Being an Addict Is Easy — Getting Sober Is Hard

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About Steve Murray

Steve Murray is a 43 year old computer scientist, a father of two boys aged 11 and 9, and a recovering alcoholic. He's also an unapologetic geek, with an unabashed love of comic books, anything by Joss Whedon, Game of Thrones, and anything else dorky you've probably ever heard of. I can be found online in various places:
https://twitter.com/breschau
https://www.facebook.com/breschau013
https://plus.google.com/u/0/110801046112606724552/posts/p/pub
http://www.reddit.com/user/breschau/

Comments

  1. Thank you for being so brave and open with your story, Steve. I can only imagine it must have been tough to do, though also liberating. I’m sure there will be people who will relate and be inspired. Sounds like your introspection is really leading you to some genuine self discovery. I hope the momentum continues and you’re able to come to some peace and resolution that will allow you to continue forward toward being content with yourself. Hugs to you, my friend.

    • Thanks, Mary. It really has been liberating to take some of the chaos that’s been swirling in my head for years now, and just let it flow into the laptop and then out to the public. It’s helping me and my mental state immensely – but my real hope is that my story can help other people going through the same struggles, ideally before they hit the lows to which I descended.

  2. I too found your story really moving, Steve. There are a few people I’d like to send it to, that’s for sure.

    Good luck in beating your demons and getting to a place of peace and health. I hope it becomes easier for you as time goes on.

    • Thank you, Rachel. Please, feel free to forward this (along with the other articles you’ll see coming later this week) to anyone who’s struggling with this disease. It truly can take ahold of anyone – it doesn’t discriminate, and it is freaking ruthless. And it’s especially rough on those of us who think we’re smarter than it – we become our worst enemies. I’m working on putting my life back together one piece at a time, and I hope it becomes easier with each piece too.

  3. You have the motivation, wisdom, skill, and experience. It’s the will, that you seem to need. You have the ability to convey sentiment, move people, and get ideas across. You should write. I’d call this a good start.

    • Well Mike – that’s the current plan. I have a long way to go, but the will is absolutely thee right now. I just need to sustain it long-term now.

  4. I understand where you are. It’s a scary and lonely place. Life just spins and its horrible feeling you can’t escape what you know might kill you. 1) Sounds like you are right about the point where you realize you can’t beat alcohol but it has you beat. 2) Also sounds like you can see how totally unmanageable your life has become. Once I was honest about my inability to stop hurting others and myself as a result of my drinking I had to decide if I really wanted to be sober. But I had to choose sobriety for mevand not for anyone else. That is a sure recipe forcfailure. It meant I had to do the work to change and depend time with sober people who understood my problem – and had a solution. I did what they did, haven’t had a drink in over 2 years, and I’m in the best emotional shape in my life. Sober people help me stay sober now. I stay honest and ask for help when I need it. Your life doesn’t have to be defined by a series of relapses and benders. Sobriety is like living two lifetimes in one. Feel free to contact me off this gorum if you want to talk.

  5. “I am tired of losing friends to this disease…”

    Thank you for your heart-wrenching account…so few come clean about this….

    We have tried to be good friends to addicts/drinkers… And over time, we have been tested… Sometimes being a good friend is keeping a safe distance and taking care of oneself and one’s family and hoping the drinker friend eventually wakes up and follows…

    We had to drop a long time friend because he was being abusive to me… It took me a while to realize his tirades were about himself and his life…. And that it had nothing really to do with me… I was just a convenient punching bag… Even weirder was I think I saw him recently sitting quietly at a nearby table at a fair with his new family (3rd marriage!)… And he just sat there but did not dare to initiate conversation with us… I did not feel angry anymore over seeing him…I am over being dragged into his dramas and being labelled the scapegoat….perhaps what is even sadder is realizing maybe he never was a true friend if he could be so cruel to me and my husband….

    Sad stuff…

    • Hi Leia:

      Thank you very much for your kind words. The only thing I am trying to do during the (coming) series of articles about this disease, and my struggles through it, is fearless honestly. I don’t feel the need to embellish or exaggerate any part of what has happened to me, because the true details are scandalous enough by themselves. It should be an interesting ride.

      Unfortunately, we addicts are often our own worst enemies. We self-sabotage, we lash out (sometimes abusively) at the people who are trying to help us the most, and we chew up and spit out any “friends” that we think can be useful for a short-term goal (usually involving either a place to sleep, or a way to get drunk/high). The one thing you should keep in mind: what you saw in your former friend when he was drinking was not really him – that was his addiction acting out through his body. It can take as long as 3-4 months of continuous sobriety for an a recovering addict’s actual personality to show up. And of course, these new personalities are capable of feeling intense shame for their previous actions, which is why he couldn’t bring himself to initiate a conversation: he had no desire at that moment to confront what he was like in the midst of his active addiction. It’s extremely common – some recovering addicts get over it after a few months; some never do, sadly.

