It’s hard to explain what takes place in the brain of an alcoholic in early recovery. Imagine being locked in a room filled with televisions from floor to ceiling, each one tuned to a different channel with the volume at full bore. The bombardment of noise barely allows you to hear the thoughts in your own head. All the while, you are aware that one of these TVs is broadcasting a message that will lead to your escape from this surreal prison. The inability to sift through the cacophony and focus on salvation would only perpetuate the reality of hopelessness. This is exactly like the battle taking place inside the mind of the untreated alcoholic/addict.
This is the power that this disease can hold over those in early recovery. Walk into any newcomer’s meeting (AA, NA, CA, faith-based recovery. It doesn’t really matter.), and see the sad, sober eyes of some in attendance. Men and women who have lost so much that they have nowhere else to turn. Believe me, this is a hellish existence, and will stay that way until they take a vital step. Maybe for the first time in their entire life they are ready to honestly reach out and ask for help. The realization that everything they have tried has failed, quickly sets in. Finally, they surrender. This is an extremely powerful moment in the life of an alcoholic/addict. A glimmer of optimism shines through, and something begins to stir within them. They are now faced with an intense desire to do whatever it may take to end their pain. This is just the beginning of their epic journey into recovery.
I wish I could say that it all gets easier after this experience, and that the hard part is now over. This is not the case. The disease of alcoholism is still in control, and will ceaselessly remind the poor soul that relief can only be found in using. The lucky ones white-knuckle it through the night and make it to another meeting the next day. Often, holding on to that tiny sliver of hope they felt the day before is the only thing that kept them sober. Sadly, this is not always enough and they return to the life that caused them so much misery.
This is only a brief portrayal of the torment that takes place mentally the first few days of recovery. The situations described earlier serve as a grim reminder. All over the world there are people suffering in a similar way as you read this. Not only the addicts, but also those who love them. There are very few people who have not been affected by this disease in one way or another. So, why is there such a stigma looming over Alcoholism and Addiction? This disease has gone misunderstood for far too long, and the time has come to demand change. The recovery of a loved one or even your own may depend on it.
In part 2, I will get into the current state of the recovery community. What hasn’t worked and why.