Chapter 3 in the Big Book, More About Alcoholism, was the topic of tonight’s meeting. I read the part about the businessman checking into his hotel in Washington after a period of sobriety. Here is what happened to him:
“I went to my hotel and leisurely dressed for dinner. As I crossed the threshold of the dining room, the thought came to mind that it would be nice to have a couple of cocktails with dinner. That was all. Nothing more. I ordered a cocktail and my meal. Then I ordered another cocktail. After dinner I decided to take a walk. When I returned to the hotel it struck me a highball would be fine before going to bed, so I stepped into the bar and had one. I remember having several more that night and plenty next morning. I have a shadowy recollection of being in an airplane bound for New York, and of finding a friendly taxicab driver at the landing field instead of my wife. The driver escorted me about for several days. I know little of where I went or what I said and did. Then came the hospital with unbearable mental and physical suffering. “As soon as I regained my ability to think, I went carefully over that evening in Washington. Not only had I been off guard, I had made no fight whatever against the first drink. This time I had not thought of the consequences at all. I had commenced to drink as carelessly as though the cocktails were ginger ale. I now remembered what my alcoholic friends had told me, how they prophesied that if I had an alcoholic mind- the time and place would come—I would drink again.”
The poor guy was equipped with his self-knowledge of being an alcoholic, but no Higher Power to relieve him of the burden of the first drink mentality. By the grace of God, I’ve come to understand that only by my Higher Power am I able to avoid this same predicament Mr. Alcoholic found himself in while visiting Washington.
After 7 months dry, not a drop of alcohol in my blood, I find myself having nightmares of drinking. Taking that first drink. Then in a panic, calling my sponsor or attending a meeting, and picking up my “slip chip.” The dreams are so real. The guilt and remorse so strong I can taste it, the shame of taking a drink after so much sobriety, leaves me afraid for my life in the same way I’m almost certain an animal feels being hunted by a predator. A rabbit’s heart pumping fast as it dodges this way and that trying to escape harm, but with a sense of futility that is overwhelming and heartbreaking. My rabbit heart beats during these dreams/nightmares. It’s natural to have these dreams, so my sponsor tells me. I had my own hotel bar scenario at 6 months sober. A wonderfully terrible fight between my husband and I left me angry, sad, forlorn and feeling abandoned. Not having had a single craving in the past six months, I was astonished to find myself saying silently, “Fuck this..it’s time to get loaded.” My brain returned to its old auto-pilot theme of “Drunk fixes all; wasted is better than feeling this; and numb is essential to survive this world” Holy shit, was I terrified. I couldn’t believe my brain still thought having that first drink was a solution to my despair, hurt, fury and rage. But like Mr. Alcoholic I’d forgotten that my own self-knowledge isn’t enough. Of course I know I can’t drink. Of course I’m aware I’m a problem drinker. Of course I realize drinking that first glass of anything will ultimately destroy every valuable and precious gift in my life. But…there I was inevitably like the guy in Ch. 3. Without my Higher Power to pray to and guide me and give me the strength of surrender, I would have been shit-faced in no time at all.
I want to say I’m grateful for the reminder, but I’m actually too scared and frightened by my disease to be grateful for it today. Some days, good days, I’m grateful I have the disease of addiction to bring me into closer contact with God. But my disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. Hyper-vigilance is critical today. Maybe not tomorrow. But all I have is today.