How do you know when you’ve crossed the line into active alcoholism or drug addiction?
I have found this to be a vital question that comes into the mind of each and every alcoholic or drug addict. Unfortunately it is a question that never arises until the line has been crossed.
Picture a blindfolded man or woman, walking the narrow trail along the edge of the cliff, knowing instinctively where they are. Then, in mid air, after missing a once well known foothold, reality and fear take over. Intentionally or not, the line has been crossed. Panic sets in. Hopelessness soon follows as the elevator to the bottom floor plunges towards the gates of hell.
I have never met an alcoholic or addict who intended to cross the line into their alcoholism or addictions. Most of us are exposed and/or introduced to the world of alcohol and drugs by our families. As children and early teens we are helpless as to the environments we find ourselves in. We depend on our families to provide for and to love us. Sometimes these things happen in abundance in a family environment where alcohol and drugs are involved. Sometimes our families are so entwined in their own struggles that love and the basic needs of live simple don’t exist, or if they do, their existence is twisted and unhealthy.
My mother was an only child, the daughter on a violent alcoholic father who was found dead on the side of the road at thirty-eight years old. As a little girl she was raised by her aunts, sisters of her deceased father who had her live with each of their families for periods of time. While I never knew my mother to drink alcoholically, she, and her mother who came to live with us in 1973, were both heavily medicated with the prescribed opioids of the day. In those days prescribed opioids were easier to obtain even than they are today. Just go see your family physician. He’d fix you right up with a 30 day supply to take home. No trip to the pharmacy needed!
By the fall of 1976 I had discovered the magic in both my mother’s and my grandmother’s medicine cabinets. There was not internet for which to research what the prescription would do to me. Of simple trial and error I had discovered that 3 of my grandmother’s red capsules mixed with several beers would really set me off! By the fall of 1977 I had also become familiar with her small blue pills. Once before a high school football game I took six of those. In the second quarter I broke my left thumb. I played the rest of the game as if nothing was wrong. It finally started hurting a couple days later after being set and placed in a cast.
While I had not intended it, I was now blindfolded and my high wire act on the edge of the cliff had begun.
I once heard a man say, “if you wake up in the morning think about drinking, or if you wake up in the morning thinking about not drinking, you have a problem with alcohol.” This can most certainly also be applied to our thinking about our drug of choice or anything else that rules the universe of our minds.
So once again, how do we know when we have crossed into the realm of the active alcoholic or addict?
In my early 30s I received a moment of unsolicited of insight. I drink every day so therefore, in my mind, I must be alcoholic, whatever that means? And, every time I have access to cocaine (powder or rock), or prescription meds (genuine or bootleg), I don’t stop until everything is gone. Then I want more and more and more…. Guess I’m an addict too.
At 35 I knew my journey into the pits of hell would soon end…one way or the other.
“God help me,” I cried into the night. And He did.
The point is that by time we realize when we have crossed the line into active alcoholism and/or addiction it’s too late. We have wondered over the edge long before we realize it and once we do realize it, we are beyond the aid of our own self will and we are beyond the aid mortal man. Our need is dire and our hopelessness is as dark and encumbering as a thick cloud of death. So let’s be grateful for our moment of clarity, our moment of desperation, where that one ray of light catches our eye and the spirit of hope is ignited within our soul. For if we are not touched with this divine ray of hope, an eternity of darkness awaits, but only after only what seems like an eternity of hopelessness and pain ends here…in this world.