Being in pain, and wanting help, are not the same thing. When I was actively drinking, I was in a lot of pain. It was mostly emotional, but I had particularly awful hang overs, even when I didn’t drink very much, so I suffered physically too. Over the years, I tried everything that I could think of to change this. I tried all sorts of ways to control my drinking. At one point I switched from white to red wine, thinking that since I disliked red wine so much, I’d drink less. And I did, for about a month, until I acquired a taste for dry red wines.
I tried everything I could think of… short of stopping. That was out of the question. I didn’t want to imagine a life without alcohol, and if I did think about it, all I could see were endlessly boring days and years, lacking color, vitality, fun, and sparkle. A sober life was, in my mind, no real life.
I was in a lot of pain, but I didn’t want help. I wanted to feel better physically and mentally but I wasn’t open to real change. One day that changed. I’d tried every which way to keep alcohol in my life and nothing worked. It wasn’t fun anymore…hadn’t been for a long time. I was disgusted with myself for the things that I said and did when I drank. I was embarrassed by my lack of control. I hated the way I was living (mentally) even though all of the outside stuff looked pretty good. I hated myself. I was in despair. And that was enough.
I didn’t have to go to church, get on my knees and pray, or cry out to God; all things which would have been out of the question anyway, since at that point in my life (I was 30 years old) I considered myself to be an atheist. I truly don’t know what happened in that moment, but something made me decide to go through a weekend without drinking, and then to extend it another 5 days. I also didn’t make a plan for what I’d do (to reward myself) at the end of my period of abstinence: something that I had frequently done in the past.
I let go of my big ideas, just long enough for a much bigger idea to come in from someplace beyond my conscious mind, and that thought was, “You are an alcoholic and you need AA.” Was it the Grace of God?…probably, although I wouldn’t have called it that. A miracle?….maybe, but I didn’t believe in miracles. It just felt like the next right thing to do. It wasn’t my idea but I trusted it, and I followed it. And it led me out of hell.
When I see someone in pain, my natural inclination is to want to help, but I can’t help anyone who isn’t ready, anymore than anyone could have helped me before I surrendered inside. Once I was really ready, there was more help available, and instantly available, than I could have dreamed of. It was there all along, but I wasn’t ready to see it until I had exhausted all of the options that I thought made sense (and ones that I liked).
Being at a place in our lives where we feel like we don’t know what to do can be a huge turning point. Hitting an emotional bottom, feeling like we have no answers and can see no way, can be the greatest day of our lives. “I don’t know what to do, but I want help”, can be the greatest words we ever say, or think.
“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” Guy Finley
16 thoughts on “I give Up”
Love what you shared. After 10 years sober my daily mantra is “I don’t know, You do. Show me what you want me to do next.” Sobriety…who knew?! 🙂
Mary, what a heartfelt and pertinent post. Pertinent, because its message is for anyone in pain, for whatever reason.
I’m sure a chord was struck today for many reading this. Thanks for your honesty. You always deliver the goods! 😘
Amen to you Mary ….. Although not a alcoholic I had other emotional pain, learning to surrender, ask for help ( from whatever this “other” is) , and always ” thank you” to the universe, have changed my life is ways I never could have imagined ….. So simple yet so hard until despair was overwhelming . I am sober by choice , and I’m grateful it is an easy choice….the colors and experiences in my life are clear ( not always easy) …..but I don’t want to miss a moment of this moment !!! Xxo
What beautiful verbiage! There is a wonderful new book out written by a Canadian recovering alcoholic who studied women and the media spin to promote alcohol. It’s called Drink, by Ann Johnston. Her recovery took … a long time as she tried all the various tricks you did Mary. The interviews she conducted, and the learning is new, cutting edge and I would guess interesting for all. Sort of makes me understand at a deeper level what Rob Ford must be going through now.
I believe the three words of your title say it all…for each of us…”I give UP”…wonderful advice…beautiful post. Thank you Mary. I. Give. Up.
Kathye, that is really interesting – we don’t say, “I give down”, now – do we? UP! This is so cool – great post Mary. Thank you.
Mary, I’m so glad you’re in the place you are now.
Your column was a great “remember when” for me. It has been 29 years since my last drink and I do believe in miracles today. My life is one. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Parrots, Prose, and Poetry and commented:
I related so completely to this post. I had to share…
Mary, you are so open and always speak from the heart…never holding back what you feel or have personally experienced in your life. This is why so many of your readers can relate. It’s no bull!?!!??. Whether it’s alcohol or other issues that we are dealing with FAITH is what’s important and I believe God shows us all the way.
How very, very true.
My mother used to say that you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. How true that is. Gathering my thoughts, again, Mary, I’ve come back to reread your posting, thinking of others who struggle with addictions, not always understanding it, not ever having wanted something that would control my life and yet, while not addictions, other things have controlled my life…some because of my own choices, some well beyond my control. And I think now of my young step-grandson who is getting into trouble, causing his family considerable grief in differing ways…yet, this kid is actually creative in finding ways to get into trouble…the usual drugs and alcohol as only 17 year olds can do if they choose…when I asked my son what this young lad had been up to last week-end and how, for me at my age, I look at it as to wondering how he can find so many different ways to get into trouble, my son said: yes, but you don’t have to live with it. It quickly took me back to my days of raising children through the difficult teenaged years…and one child of mine who became addicted. It’s a painful time in everyone’s life when that happens,
SandyP in Canada
Very well written post.
Oh Mary, I feel your serenity through this post. I too got the gift of desperation.
Have a great Fall weekend!
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