in AA and I am still learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. It maybe that some of these feelings will never go away – my need to fit in may never be completely met – but I can live with them and practice not thinking about myself all the time.
So Did Alcohol Save My Life?
Perhaps. However it also appears to have been responsible in enabling my developmental issues. During the difficult teenage years I stopped learning normal average teenage life lessons – tough as they are I put them off for 25 years. One of the problems, I believe, with this is that learning to tolerate so many things is a bit more difficult when older.
As an aside: one of the things that passes through my head while writing this is forgiveness. I would like others to forgive me, mainly for the mistakes I make today. At the same time I wonder how forgiving I am towards others and myself.
Life is messy, perfection does not exist.