Giving Up One Day At A Time

My descent into alcoholism was an exercise in giving up one-day-at-a-time. When addiction reaches its final stages, every day is a struggle between doing what you know you have to do to survive in the long run, quit, versus feeling better right now, which requires continued drinking or drugging. Most days, if not every one, you promise yourself that today will be the day you will find the courage and strength to stop. And every day you fail. As the anxiety of withdrawal intensifies and the cravings worsen, you give in and take the first drink or drug.

It’s the panic that does you in. The pit-in-the-stomach terror that what you’re feeling is not only intolerable, it’s sure to get worse, a lot worse, unbearably worse. Panic grips your guts so tightly it knocks the breath right out of you. You gulp for air, the only alternative to suffocating on fear. Your heart races, you sweat and begin to lose your balance and bearings. Your mind goes blank except for a lone thought repeated like a cancerous mantra, “I can’t take this any more.” Then a single idea surfaces: relief. And your mind knows what that means. You give in. “Fuck it.”

You tell yourself today is not a good day to get sober and the best rational intention’s are tabled until tomorrow. Again. Because you can’t stop. No matter the intensity of the sincerity with which you promised yourself you’d quit, your brain will not allow you to make the jump from a commitment to do something tomorrow to a promise to do it right now. I’ve heard this described at meetings as “making resolutions instead of decisions.” So you take the first drink. That prompts intense, uncontrollable cravings for more, more, more and you have the second, third and fourth. You’re on your way to another morning of intense hangover and self-loathing.

You’re fucked. And you know it because you keep doing it and watching yourself do it and hating yourself for doing it. But you have no choice. And some part of your knows that too, which only adds to the desperation. It’s like a perpetual-motion machine that creates its own expanding energy supply, in turn fueling an insatiable hunger that can only be temporarily satisfied in the odd nano-second of relief between when you get your medicine and when you realize your fucked yet again. No wonder passing out is such a gift.

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