How can you be afraid of the bathroom?
One of the hardest drugs to kick is cocaine. As opposed to alcohol, heroin, tobacco, even caffeine, cocaine does not really have any physical addiction to speak of. Aside from adjustments in brain chemistry, your body never really becomes accustomed to the presence of cocaine, so while the comedown is a real pain, withdrawal is almost completely psychological in nature. Unlike with other drugs, your body will not actually suffer when you stop abusing cocaine. The psychological withdrawal and craving caused by weaning yourself off of the drug, though, are notoriously horrid and relapse is common. Discounting the importance of the alcoholic’s mental obsession, then, is tantamount to completely denying that cocaine addiction exists… and I’m sure there are many members of CA and Co-Anon who would gladly slap you upside the head for suggesting this.
Over the first months (yes, months) of recovery, the alcoholic will struggle with overcoming the obsession to drink or drug. Though everyone is difficult, most people I know who have actively worked the program (getting a sponsor, going to meetings, doing the steps) found that they no longer had the obsession somewhere between 6 & 9 months after they stopped drinking. I don’t have any idea what it’s like for those who try to do it without help from AA. There will be times when it will pop up again unannounced – most notably around the alcoholic’s 1st birthday (sobriety is a rebirth of sorts, so anniversaries are often called birthdays). Nearly everyone I know will use their birthday to take a look back and see how far they’ve come. Bringing up those old memories makes people mighty squirrelly for a few days, but the feeling will subside once the alcoholic has accepted that a whole year has passed and he is still sober.
This is where the AA program is really, really helpful for the recovering alcoholic. Only an alcoholic knows what it’s really like inside the brain of an alcoholic. When I was newly sober, I was terrified of Exxon gas station bathrooms. While that particular fear is obscure even for us, I have but to say a couple of words in explanation and immediately other alcoholics can identify and help me walk through the fear. Gas stations in general are often difficult places for those in early sobriety. When all you can think about is how badly you want a drink, it’s not easy to walk past that bin full of beers all icy cold sitting right in front of the counter. Many alcoholics will drive home from work with knuckles white, afraid their autopilot will kick in and they’ll find themselves parked in front of the liquor store.
Suggestion number one: CALL SOMEONE! Your first meeting, you will be provided a list of members’ names and numbers so you can call them. This is the reason why. Many times, I’ve sat on both sides of the phone, asking someone to just distract me while I get my blood drawn or talking someone through their drive home after a rough day. Normies don’t understand why we wig out after mowing the lawn or can’t bring ourselves to look in the refrigerator. Alcoholics just get it. Number two: find a safe place. Get to as many AA meetings as possible, definitely, but sometimes you just need to kill a couple hours and there isn’t a meeting right now. Be it the bookstore, the gym, whatever, find a neutral location where you can be alone, but still keep your mind occupied. And no, Mom’s house is not neutral. Even as sweet as she is, when you’re jonesing she’s going to drive you batty and you’re going to want to drink. Flipping through that new sci-fi book, though, or hitting the stair-master is likely to keep your mind out of the bottle until the urge passes. Number three: get yourself a babysitter. I know it sounds stupid – I’m a grown woman, why do I need someone to babysit me. Seriously, though, find a sober friend and latch onto them as if your life depended on it (because it kind of does).
Who hasn’t heard the alcoholic’s motto of “one day at a time”? Well, sometimes it’s five minutes at a time. The idea of never, ever, EVER drinking again is simply absurd to an alcoholic. And to one in the midst of that overwhelming desire to drink, it’s enough to shove them off the wagon. But can you just not drink for the next 5 minutes? Yeah? Good. I was sitting in a speaker meeting around four months sober when it hit me like crazy. Here I am in a room full of recovering alcoholics, listening to solution, and my brain was out there getting loaded. It was all I could do to stay in my seat and not run out to score. The more I told the addict to shut up, the more it insisted. Finally, I said, “Fine. We’ll go score. But wait until after the meeting. It would be rude to just leave in the middle of someone’s story.” The little addict in my brain was okay with this, so he shut up. By the time the meeting was over, the desire was gone. I often tell newcomers to do the same – promise themselves they’ll drink later then get busy with something. If the craving hasn’t subsided, then find something else to do and promise yourself you can drink once that is done. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. After 1751 twenty-four hour periods, my inner addict is pretty quiet. Occasionally, he’ll pipe up, though, and I’m right back at the beginning, taking these same suggestions I give newbies.