Whack-a-Mole – JQ_Lifeline Apr 2020

A goal I set in early sobriety when my sponsor was helping me with goal- setting was to write an article for the Lifeline on “Meeting Manners.” It was outside my comfort zone (opposite behavior) and I thought it may help other newcomers as I had been thoroughly confused the first couple of A.A. meetings. The verbiage of spoken and unspoken “suggested” do’s and Don’ts were Greek to me. The vigor I had to write that article faded, partly due to the fact that I didn’t want to sound like a know-it-all pedestal preacher which I hate! Plus the fact that I figured out decent etiquette by going to enough meetings. But recently I keep getting promptings to share my experience regarding “addiction whack- a- mole” and the beast within. I have a feeling many of us alcoholics and addicts share this phenomenon. I might also add that I have been hesitant to share my experience due to controversies on this matter. But, this is my program, it’s not perfect and maybe it’ll help someone. When I hit my rock bottom I was hopeless and answerless. I couldn’t live with or without alcohol anymore.I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Through my last few years of drinking and maintaining my facade I had increasing bouts of anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. My life was becoming unmanageable. Alcohol was no longer working despite increasing amounts. I had a handful of Xanax prescribed during one of my visits to the ER for anxiety and panic attacks. I rarely took one during my drinking because I didn’t want to die. So, the night of my last drunk I came home and knew I was done. My inner true self was cracking through the facade. For the first time in years I uttered a prayer to anyone listening, pleading “help me… please, help me.” I had a spiritual experience which I now know was a tender mercy from my Higher Power. I was given a glimmer of hope and led to A.A. I knew enough about alcohol withdrawal that to stop cold turkey could be dangerous. I had also tried weaning down my intake over a short period of time enough times to know that didn’t work for me. I cannot st op once I st art . So, with my partners help, I used most of the Xanax I had to safely withdraw. No problem. I didn’t want anymore after the week was up. I used it responsibly and my partner kept them in the safe. My panic and anxiety didn’t disappear like I’d hoped. I was already on medication and knew asking my doctor for a prescription for anxiety was out of the of the question. They are addictive and I just didn’t want to go… …there. I opted to try the herbal route. I smoked plenty of pot in my teen years and I turned out okay, right? Plus, it’s getting legal everywhere, how bad could it be? My philosophy was harm reduction. I did not want to pick up a drink again. It worked well at first. When I was anxious and sensing a panic attack (sense of impending doom, racing pulse and thoughts, sweating, shallow breathing), I would toke on a vape pen and it did help. Unbeknownst to me, the addiction beast opened an eye. After a couple of weeks, my use increased. What was just every couple of days became nightly, then a couple of hits throughout the day… just to take the edge off. It was still better than alcohol. I wasn’t killing anyone on the roads. I didn’t get stupid high. Sure, I did get more munchies. I honestly didn’t think it was a big deal. In hindsight my connection with my Higher Power became increasingly dulled during that time. One night, my partner commented that I was going through vape pens quickly and they were getting pricey. I caught myself negotiating with him to just give me one pen per week and once it was gone, I’d have to wait until the next week for a new one. Right after I said it… I realized the addiction beast had a claw in me. Luckily, I remembered these negotiation tactics I would pull while drinking. I knew I was done. I called my sponsor and met with her the next day and told on myself. Should I reset my sobriety date? I felt I had earnestly been working on the steps and was currently working on amends. Thank goodness I have a sponsor who is loving and understanding. She didn’t think I needed to reset my sobriety date, especially since I recognized the sneaky addiction beast before it led me back to the bottle. Quitting pot was nothing like quitting alcohol, thank God! Let me just state fo the record that I still think pot isn’t nearly as destructive as alcohol. I personally know folks who use it responsibly for conditions that would otherwise require opioids or other addictive medications. I’m just not one of those who can use it responsibly and it could’ve led me back to the bottle. A couple of months later, I was having some trouble sleeping. I remembered Xanax was still in the safe. It whispered to me quietly at first. Then I had conversations in my head rehearsing my speech with my partner to justify giving me just one. The Xanax got louder. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so close in my grasp. I knew I had the safe combination somewhere, but it would require some digging. Luckily, I recognized the voice of addiction. I told on myself to my partner and asked to get rid o them. He did and voice and obsession went back to sleep. I now understand the story in the Big Book “Acceptance Was the Answer” (p. 407 ) where the physician says “Today I feel I have used up my right to chemical peace of mind.” I also understand that removing one substance doesn’t guarantee I won’t get addicted to another. I recognize my pattern of addiction whack-a-mole and know where any mind altering substances are involved, I need to take steps to lull the addiction beast back to sleep immediately. Working the steps, staying spiritually in tune with my Higher Power, working with sponsees, attending meetings, helping others in need, being accountable, meditation, exercise, crafting, feeling useful and enjoying my work, exploring new hobbies, being in nature, setting attainable goals and getting outside of my comfort zone have helped me to manage my addictive beast and channel my addictive nature in a healthy way. Thank goodness I don’t have to be perfect! I am an alcoholic first and foremost. But more importantly is to never forget the addiction beast that sleeps with me. He feeds on mind altering substances, so I think I will stay away from those today. Oh and as far as meeting manners are concerned, love and tolerance is our code. Or in the words of my 9 year old son… “Dude, be nice.”

-JQ

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