I am reading this…have read it before…I need to quit drinking but I am afraid to be without this safe “friend’…who is causing me shame and compromising my life…Still, I don’t know how I will replace the feeling of freedom and respite from anxiety. How did you replace the alcohol? Really. I need help with that.
This was made in comment to my Character Defects page, but I thought I could better address it on its own.
How did I replace the alcohol? Short answer: AA.
Long answer: I had to give the program a chance. I relapsed many times before I “got it.” I adored the initial feeling freedom from anxiety, but that left me very quickly. I chased it for years. But really, alcohol ceased to give me freedom except for maybe a few minutes when it first hit my system. After that, it ruled. I may have been temporarily freed from anxiety about things like social situations or life’s responsibilities, but I had a whole new set of alcohol-induced anxieties that were seriously bad. What did I do last night, what did I say? Do I have enough alcohol to make it through? How can I sneak drinks and stay just drunk enough to be calm, but not black out or pass out? How will I undo the damage my drinking has done to my school work, my job, my family?
For me, alcohol as a coping-with-life tool failed miserably. I assert that anyone who is seeking an answer to this kind of question is in the same spot. Somewhere in the literature it tells us, “the trap door has become a trap.”
Within AA, the people and the program, there are real solutions to negative emotions like anxiety, but they take a little while to learn. When I was anxious, and drank, the anxiety went away, but next time I was right back where I had started. When I was anxious, and when I didn’t drink, but rather talked to AAs and worked the program on my issues, I learned better how to deal with and sometimes avoid anxiety, and I grew emotionally. And those solutions did not cause me shame or compromise my life. They actually gave me a life that I feel confident in holding out to others as an example of the miracle of AA.
For most of us, AA is free and readily available. In this way, to me, it is more effective and valuable than therapy. The usual adage is that you should try it for 90 days, after which they will refund your misery if you’re not satisfied.
AA is not easy. It takes courage and commitment and a bit of faith. I had to have a little hope and a little faith that what the people of AA were telling me was true. I had to abandon the hope that one day, one mystical, magical day, I would crack the code and drink successfully.
So this question was on the character defects page. Those character defects are universal and daunting. It occurs to me now that it is a blessed miracle that I know that a list like that hold many keys to my serenity. Today, I have a clue, I have a plan, I have an idea. I have a sober history. And I have a life that I will hold out to anyone who is wondering and struggling as an example of the miracle of AA.
That’s how I replaced alcohol. With AA. I could not replace it with anything else, and I’m just lucky I didn’t die while I was trying.