Arguments as to just what addiction is keep popping up. No one seems able to agree. Today marks 18 months and 1 day since the last time I used any mind or mood altering substance. And I have my own, personal and working-for-me, definition of just what addiction is.
Addiction is the condition of wanting to stop, needing to stop, and being unable to stop. That’s where I was. I wanted to quit — and I couldn’t. I may have been a long, long way from the stereotype of drug addict but I decided I was done and then I kept doing it. It was enough for me to feel utterly wretched and lost and powerless.
I haven’t blogged much about this adventure in sobriety the last several months. The novelty and wonder have worn off. Life has settled down into a new ordinary. Yet I am still awed and grateful to see 548 days of miracles in my life. Each of those days is a small miracle for me. Each of those days is one day for which I had a choice to use or not to use. I didn’t have a choice when I quit. I used even when I chose not to use, even when I didn’t want to. A miracle doesn’t have to be flashy and supernatural. It can be very small and nothing more than a bending of the natural in favor of the impossible.
I’ve learned to be grateful for the absolute powerlessness and resulting child-like awe and utter submission I’ve come to in this walk. It isn’t easy and I am forgetful. There are days I can’t remember what humility is even when smacked in the face with it. But then I look around at people who haven’t been forced to learn this lesson and see how miserable they are. And I know they are me. That was me. And I am so thankful I got this lovely opportunity to run smack into utter powerlessness and to experience complete dependence on a power greater than myself.
How did I string together 548 days clean? Easy. I just didn’t use. Even when I wanted to. Even when it was right in front of my face. Hard. I had to admit complete powerlessness to be granted that choice not to use.
Most of my career with drugs and alcohol was well within the normal and social range. I did plenty of experimentation at one point. There were different waves over the years, times I used quite a bit and times not at all. After my son was born I tried to get high and nothing happened so I didn’t bother for a long time. By some strange miracle I chose to take a break from it three weeks before missing my period and discovering my second pregnancy. And in those days I could just put it down and walk away from it. Like a “normal” person.
Even through my emotionally abusive first marriage I still had a choice not to use when I didn’t want to. It wasn’t until my second marriage dragged on in an emotional vacuum that I began to feel increasingly like I didn’t want it anymore. But I kept doing it. Dope became my refuge from a man who thought playing devil’s advocate against anything I cared about was showing concern. It became a place to forget, for a few minutes, that I did all of the emotional labor in the relationship. I could have turned and faced the problems life presented me head on but I chose to take the “easy” route and look for an escape, for a moment of numb.
Moments of numb, the use of drugs (including the liquid dope available from the local liquor store) are so culturally accepted and acceptable it didn’t seem like a red-flag. Everywhere around me I saw people totally supportive of this method of (not) coping. Tough day? Have a glass of wine. Tension in your tummy? Use a bit of marijuana. Even the medical community prefers to drug women rather than helping build a healthier world for us. We’re prescribed Valium, Xanax, Prosac, Depakote, sometimes two or three all at once. “Mommy’s Helper” jokes are considered funny. It is easier to be numb and dumb with dope than to face the brutality of violence and inequality.
These days I can look honestly at these problems rather than running from them. I have a choice. I have the courage to make little changes, the strength to keep putting my little drops in the bucket, the wisdom to know which bucket to put those drops in. No more drops in the bucket of liquor distributor profits. No more drops in the bucket of drug cartels. No more drops in the bucket of keeping silent and tacitly supporting the way it’s always been. No more drops of poison in my body.
Five hundred and forty-eight days is a lot of little drops. Just for today I know which bucket my drop is helping to fill. Today I do have a choice.