I started off writing about flying into week 9 of a plant based diet…. However, the discipline involved in this has triggered something more important, I hope this can maybe help anyone who has struggled or is struggling with addiction.
“No beating around the bush, I am an addict”
No beating around the bush, I am an addict. I only really discovered this a year ago when I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. We were in our usual non pandemic home of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala when I saw an AA advert for a local group. It piqued my interest, but I was apprehensive and nervous about going. Mainly because of my favourite little denial – that I was in control. The illusion of control is a hard habit to break. If you tell yourself something for long enough you can easily convince yourself that it’s the truth. Some time passed and I carried on drinking, until one day I just had to stop.
“I don’t like rules”
Living in a place like Lake Atitlan and working in hospitality makes life for an addict very difficult indeed. There are very few real rules that are enforced, it is a very libertarian atmosphere, hedonistic in fact. It speaks to me in that way or it speaks to my addicted self… Either way I don’t like rules and out there I have very few. This leaves one person to make the rules… me, not my forté.
“It is gorgeous”
For context, Lake Atitlan is a 19km by 15km (roughly) volcanic crater in the Guatemalan Highlands, a good 85,000 years old and now filled with water. There are three other volcanoes inside this vast crater, it has to be seen to be believed. It is truly gorgeous and thus, a haven for expats from all over the place. It is also very poor, cut off and very reliant on tourism. Not good for these times. We live in Santa Cruz La Laguna, a small village only accessible via boat or a very hairy truck ride.
“A place where people felt safe”
The day after I stopped drinking I ran into the creator of the aforementioned AA advert, I expressed my desire to go and it felt like the right thing to do. The first meeting was interesting to say the least. It was a small group of around 8 people, 4 of whom I knew or knew of. The most notable thing, that I will never forget, is the look in everyone’s eyes. I knew immediately this was a place where people felt safe, loved. Don’t get me wrong there is also loss, regret and a plethora of other emotions locked up behind those eyes, but I knew immediately that this was an environment of healing and most notably, compassion.
“You can say addict”
We started with step 1 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”. This resonated, I had come to this conclusion not 48 hours prior. Someone read the “Just for Today” poem and this sounded very reasonable too. Then people started introducing themselves – “My name is…. I am an alcoholic/addict”, you can say addict, I breathed a silent sigh of relief. I had no intention of talking, but my little friend denial felt better about saying addict than saying alcoholic..!
Then amazing things started to happen, one after the other, each person had something to say that meant something to me. I still don’t know what started me off, whether it was the content of what people were saying or the look of pure understanding in everyone’s eyes, I really don’t know or remember. There were stories of despair, addiction, loss, family rows, all sorts really but all with that common theme – alcohol and/or drugs.
“Just pure understanding and love”
Then, it came round to me, so I cried some more and said “My name is Oli and I am an addict” then I cried a bit more and tried to say that I was out of control, that I needed to stop and something else, I can’t remember at all. What I do remember though was the weight lifting off, it felt so good to admit it, “I have an addiction”. Especially good because I was admitting it to people looking at me with their heart’s and mind’s open, understanding, feeling and taking on my pain. There were no repercussions, no past memories or experiences to draw on, just pure understanding and love. I can’t explain this, I am trying, but it was such a revolutionary moment for me that it is more than my words can describe.
“I think it was pride”
I didn’t drink for a month after that and one day something strange happened, I was walking along the beach and my whole body vibrated, it was pure joy. A joyous feeling I had only ever experienced far, far away from sobriety. I don’t know what it was, but I think it was pride. Just for a second I accepted myself and my addiction, it felt better than almost anything I had ever felt before. I try to hold on to that feeling for motivation but it was so fleeting…
“Confronting it has definitely helped me”
I have had a few occasions where I have been very drunk but far less than before. I am currently doing a dry lockdown as I felt I was losing control of my addiction again. I don’t know if my relationship with substances will ever be in my control, but confronting it is definitely helping me.
I think that’s enough for now… This began as an update about Veganism and ended up being about addiction!
I will write more about this, if it helps just one person then it will be worth it. Here is Just for Today –
P.S. If anyone is struggling with addiction and interested in finding out more about Alcoholics Anonymous click here.
Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appal me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
Just for today I will be happy. Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Just for today I will adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my ‘luck’ as it comes, and fit myself to it.
Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out; if anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do —just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.
Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, talk low, act courteously, criticise not one bit, not find fault with anything and not try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.
Just for today I will have a programme. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.
Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, sometime, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.
Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.