Saturday, July 17, 2010

“Fire Hazard Dry”

At my usual Friday speaker meeting last night, I heard something I hadn’t heard before. (I love it when that happens, btw). The speaker was telling her story, about how things had gotten so insane, and came to a part where she stopped drinking, but just all on her own. We refer to this ceasing of consumption without having any Recovery as being ‘dry’. She talked about herself as being ‘fire hazard dry” and I fell in love with the phrase.

I started getting loaded a bit later than a lot of people. It wasn’t until my early twenties. But I’ve always been able to look at my behavior before that and see the disease. I see it in the self-centered way I moved through the world. I see it in the deep insecurity I felt, coupled with my raging ego. I see it in the way I tried to make reality be what I wanted it to be instead of accepting it for what it was.

When I heard this woman talk about being ‘fire hazard dry’, I knew exactly what she meant. And I felt like I finally had a way to describe how I had been before I ever first picked up or got drunk or anything. My institutionalization is from before I first picked up. So is my time in jail. So is one of my failed marriages. You can throw in there some failed relationships, some destroyed friendships, and a lot of self-harm, too. And don’t even get me started on how bad things were between me and my family. My first two suicide attempts are from this time of my life as well.

I was raised to believe that alcohol was bad, that drugs were really bad, and that anyone who drank or did drugs was an alcoholic or a drug addict. It was out of fear that I stayed away from drugs and alcohol for so long. It was one hell of a culture shock when I got out into the world and discovered that most people drink. But the concept of people just drinking socially didn’t exist for me. It still doesn’t, really, but that’s a subject for another time.

For some people, this disease develops through excessive use. It hasn’t been like that for me. When I did start to drink, I drank to get drunk. When I started getting loaded, I got as loaded as possible, and it was not long before I was loaded all the time. When I first picked up my drug of choice, I felt a peace and an exhilaration I’d never thought possible. Finally, I’d found the answer to all my life’s problems. Finally, I’d found a way to escape the world and escape myself. I loved being fucked up. I loved thinking that I was a part of a group, that I belonged, and I really loved being able to let go of all the everything that my thoughts were always consumed with. And once I picked up, the disease progressed and progressed until I got into Recovery.

Some have suggested to me that I have mental issues apart from my disease, but at this point I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I went to my first therapy session when I was fifteen. I’ve been misdiagnosed as bipolar, and they’ve tried just about every form of medication on me known to man. And guess what? None of it worked. None of it helped. Therapy didn’t work. Psychopharmacology didn’t work. But the program does. Being loaded wasn’t the answer I thought it was; it wasn’t the solution. The serenity I’ve found through working the program is beyond anything I ever thought possible. It’s taught me a way to live that works. I needed one long before I ever first picked up, back when I was fire hazard dry.

At the risk of being a Big Book thumper here, I can’t help thinking about the passage that says how a man is unthinking when he says sobriety is enough. I know from my experience that it isn’t. Getting loaded, whether through alcohol or any other mind-altering substance, is not the disease; it is only a symptom. We need Recovery to treat our disease. Getting sober is only the beginning of the journey.

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