“When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.” – Yoda
There is a saying in AA that while you are in a meeting your addiction is the Beast in the parking lot doing push ups. It’s a sad fact that the disease of alcoholism is for life. A true Alcoholic may be recovered but is never cured. One may be sober for a while and be doing well in recovery and gain the confidence to try a little “controlled drinking”. Then there’s temptation. The Beast is always seeking a way, it is a subtle and cunning foe.
Controlled drinking may work for a while; it may even work for months. I know I’ve tried it. After a while I started to get confident and cocky. Thinking that I had beaten the old Dog I would let my hair down and next thing I know I’m as drunk as ever. My confidence deflated and my ego badly bruised I would “swear off” again for a few weeks until the next time.
We all know that the only effective way of staying sober is to abstain completely. There is no room for a drink. Not even one. We can try but the disease of alcoholism is unpredictable. With one drink we may be away on a massive binge or we may find that it was easy to stop at one. There is no certainty and for me the game is akin to Russian roulette.
Temptation is our disease doing Jedi Mind Tricks with our head. Rationalization is the other weapon it uses. We can literally hear our disease trying to lull us in to a false sense of security. A drop of the guard and next thing we are staring at a glass full of Bourbon wondering how the hell we got there. The crazy thing we never even know how we arrived at that point. It goes something like this:
“Suddenly the thought crossed my mind that if I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn’t hurt me on a full stomach.” (Big Book Chapter 3, p.38).
That is how subtle alcohol is. The man in the story had his loaded glass of milk and then another and another. This led to more drinks and eventually an asylum.
Temptation is “looking at the dark side”. Every time I walk past a bar or a liquor store I feel something within me stir. When I feel my anger rise and darkness falls over me as my judgment becomes clouded by resentment and fear I can hear my addiction laughing. Lonely, tired, depressed, anxious, frustrated or even hungry I can sense that my defenses are down and my addiction is stirred.
Times like these you need to do anything, pray, workout, call a sponsor, meditate, scream, anything but pour a drink.
In my early recovery I visualized my addiction as some sort of creature, a Beast if you will. I had cast a light on it by turning my life over to a Higher Power. My addiction retreated to a dark place and there it screamed and cursed. It promised it would have me again as it always had in the past. It would come back and make me pay. There was the knot of withdrawal in my stomach and I imagined it was my addiction beating against the bars of it’s cage. I have the keys, I could let it out. I dare not.
My addiction is still there and it always will be. It is mostly silent now but it waits patiently. The disease does not know time, it does not care how long I abstain for or how strong I think my recovery is. It only needs one slip and it’s out of the cage. It will be there till I die or it will carry me to the grave. I hold the key, I decide.
Every time I look in that dark place it is there and it looks back and it grins.