Around three years ago, I admitted to myself I’m an alcoholic. But it wouldn’t be until around two years later that I admitted I was powerless over alcohol, which is the first step of the AA program.
I wasn’t a member of AA at the time, so I didn’t go through this step officially, documented and with a sponsor.
In fact, I didn’t admit I was powerless over alcohol, or at least I didn’t phrase it like that.
I admitted that booze had me by the balls, and no matter how many breaks I took, and how long they were, our relationship would always be the same: I would remain the green guy in prison, alcohol the possibly homosexual prison-yard bully who grabs a handful of my balls whenever he wants, whispering rapey promises in my ear as he does.
For some people, admitting they’re an alcoholic and powerless over alcohol coincide. For others, they admit the powerless thing first, and the alcoholic revelation comes later. Think of the period of time between both revelations as purgatory, or a way station. In order to progress in your recovery, both need to be admitted.
Of course, for some, they admit they’re an alcoholic, but never recognize they’re powerless over alcohol.
I have a family member who’s caught in this way station now. They know they have a major problem with booze, but they’re not ready to accept that they can never again go back to drinking like a regular person. When you’re talking about moderating your drinking, you’re not there yet.
A couple months of sobriety are easily achieved when you know there’s a glass of your favorite tipple at the end of it.
Remember the guy who told me the metaphor about which I blogged? The one with the cucumber and the pickle? A couple months ago, he told me a great parable of this period, the alcoholic’s purgatory.
Imagine a guy who has a five-hundred-pound gorilla as a pet. I don’t know if five-hundred pounds is about the size fully grown gorillas reach. If it isn’t, imagine it’s a teenage gorilla.
That teenage or fully grown gorilla is kept in a cage for obvious reasons. The guy knows how dangerous he is. He likes his facial skin wear it is, and he doesn’t think it would make a great Halloween mask.
But that gorilla, despite possibly being a teenager, is one charming motherfucker.
Oh, he can also talk, which I forgot to mention.
Slowly, bit by bit, as the guy visits him to feed and give him water, he gains the guy’s confidence and manages to convince him he should let him out of his cage for a while. He’ll be a good gorilla.
So the guy does.
The gorilla beats the shit out of the dude. I mean fucks him up bad. Someway, somehow, the guy manages to get the gorilla back in the cage. Maybe he drugged him, or maybe the gorilla just got bored of beating the fuck out of him and went back in willingly.
It’s a gaping plot hole in this story, but whatever. The guy’s super pissed at his gorilla, but that ill will pales in comparison to the shame and embarrassment he feels at having been tricked.
The gorilla’s still his pet. He made a lifelong commitment to him. He can’t give him away like a Christmas-present puppy when he’s no longer cute.
The guy has to turn up to feed him, to give him water, and during these times the gorilla starts to turn on the charm again. He tells the guy he’d like to come out of the cage, and it’ll be different this time. There’s no way he’ll beat the fuck out of him.
Despite his bruises being fresh and the cuts unhealed, the guy is easily tricked. He lets that teenage gorilla out of the cage, and the inevitable happens. The gorilla beats the fuck out of him. Shit, this time he goes even wilder than last time, making the guy the object of moves performed by professional wrestlers. He fucks the guy up bad.
Someway, somehow, the guy manages to get the gorilla back in the cage. This time he realizes the gorilla needs to stay in there. He can’t be trusted. When he turns up to feed the gorilla after this second beating, and the gorilla starts lying to him, telling him it’ll be different this time, turning on the charm, the guy looks at his bruises and fresh cuts and tells the gorilla to go fuck himself.
But those cuts always heal, and the bruises turn from blue to purple to yellow, before eventually fading. The guy goes through this cycle of the gorilla gaining his confidence anew, of getting the shit beaten out of him, and getting the gorilla back in the cage many times.
I know what you’re thinking: Wait a minute. Doesn’t the guy have to clean the cage out, so doesn’t he have to let the gorilla out regularly anyway?
Just ignore that and think about the story.
It can end in two ways: the guy can let the gorilla out one time too many times, and the gorilla beats the shit out of him to the point where he dies; or the second one is that the guy can hold on to the mistrust he has for the gorilla, reminding himself of it every day, long after the bruises and cuts have healed, and successfully keep the gorilla in the cage.
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