Spoke to a doctor yesterday who suggested that I am stressed and tired and not coping well, hence the recurring ailments. Ugh. She asked how I had coped in years gone past and I couldn’t summon up the courage to tell her I just anaesthetised away all my difficuties. Alcohol was a magic wand back then. If I lived closer to the city I would spend some time with a therapist, but that isn’t possible — so I just turn to caring friends and carry on.
Sharing is key in recovery. From an email to a friend who asked about why we pick up the phone so often to confide in sober friends, especially at this time of year:
‘The first time I went into therapy in my 20s I had no idea that talking with anyone could change what was happening in me or with me — I was ‘huis clos’ as Sartre put it, a closed circle, pathologically defended because of all the inappropriate disclosures and behaviours from my troubled parents, just Kipling’s solitary cat on the inside, no desire to share, no point in sharing. I would do what I wanted to do in any case, I had made up my mind, I understood myself better than anyone else, I didn’t trust anyone but myself to make decisions, that kind of closed circle, a trap.
‘And then walking home after long hesitant sessions, I found that I felt and thought differently about some things, that I had begun listening to myself in therapy as if the person speaking was different from the inner me and saying different things, actually wanting to be heard. And the skilled therapist could get me to look at things differently, heard both the speaking and silent aspects of myself sitting there.
‘That opened me to the idea of telling others what was on my mind when I sobered up, not to avert drinking in itself (although sometimes that was why I rang) but because when I was heard, another aspect of myself felt validated or cared for and I could reconnect with the part of myself wanting to care for myself, rather than the part of myself that was indifferent and or despondent or wanted to escape the self altogether. Alcoholism for me has been so much about the divided self, the ambivalence.
‘Conversations and the getting to know another over years are like scaffolding that can build structures leading out of shut-down places, let in new ways of thinking and gradually a habit of sharing, letting others in. That is what is has been like for me. If I were to drink again, it would not seem to be about drinking, it would be a spring coiled and tightening imperceptibly, a certain unhappiness intensifying little by little, hope ebbing, a kind of incremental giving up. The long dark tea-time of the soul as Douglas Adams puts it.
‘Not sure if this is clearly enough expressed, but finding others who are able to listen and attune themselves to the unsaid — what I may not be able to hear myself as yet — is essential in recovery. I could not get sober alone despite heroic and foolhardy efforts over many years, and the implications of shared recovery are more far-reaching than almost any other aspect for me.’
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers and do share those recipes for the ultimate pumpkin pie!