Alcoholism is a Hell of a Disease
A friend died this weekend. He was only 38.
I don’t know the exact circumstances but I do know that years ago, when I saw him on a regular basis, he alternated between just coming off a nasty drunk and showing the easy peace of a person with a few months of sober time under his belt.
The last time I saw him, I was back at my old home group shortly after moving to Texas. He came up to me, flashed his trademark lopsided grin and said, “I think I’ve got it this time.”
I hugged him and smiled back. “Just for today,” I said.
Last night’s birthday meeting
My Texas home group hosted its monthly celebration of sobriety birthdays last night. (We call them birthdays because many of us consider sobriety a rebirth.) We recognized 15 people who collectively represented 152 years of sober time.
As usual on those nights, from the beginning celebrant to the last one–a span of 33 years–there were tears of joy and gratitude.
Two people dear to my heart choked me up when they took their place at the podium.
It never fails. My throat clogged with emotion as I thought that every single person in that packed room had been through the hell of alcoholism. Those family members and friends who were there in support may not have been the ones afflicted, but they certainly had been affected by the disease.
An elevator into hell
Alcoholism takes us to different degrees of hell. Picture an elevator descending into a fiery building. It makes stops on each floor, the early ones indicative of how quickly we make the decision to quit drinking after the disease kicks in.
I promise you that leaving the elevator early, while hopefully saving the alcoholic from years of future pain and self-destruction, doesn’t immediately eliminate the heavy feelings of remorse and regret. Nor does it keep family and friends from suffering through the tornado damage that only an alcoholic can cause.
As the elevator continues to move downward, more destructive consequences spill out when the door opens.
Chunks of memory loss, children taken away, prison sentences and sprawling holes in the soul are some of the later alcoholic consequences.
That was the case with several of last night’s celebrants.
That was also the case with my friend who died.
My heart cracks with the thought of his extreme misery.
The hope of recovery: three enduring words
Part of last night’s emotion for me came near the end of the hour when one of my two special friends shared.
She told of how she’d sat in a meeting earlier in the week and heard another member share his take on the 10th, 11th and 12th steps, often referred to as the maintenance steps.
Three words, she said, quoting him, will be her focus for the coming year. Keeping these three words uppermost in mind is a pretty solid way of not only continuing to stay sober, but also enjoying and thriving in sobriety.
Those three words? Continue. Seek. Try.
Three words I sure wish my old friend could have practiced. Maybe the elevator had descended too far for him.
But for those of us in the room last night, those three words are the verbs that will keep us sober.
Continue. Seek. Try. Are there other words that are crucial to your living a quality life? Please leave them in the comments below.