I didn’t think I was crazy. I just thought I drank too much. Until, in those last weeks, I thought I’d honestly lost my mind. I became terribly unable to control myself. Not, simply, how much I drank once I started drinking, but everything. I knew what I wanted, what I meant, what and why I planned to do the things I planned to do. But I lost the connective tissue between thought and action. I said, in my brain and heart, no. And I watched myself, feeling oddly as though it were an out of body experience, get trashed. I said, more assertively, no. And I drank harder. Faster.
I thought I had slipped. I seriously wondered if I had become schizophrenic, or disordered in some other way. I terrified myself and thought these are the kinds of things that make ax-murderers and mumbling droolers. It is a terrifying thing to think “move, hand” and not have the hand move. To think “I won’t drink today” and have nothing at all to hold on to while you answer whiskey, rocks, before the waiter has even reached your table.
It was a half assed maneuver that brought me to AA. I didn’t think alcoholism. I thought crazy.
The clarity that comes with a little bit of sobriety is awe-inspiring. It is baffling and humiliating. We start to see just how bloody sick we were. I began to see that those last few crazy days were not, really, any different than the years that came before. I hadn’t been in my right mind for decades.
It is normal to feel deeply uncomfortable in early sobriety. To find the insights and truth had to sit with. It is unnerving to realize so much of your ‘personality’ was not really personality, but excuse, or justification, or giving up, or in some other way an accommodation to alcoholism. The concept of insanity is disturbing. Most of us can admit to too much booze, but don’t see and don’t want to see anything resembling mental illness or a broadly defective character. It’s a rug pulled out. It removes all of our safety nets.
If insanity is all we get, there would be no reason to get sober, no reason why folks get better, no reason for all the talk of this elusive ‘serenity’. But there are all those things. We don’t just get insanity. We get the promise, mild little tastes, of a return to something better. It’s all the more overwhelming because we get back something we didn’t know we’d lost. We get well before we’ve realized we’ve been sick. We realize how stunted our understanding has been. We didn’t know the half of it, before. Sobriety reveals. Sobriety restores.
I’ve learned much in the way of self awareness, coping skills, psycho babble and alternative health. Restoratives feature hugely. When I feel anxieties, out of place, simply restless, I suddenly start looking within for what my mind body or heart is trying to tell me. What is it I most need, or is it something that I need to stop? What have I neglected? Who is rankling me? Do I need to sleep, to eat, caffeine or an escapist novel? Where is my heart, what is it asking for, if this pain is a messenger what is it saying?
There are restoratives for headache, fatigue, sore muscles, jet lag. There are periods of restoration following a life change or a significant loss. We restore ourselves each night with sleep, throughout our days with food and water. Miracles, simply put, are restorations. Of life. Of justice. Of sight or mobility.
We are not restored piecemeal when we recover from alcoholism. It isn’t a hangover we need to cure, or a damaged liver, a tarnished reputation. Our whole lives come back to us. Sanity, sobriety, a power greater than us, restores.
And it isn’t until we feel restoration, so deeply soothing, so inherently cooling and steady and right, that we realize how off kilter we’ve been. Restoration is not like an exchange, a library book returned, a receipt given, a process of barter. Restoration is qualitatively different. It’s a resurgence of energy and hope and motivation. A return of child like wonder, and a child like capacity for love and joy and play. It’s a welling up of self and confidence. A swelling of the good that is life, rippled through with emotion. We have a mind and a heart and a body that we live in. We have all that falls outside of our skin-bound selves. If we can get sober, if we can get sane, it it these things that are restored unto us.