  6. Some get it, most don’t. The end point for those who don’t get it is either death, jail or an institution. Some get there sooner than others but that’s what we face. I quit when I was 21 and have never gone back to the life. I consider myself one of the lucky ones when I stop and consider the high % of people who don’t stay sober. I don’t know why you or anyone struggling with this can’t get it. Neither does anyone else. That’s what makes the whole thing so baffling.

    Do you have a sponsor? A phone tree? A higher power that you scream out for help from when the demons come calling? The Big Book says. “Rarely have we seen a man fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” Well, are you thoroughly following the path of being clean and sober? Are you willing to go to any lengths to beat this? Have you really taken the first step and surrendered?

    Good luck to you. I hope you make it.

  7. Hi Iben:

    First, let me say I am so sorry you grew up in an alcoholic household. I would never wish that one anyone. I have to stop myself from obsessing over the damage my disease may have already done to my two sons, and what it may continue to do to them in the future (and, of course, if they’ll suffer from the same disease), because that’s a path i could start down and never find my way out of. You asked:

    “What can family and friends do for you?”

    There’s actually an extensive list of what family and friends can do “for” me.

    They are almost all wrong.

    They invariably end up enabling, or attempting to control, or establishing co-dependence, or emasculating the alcoholic.. There are only two suggestions that I would make for friends and family who are serious about wanting to “help”:

    1) Attend Al-Anon meetings regularly, and participate. Talk to other people who have gone through what you are going through.
    2) Set healthy boundaries, with clearly defined repercussions of breaking them, with the alcoholic, and hold to them unequivocally. No 2nd or 3rd or 4th chances. No “It’ll never happen again, I promise”. No “I’ll just have one drink, who will that hurt?” Cross the boundary? Suffer the consequences.

    As for the article title: living with an addict is not easy; loving an addict is not easy; being the child of an alcoholic is hell. I would never suggest anything different. But that’s not who the title is about.

    The addict himself? Getting drunk is simple: open the bottle, drink until you don’t feel anything. Getting and staying sober is a ton of work: going through withdrawl, making meetings, getting a sponsor, doing step work, and worst of all – having to face and actually deal with all of these emotions that are flying through your body that you haven’t felt in years, or decades.

    That’s really hard. That’s why so few addicts recover, and stay clean and sober long term. It’s not an excuse for us to fail – I’m working every single day on my sobriety, and writing these columns are part of that work for me. But it’s hard, and it really never gets easy.

    • Hi Steve

      Thank you for the long reply and good advice.
      Because I fear this is partly genetic I respect alcohols as if it was drugs.

      You write :”✺worst of all – having to face and actually deal with all of these
      emotions that are flying through your body that you haven’t felt in years, or decades. That’s really hard. That’s why so few addicts recovers”✺

      I do understand that.
      What I can not understand is how this is harder for addicts than for other patients in therapy.
      Once I poured out a friends bottle with chemical he inhaled. ( he was addicted to everything). That night I had a grown man in my house crying for him mamma. His pain came a place in him where he was a very little child.

      It is hard, but it can be done because feelings do not last for ever.

      Remember Steve you survived the first time in your life you had this terrible emotions,and you will survive it the second time. Now they are “memories of emotions ” .
      What can kill you,is you trying to escape.

      I sincerely hope you can take it. We need bright scientists and fathers.

  8. Hey Steve,

    Great article- thank you for being so open and transparent. I too suffered from alchol and drug addiction- which led to 3 hospital visits in 2 years- two of which I nearly died from. Been to rehab twice and AA/NA for years, but it wasn’t until I surrendered myself over to Christ that I was finally freed.

    I won’t get all “religious” on you and I understand it may offend some here, but please hear me when I say that is all I needed. It still took me a couple years to totally clean up after getting saved, but I can now truly say I am a new creation, have been freed in every aspect, and no longer a slave to addiction. I have been clan off of drugs for almost 8 years, and free from (not a single drop) alcohol for just under 5 years.

    Keep fighting my brother and know your Lord is on your side.

  9. Dear Steve,

    Your story sounds awfully familiar. It seems obvious and telling that you have responded to every comment on here except to those that speak the language of recovery, which leads me to believe that you do not want it, yet. I hope someday you do because relapse and shame have a way of taking the magic out of a somewhat miraculous process.

