Why sustaining whatever you’ve achieved in recovery matters the most

When you are wading through the waters of sobriety, you see certain missteps that you used to make and you wonder whether you were still operating within the margins of sanity 

BY JACOB OKETCH

The most important therapy to an alcoholic is the story they are told of the experiences of an alcoholic by an alcoholic. I am curious about the reason for the potency of this happening, which has successfully managed to contain alcoholism. There is a sense in which a story is a more convincing way to pass a message than any other medium. 

I was not surprised not long ago when a computer geek poured cold water on the supposed watertight PowerPoint presentations that come out as dull and lacking invention. He actually advocated for good story telling skills in such business presentations. 

So much for storytelling, I have decided to give a sneak preview of points of struggle with my alcoholism and where it has landed me. Not a bad place as such.

I had been drinking for close to three decades when I sought help. This is such a long time. The indulgence is not uniform over the years. There were times when I was just an occasional drinker. It graduated to a time when I would drink for several days in a week. And then it reached a point where I was drinking virtually every day. When you hear people talk about chemical dependency, this is what they mean.

But never, in all those years, did I ever think about what drinking was costing me. Of course, that is not what you expect of a drunk. We simply didn’t want to know how much we spent yesterday or whichever day. And nobody is interested in knowing what people spend privately whenever they are having fun. So when this issue dawns on a recovering alcoholic, it is a reality check and believe me, it sinks deep. It may look like a joke taken too far, but come to think of it, if you start computing the amount of money you have used in your drinking career, you will realize the enormity of what we are talking about.

When you compute this expense, you end up with millions in your calculation. Yes, you heard me; millions of shillings which you have nothing to show for. Not that you have to, but you never know, not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. We need this quid. I have always wondered why most people will budget for everything under the sun, except alcohol. It is like the power of alcohol subsumes all our effort at budgeting and its vote is unquestioned. The spending limit is not restricted to any figure.

I am very well aware that if I were saving, I would probably be a millionaire today. I was quite busy buying alcohol to the point that I did not think much of investing. When you are wading through the waters of sobriety, you see certain missteps that you used to make and you wonder whether you were still operating within the margins of sanity. This wasteful spending in an alcoholic that blinds them to their own other needs is unacceptable in ordered life. When you spend so much on alcohol yet the abundance is not reflected in you, then there is a contradiction of sorts.

Insanity invaded my comfortable life, not long after getting hooked to booze. But the most astounding one of all relates to my health. I cannot manage to count the number of times I fell sick as a result of drinking. I had an acute ulcers problem that would be triggered by taking a drink. Many are the times I rationalized how taking this or that drink or avoiding this or that drink will sort me out. I used to undergo intense stomach pains that at times threatened to get out of hand and burst. But that did not deter me. I would just go back and drink and go through the same cycle once again. This set me on a depression course that took me all the way down. I have indeed realized that alcohol is baffling. When I look back at what I used to do, I sometimes think that it was not I at all, doing those things.

Blackouts can be a very terrifying experience to undergo. For a chronic alcoholic, this is something that occurs so frequently that it stops being an issue. I used to be so terrified by the mere fact that I could not recall certain episodes in the course of my drinking. That certain things can escape your recollection is a bad sign. Yet this is something alcoholics treat so casually. The truth, however, is that when you start having blackouts, then know that you are in the red flag zone. When alcohol starts interfering with memory, it has gone too far, not just in your body alone, but in your mind as well. I now feel reassured and would not want to go back to a situation where I would not be in a position to remember certain things. Memory is actually life itself.

I will always cherish certain connections I made while drunken, people I met in bars and so on. But I still hold the view that drinking, and with a certain crowd, gives one a sense of false confidence. I never used to embrace bar deals as a result. I do not like promises that are made under the influence of alcohol. In the big book, we just get equally heartbroken by the number of promises Bill had to make to his wife. I feel ashamed, at times, when I recall some of the things I pontificated about in bars but never came to fruition. There is a sense in which alcohol imbues in alcoholics, a fantastic dream that we wake up and realize that is just that, a fantasy.

As I pursue this course of sobriety, I am aware of the fact that it does not matter how far one has come from with alcoholism. What matters is sustaining whatever we have achieved in recovery. You may have been a drunk for forty years and then sought recovery only to plunge back into alcoholism shortly thereafter, until your demise. I am aware of the triggers that are all over the place. I tend to think that the management of my life rests with a higher power especially after having realized that at some point, my life was unmanageable. I handed over those responsibilities to a power greater than me.

We will have to pull others from the shame and indignity of alcoholism by getting them to boldly admit that they are powerless over the drink and they need help. I get frustrated by the fact that people who need help the most are the least vocal about it. We must be assertive at some point and say come on, look, this stuff is powerful and baffling and we cannot rely on the victims themselves to make decisions concerning their recovery. Though we have to request their permission, we have to work towards making it happen by winning souls. Have a sober day.  

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