What? You meant to tell me you can never drink again? Not even one glass of wine over dinner? But you’ve never been an alcoholic! Trying to explain to a “normie” that’s never known me to have a problem with alcohol inspired me to write about why I believe a recovered drug addict should not drink alcohol. I already know I can never do drugs again, but why can’t I drink? Would it be safe for me to ever drink a glass of wine with dinner? Maybe, but why risk it? Recovering addicts are familiar with the phrase, “one is too many and a thousand is never enough.” Though I am not sure I have ever had just one of anything anyway.
Relapse Triggers/Switching Addictions
A study was conducted back in the early 90’s on a sample of 298 ex-heroin addicts twelve years after they entered treatment. According to the Institute of Behavioral Research (Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX), the ex-heroin addicts were used to examine alcohol use and the substitution of alcohol over heroin. Almost one fourth of the group was classified as heavy drinkers by year twelve. Half of the group had previously used alcohol as a substitution. Substitution was found to be related to higher levels of alcohol problems and treatment before addiction. It appears these former heroin addicts had in fact, switched addictions.
While in rehab one of our weekly volunteers would come in and have devotions and conduct other various activities with us. She was a bit of a comedian and like to write parodies. She wrote one called “If You Give a Drug Addict a Beer”. It was influenced by the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. The mouse in the book wants a cookie, then a glass of milk. He then requests a straw, followed many other little demands. The story circles back around to the mouse wanting another cookie. She paralleled it to a drug addict wanting a beer, and then he winds up in the medicine cabinet looking for a pill. Hence the story circles back around the drug addict needing another beer to wash down the pill. You get the picture.
As a recovered drug addict, I carry around a sleeping giant in my heart, mind, and soul called addiction. He is ever willing and ready to be awaken at any time, any place. Like the Philistine giant Goliath in the Bible story taunted the little shepherd boy named David, my Goliath has taunted, even tortured me over the years. According to drugabuse.com, “addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” My friends and family know first-hand that I sought out drug using over and over, despite harmful consequences. I’ve written several times about what drugs took from me: sanity, self-worth, my children, joy, peace, morals, jobs, homes, goals, and ambitions. I chose recovery so I could slay this proverbial giant. Would it be logical for me to ever allow Goliath to taunt me again? I think not. Why would I take a chance?
Just as Goliath and addiction are synonymous, alcohol is synonymous with potential relapse triggers for many recovering drug addicts. For me, alcohol was a gateway drug. Based on personal and previous experience, alcohol alone would not be enough to satisfy me over a process of time. My “drug of choice” was and always has been crystal meth. I had a three-year run with it in my late teens and early twenties. I had a very close-knit circle of six to eight friends I used speed with that decided to quit using it as a group and do some growing up. (To date, I am the only one from this group to ever relapse and go back to it.) However, during that particular time in life, we were not ready to give up the partying completely. Always looking for something to do on the weekend, we began going out to clubs and local bars. I switched addictions. I switched out meth for alcohol. Granted, this switch never created a constant urge within to drink, but alcohol was still assisting me in hiding away from everyday life and trying to fit in socially. I still had not learned to cope with life. I was not aware I was merely trading out one substance for another. I was fully functional, working every day, and handling life responsibly. Of course, I was anything but responsible when getting behind the wheel of a car after a few drinks or going to work hung-over.
I started incorporating pills as well into my new version of “clean.” Since I was doing so well with maintaining life with alcohol, I incorporated prescription pills. Alcohol turned into a relapse trigger that led me to a prescription pill addiction. Social drinking and occasional pill popping continued on and off for a few years until I started a family. After the birth of my first son, the hospital sent me home with a bottle of Percocet. I took them more than necessary, until they were gone. Goliath was still there and would manifest himself again after my second son was born a few years later. Things would get much worse on down the road, but that’s another story. I’ll save it for another time.
Alcohol abuse kills nearly 75,000 Americans each year. Worldwide, there are 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths annually. These statistics include car accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, and other diseases linked to drinking too much.
I have several alcohol-related horror stories, but a DUI is probably my biggest one. (I know to some recovering alcoholics one DUI may not sound like a big deal, but let’s remember, I am a recovered drug addict.) I got my one and only DUI at nineteen years old, out of state. I was the designated driver for a bachelorette party and happened upon a roadblock. I was high on speed, only having drunk two beers, but I was underage in a state with a no tolerance law. Although I wasn’t drunk, the Breathalyzer revealed I had alcohol in my system. I went to jail for the first time. Afterwards, there were a lot of expensive fees and traveling back to that state for two court dates. What an expensive mistake! Even as a drug addict, alcohol was causing me problems. This is only one of many incidents I had involving alcohol-impaired driving. The other times, the officers let me go on my way after passing a field sobriety test. I realize now, they were only doing their job by keeping me as well as other drivers on the road safe.
Per the cdc.gov website, every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in a motor vehicle accident that involves an alcohol-impaired driver. That is one death every 51 minutes! I thank my Higher Power that I never became a statistic of an alcohol-related car accident.
Through recovery, I have l learned to value my life and the lives of my children. I made a choice when I went to treatment. I chose life.
When the liver does not break down alcohol, it goes to the rest of the body. This includes the brain. Alcohol can affect the parts of the brain the controls movement, speech, judgment, and memory. We all know the familiar slurred-speech and slow-reaction-time side effects. I believe these side effects would hinder my prayer and meditation time.
Prayer and meditation is a big part of my recovery. It connects me to my Higher Power. These practices activate our spiritual centers in the brain. These things mean different things to different people. Prayer allows me to put into words my current difficulties and concerns. Sometimes it involves gratitude and thanks, other times it involves outright venting. After prayer, it is then necessary to allow myself to receive messages from Him. That is meditation- remaining silent so that God can speak. Seeking His will and direction allows “me” to get out of the way and listen. For me to numb my senses, judgment, and memory through alcohol, it would prohibit me from productive prayer and meditation.
Recovery introduced me to the concept of total abstinence from any mind-altering substances. Learning this concept has been a key factor for successful recovery. By no means have I “arrived.” I will be working on recovery for the rest of my life. I’ve accepted this includes no champagne toast on New Years’ Eve and no celebratory glass of wine upon reaching a milestone in my life. Maybe I have finally come to terms with knowing life on the edge, fueled by a substance is not necessary to feel fulfilled and whole.
My name is Candace. I am a recovering addict since 6.17.14.
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