Catastrophic Relapse

After twenty-five years of heavy drinking, and a ten-year battle with alcoholism, my sobriety is going very well. But deep in my soul I know I am one major catastrophe away from succumbing to my addiction again.

 

I am at peace with my sobriety. I have learned that alcohol is a poison that would eventually have killed me from physical damage done to my body, or from bad decisions of an alcohol-warped brain. I have learned to cope with everyone else’s drinking in social situations where the relationships are important to me. I have learned to avoid social situations where the relationships are secondary and the events are poorly disguised excuses to get drunk. I have learned that the strength of my marriage and my success as a father depend on my sobriety. All of this learning makes me feel content. All of this knowledge makes me happy.

 

I like being sober. But I long for the confidence that my sobriety will survive catastrophe.

 

Sometimes I think about how I would react to major devastation. What would I do if my family fell victim to domestic terrorism? What would I do if narcissistic rhetoric resulted in nuclear war? What would I do if my house burned down? What would I do if my wife or one of my children were severely injured or killed?

 

I know what I would do. I would drink. I would drink heavily in an attempt to kill – not lessen or manage – but kill the pain. I would drink whisky not beer. There would be no mixer. I would drink without regard for social acceptability. I would get as drunk as possible and stay that way for a very long time.

 

I am not proud of this answer. I hope to someday be stronger – be more confident and comfortable in my sobriety – and know no matter the catastrophe I face, I will not turn to the bottle. I hope that day will come. Today is not that day. I will continue to pray major catastrophe never comes. For now, my sobriety depends on it.

 

And yet in my weakness, I find comfort. The very tenuous nature of my sobriety – the fact that my scratching and clawing from The Pit of despair could be erased in an instant by a factor that is beyond my control keeps me humble and prayerful. It reminds me that I can’t control the uncontrollable. The fragility keeps my attention. My weakness makes me strong. My insecurity gives me confidence.

 

My addiction keeps me sober.

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8 Comments
  • Reply
    Mike Young
    February 14, 2018 at 7:20 am

    Understanding the fragile balance between sobriety and drinking gives you a chance to stay in control. Easy to manage? Certainly not. Achievable? Yes, you can do it! So many are cheering for and counting on you. Most of all you owe it to yourself.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      February 17, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      Your steady example and continued support is a great influence. Thanks for that, Mike.

  • Reply
    Jen M
    February 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Matt,

    I wish I was there and we could go to a meeting together. For me the fellowship, staying connected with other alcoholics and hearing how they handled it, keeps me from picking up in times of stress, uncertainty and fragility. Oh, and a strong connection with my God…which can often involve just direct prayers to stay in his will and give me the strength to not use. The reality for most of us is we drink when it’s bad, we drink when its good, when it’s sunny/snowy/rainy. (Or as one of my friends likes to say snow man building day, snow man take down day….you know all the made up holidays that justify drinking).

    But you are right, you need to reach a level of certainty that drinking no matter the calamity is deadly. Page 66 in Alcoholics Anonymous states clearly “to drink is to die”. Having that sentence played out on repeat in my head helps me remember the outcome. It may not be a fast physical death but it will definitely be a miserable, spiritual one.

    A few other pointers we use….remember your last real drunk, what was the catalyst that prompted you to say enough is enough. That will happen again, playing that drink through to that end helps remind us that while the allure is tempting the result is costly. Call a friend, read literature, ask God to remove the obsession, eat something sweet. All tips that help redirect your thinking.

    When crisis hits, as it will for all of us, I guarantee you the thing that keeps me sober and not picking up is further entrenchment in what got me sober to begin with, I can’t do this thing alone.

    Hugs!
    Jen M.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      February 17, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      I love it Jen – all of it. I wish you were here and we could go to a meeting together, too. AA was not my path to sobriety, but it has helped so many and I have a great deal of respect for that. I would go to a meeting with you to support you and learn more about your recovery path. All of your thoughts on this topic resonate. With more time, a deeper understanding (which I feel developing more and more each day) and support from so, so many, I know I will continue on this mission from God. Thanks, my friend.

  • Reply
    Melissa Lisowe
    February 14, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I too have addiction in my family and my siblings and I “joke” about how addictive our personalities are. I have one sibling that struggles with alcoholism, but still thinks he can control it. I have a sister that starts to smoke every time life gets stressful and it takes years to have the strength to quit once again. I have another brother that struggled with drugs and alcohol. For me, smoking was my addiction for too many years. Although I quit 17 years ago, I know any slip-up and I would be a full-time smoker again. That knowledge keeps me from ever “bumming a smoke”. Do I think about it, yes, but every year gets easier and more distant. Respecting and fearing addiction is definitely key for me for I know I tend to just replace one addiction with another.

    Matt, thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. You are someone I have always respected and learned so much from. Stay strong my friend.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      February 17, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      Great to hear from you Melissa. We all struggle with something. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Reply
    Elle
    March 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    I am not quite sure how I stumbled upon this blog… but I am grateful for it each time it appears in my inbox. I stopped drinking 8 1/2 months ago, and understand at a cellular soul level – everything. absolutely. everything – that you write. From the thoughts on Eclipsing cancer to this about how we are just one wishful thought away from a Catastrophic Relapse…. your words resonate.

    I have learned that my stories are not for everyone. I am learning to be intuitive about who needs to hear some of what has been so difficult for me, and who does not, because it just would not serve a purpose. I applaud and am inspired by your openness and eloquence. Your writing gives clarity to my own journey. I recently shared with another alcoholic my fears of heading back down that drunken road and how miserable it would be, but that thought is exactly what does keep me sober, in your words, “My addiction keeps me sober.”

    I too was a high functioning alcoholic. I didn’t have any of the “yets” (hadn’t lost a job… DUI… family… accident…..) but only by the grace of God. I should have lost all of this and more with the bad decisions I’d made while drinking. I am truly amazed at how clear my head is now, and how much better I feel physically without the booze. But it was so hard to put down the bottle. It was my best friend for many years. I wanted to stop, or at least slow down, but I just couldn’t. My resolve barely lasted 24 hours. Usually less than that.

    I will continue to look forward to your stories, As Rumi says, We are all just walking each other home.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 4, 2018 at 5:48 pm

      Congratulations on 8 1/2 months, Elle, and thanks for your feedback! I hope you continue to comment on the blog as we walk through this together. The stories that I read of other alcoholics and their freedom found in sobriety resonates with me like nothing before in my life, and I am so happy that my story resonates with you. We both have another shoulder to lean on as a result. Thanks for sharing!

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