Addiction is flexible

Many of us can name a date or their age or even an occasion when they started drinking. I can’t do that. Either because I’ve already drunk so much that I’ve forgotten the day or maybe because the addiction has crept in and I haven’t really noticed the “turning point”, the point where the fun became addiction.

For many years I thought anyway that I had an eating disorder above all, that vomiting was my only problem. The fact that I had been drinking since I was 15 or 16 years old somehow didn’t seem to be worth to think about. Only at 30 did I manage to stop puking. Then I was suddenly cured, because that’s how addictions work. From one day to the other they’re gone.  – No, of course not.

When I stopped lying to myself about bulimia and tried to eat normally, I shifted my addiction even further to alcohol. This way I was able to get by: the drinking made me barely have an appetite and the calories came to me in liquid form, so although I became somewhat shapeless (beer belly and swollen face), I was able to keep my weight or even lose it. I was able to lose even more weight when my best friend drank himself to death and I had more reason than ever to drink.

It sounds like my whole life has gone down the drain to this point, but that’s only half true: my ego became stunted, my feelings went numb, but I worked – both academically and professionally, I could keep going and performing as I should have done. Although I drank during the week, ate almost nothing, and on weekends there was still a lot of cocaine or speed, but the image on the outside was preserved (at least through my eyes).

Until one day it could not be preserved any more, until the two vodkas during work and the wine and beer consumption in the evening attacked my ideal world. Until I couldn’t or didn’t want to anymore and didn’t function anymore. Until my partner told me one last time that I had to go to a clinic. I went to Hohe Mark and was back after barely two weeks. Purified and healed. How easy it was. The delusion lasted a few weeks, then I was back in the thick of it again. The addiction does not just stop; it waits for a weak point and then attacks mercilessly. Unemployment, loneliness, feeling useless, hurt pride – these are all gifts for the addiction. Suddenly there were feelings I couldn’t handle; I had never learned to handle. Looking back, it was foreseeable that I would relapse again. Another year full of self lies, self-hate and self-centeredness had to pass before I was not too ashamed to go to the Hohe Mark another time. This time much more humble, quieter, but still damn proud and unreasonable.

By chance, because there was nothing going on in the evening anyway and the conversations were annoying, one evening I accompanied a fellow patient to Frankfurt for the Young People Group meeting and that was perhaps the best decision I ever made. This warm welcome, the down-to-earth-attitude, the honesty – I felt understood from the beginning. I didn’t have to be ashamed, not for my alcohol career, not for the vomiting and not for the time in dodgy city areas. After I left Hohe Mark, I continued going to the group. In the beginning I didn’t know what the “program” was all about and when I understood it to some extent I didn’t know if I was going to hold out, but it was absolutely clear to me that this was the place where I could be me, without acting. Relatively quickly I looked for a sponsor and she is currently accompanying me through the 8th and 9th steps of the program.

The sun does not always shine, and I can’t constantly enjoy life, but I know where I never want to go again and what I never want to experience again. And I also know that there is still room for improvement; I have not yet been clean for two years and I want to learn a lot more, to build a better connection to my Higher Power, to become even more relaxed.

I always thought that if I stopped drinking, then most of it would be done, but that was a fallacy. Without consumption the feelings come gradually and that can be very exhausting; I learn things about myself and my sensitivities that I used to drink away. Suddenly I am vulnerable again and that can really hurt. And, it may sound strange now, that is good. Just as intensely as I partly feel sadness, I can rejoice and be happy – I couldn’t do that for decades. I am learning, I am growing, and I am becoming more and more satisfied – thanks to the group, thanks to the program and thanks to the connection to my Higher Power.

Although I am still often too proud and not humble or grateful enough, through the Young People I have found a way for me that I no longer want to leave. I could not have done it alone, neither could I have stayed dry at all without falling back into bulimia, nor could I have filled this hole that was opened by abstinence. My sponsor helps me, she takes me by the hand when I find it hard to see my own deficits, but also when I am threatened to sink into an indefinable emotional chaos. The group has become my dream family and the so-called 12-step program has become a life guide. No matter whether I am really happy or unspeakably sad, my Higher Power is there, and I know I am no longer alone.