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