    I am familiar with the route you are taking and the idea that intelligence gets in the way.I am too smart for my own good in this arena but never really believed it anyway. Hope is a small spark or flame that needs to be carefully fed and fanned to catch fire. The moments of clarity, acts of providence, and opportunities for spiritual awakening become more fleeting and less believable the longer we put off the inevitable. If we are ever to be restored to sanity or sound health we must begin to believe, rather to know, that we cannot think our way into right action but we can act our way into right thinking.

    It is not a moral dilemma that pits right against wrong. However, it is action that leads us out of darkness into the light. After all, we made a decision…

    Sending strength and love your direction.

    • Hi Jill:

      You wrote:

      “It seems obvious and telling that you have responded to every comment on here except to those that speak the language of recovery.”

      And you’re right – it is. Though not necessarily for the reasons you think.

      First: it’s just an incredibly complex subject for me right now, because I’ve had so many attempts at “recovery” over the years, and I’ve tried so many different ways of staying sober (getting sober was never a problem – staying there always was). I’ve gone to meetings (sometimes 7 days a week), I’ve had a few sponsors (one relapsed, one died, and a couple I just stopped contacting after a while), I’ve worked the steps – I’ve put a lot of effort into doing what “everybody told me I should do”. And it never really worked – most of it felt like attempts to just keep me busy enough to not want a drink for a little while. And while it worked at the moment, it didn’t help whenever the meeting/phone call/whatever was over. The writing I’m doing right now is the first activity I’ve participated in which I feel is pro-actively helping me not want to drink. I appreciate what everyone has to say to me about recovery, but there is a lot of “Been there, done that”, and I don’t want to respond flippantly to the sincere efforts of people reaching out here in the comments – but my full answer is simply too long to give in this exact setting.

      (NOTE: I’m not one of those people that think AA is a “cult”, or anything that extreme. I just don’t necessarily believe there’s a “one size fits all” solution for all alcoholics, and explaining that in a complete, nuanced manner takes quite of time and space.)

      Now, on that note:

      Secondly, I’m planning on writing a very long article on this subject in the fairly near future, so I didn’t want to get into it too deeply in the comments here. But I am taking note of what everybody says, and a lot of these comments will make their way into that eventual article.

      Thanks,
      Steve

  10. I know what it means to not quite “be there” in terms of making a commitment to sobriety. I have been either anorexic or bulimic for 20 years. I have periods of abstaining from the behavior, but my addiction is food, or the control of it, and my health scares have been many from near heart failure to near esophogeal tears. I have a waking moment and I quit…then I forget and I participate. The hardest part for me is admitting what I am: an addict. Most of my friends and family believe I am healthy. If you ever want someone to scream to at night, email me. Maybe I will be awake, binging, and we can stop one another for a night, or maybe I will decide that night my health and my children are more attractive than my compulsion. The difficulty of addiction is lost on those who never struggle. I do not wish any addiction nightmare on anyone, and I pray my children are either more genetically gifted, smarter, or stronger than myself. I tell my story often, not for sympathy, but because if one person listens, then at least I have not suffered and failed time and again in vain.

  11. Hi steve, i am also a recovering alcoholic addict, i to relapsed over and over again and it wasnt till i pulled my head out of my ass thats things began to change. Unfortunatly you may never stay sober, people have tryed for long before you and i to find solution to this problem and there is only one solution i know that has ever worked, so for u to think you are going to solve this on your own you are kidding yourself, and i think deep down you know that, lets not forget, im an alcoholic to, so i think the same as you. Ive have tryed to solve this on my own to, the answer is in those rooms if you can pull ya
    head out of your but and admit you dont know how to fix this and accept they do, listen to them, do what they suggest and stop playing the victim, we need to admit defeat , and most of all loose the fucking pride that makes us think ” i got this on my own” look where on our own gets us, drunk and on drugs. As i said, the reality of it is mate you may never get this and be miserable the rest of your life, i thought i would be, just give it a real go, swallow your pride, do whats suggested and u can be free of this, the answer is in those rooms, not on fucking facebook posts. Sry to sound harsh mate, but this disease kills people everyday and i take it serious, the reality of it is unless u can get off your own case and accept the answer is in those rooms you are probably fucked. i know it seems like they dont have an answer for you because you have tryed, well, try again. the answer is there, the answer is the answer is there, let go, accept you are hopeless and are never going to solve this on your own and if your sponsor dies or drinks, get another one, its your recovery, not your sponsors. i promise you with everything in me if you stick at it it will work, do the fucking steps!! i dont know you but i love you my friend because i am you, i hope you soon get the miracle of recovery. One more thing, dont confuse religion with spirituality, u dont need a fucking church or jesus christ to be truely spiritual, you just need to get yourself out of the way of yourself, take care mate

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