An essential part of sobriety is acknowledging the addiction exists. Another essential step is recognizing our need for help followed immediately by a willingness to accept that help.
Once we start our journey, we then look a little deeper. Alcohol is not the problem in my life. Alcohol, in of itself, is neither good nor bad. It is a substance. The problem is that instead of facing my problems, I tried to drown them out with alcohol.
And to hide my addiction, I did several things.
I made excuses. I was too busy to deal with the actual problem. I was afraid of dealing with difficult people. So instead of having those challenging conversations, I would make excuses to avoid them. I became too busy. Or I looked for ways to please everybody. I found ways to avoid conflict. And when the fear and disappointment became too much, I would drown those feelings.
I looked for other things to blame. I have some family members who also struggle with addiction, so obviously it’s a genetic thing and I can’t really be held responsible, right? Also, alcohol isn’t really bad. It’s just that some bad people would use alcohol badly. So keeping bottles in my house was okay. And really, people who suffer from alcoholism probably have some other issue feeding it: lack of money, depression, other stuff that I could never actually come up with a name for.
I claimed I was responsible enough to handle it, while knowing there were others who couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to talk about alcoholism for two primary reasons: I knew I was one but didn’t want to admit it and I claimed I was able to be responsible in my use; I would claim that if I were to talk about the dangers of alcoholism I would alienate or induce guilt in those who could drink. So sure, there were people who weren’t responsible with it, but I was sure I wasn’t one of them–so don’t take my alcohol away.
I said I could control it. In order to show how well I could control it, I hid how much I was drinking. That makes absolutely no sense to a sober person, but in my addicted mind the logic was flawless. The fact that nothing tragic ever happened to me or my loved ones while I was drinking just gave me more evidence to prove that I was still in control. All the other signs to the contrary were ignored.
I would exaggerate. If someone told me I should reduce my drinking, I would accuse them of try to re-institute prohibition.
I would look for ways to distract the conversation. Whenever addiction or alcohol was the topic of conversation, I would look for ways to move the conversation elsewhere. Often, I would try to find a different problem to point to: “Yes, addiction is bad but poverty is terrible.” Or racism. Or mental health. Or any other number of hot-button issues that would get people talking about something else.
All of this was because of fear. I was so afraid that I was not capable of dealing with life without the aid of some kind of substance. I wanted so badly to be in control of everything that I was willing to gamble with something that I knew had so many terrible potentially negative outcomes.
My fear combined with my need for control shut my mind to what was prudent, what was healthy, what was right. My fear combined with my need for control led me to more fear which led to a greater desire to control which ultimately led my decision to quiet the noise in my head by drowning it out.
Until I acknowledged the fear, until I acknowledged that I had an unhealthy desire to control everything, I could not begin to recover. Recognizing those realities in my life launched me toward a better life.
We have an addiction to guns in this country. We are so intent on making sure we always have our hands on these tools of destruction that the deaths of innocents does not phase us. When we see the destruction and tragedy wrought by these violent weapons, we do what most addicts do.
We make excuses. We are too busy to deal with the actual problem–too much access, too many weapons. We are afraid of dealing with people who may disagree with us so we avoid engaging in difficult conversations. We become busy. We say we are grieving the last shooting’s victims so now is not the appropriate time. We avoid conflict by avoiding relationship with people on the other side of the issue.
We look for other reasons to blame. Some families struggle with raising their children the right way so it must be that the proliferation of mass shooters is a result of bad parenting. Also, guns aren’t really bad. It’s just that some bad people will use guns badly. So keeping guns in our houses or schools must be okay. And really, people who commit mass shootings probably have some other issue: lack of money, depression, other stuff that we can never actually come up with names for.
We claim we are responsible enough to handle it (even if others aren’t). We don’t want to talk about guns for two primary reasons: we know there is a problem but we don’t want to admit it especially since we claim to be responsible in our use; we claim that if we talk about the dangers of guns I would alienate or induce guilt in those who do use guns responsibly. So sure, there are people who aren’t responsible, but surely we aren’t among them–so don’t take our guns away.
We say we can control it. In order to show how well we can control it, we keep fighting to increase the amount of weapons available while decreasing the amount of regulations needed to acquire them. That makes absolutely no sense to most people, but in our gun-addled minds the logic is flawless. The fact that no tragic gun violence has ever happened to us or our loved ones just gives us more evidence to prove that we are still in control. All the other signs to the contrary can be ignored.
We exaggerate. If someone tells us we should reduce the number of guns or place restrictions on acquiring them to prevent those who shouldn’t have them from getting them, we accuse them of trying to repeal the 2nd amendment.
We look for ways to distract the conversation. Whenever guns are the topic of conversation, we look for ways to move the conversation elsewhere. Often, we try to find a different problem to point to: “Yes, gun violence is bad but poverty is terrible.” Or racism. Or mental health. Or any other number of hot-button issues that would get people talking about something else.
All of this is because of fear. We are so afraid that we are not capable of dealing with life without the aid of our weapons. We want so badly to be in control of everything that we are willing to gamble with something that we know has so many terrible potentially negative outcomes (and such a high potential body count).
Our fear combined with our need for control has shut our minds to what is prudent, what is healthy, what is right. Our fear combined with our need for control leads us to more fear which leads to a greater desire to control which ultimately leads to our decision to drown out the cries of the victims by shooting off even more bullets.
Until we acknowledge the fear, until we acknowledge that we have an unhealthy desire to control everything, we cannot begin to recover. Recognizing those realities in our lives will launch us toward a better, more peaceful life.
As with all addicts, we have to name our addiction for what it is: a disease. We have to be willing to search for the reasons that are leading us to our addiction: our fear, our selfishness, our hatred, our insecurities. Once we can realize what is lacking inside of us, we can move on to address our fears.