Long before I stopped drinking, I had stopped feeling anything except anger and fear. I had plenty of those two feelings. Although I drank like a champion to deaden them, the feelings of anger and fear just wouldn’t go away. I justified and rationalized my anger by telling myself if fueled my effectiveness as an attorney to be angry on behalf of my client. I justified and rationalized my fear by telling myself that if I wasn’t afraid, I was not pushing my own boundaries for growth hard enough and was becoming complacent.
Both were lies.
I was lying to myself. f there’s anyone in life we shouldn’t lie to it’s ourselves. It leads to bad results, guaranteed, because when you lie to yourself about what is true then many of the “truths” you tell to others are really lies. (If you understand that sentence, you might be an alcoholic…) I was trapped in a web of lies that I thought were true because I was too afraid to face my alcoholism and angry with myself for what I thought just a weakness. Life inside that trap was getting smaller and smaller and smaller and that just made me more afraid and angry. There was no time or space for any other feelings. I was so far away from happiness and joy that my only hope of finding fleeting glimpses of those feelings was at a bar or just in a bottle. Of course those were not true feelings of happiness or joy, they were just different forms of anger and fear—more lies to myself.
I had to escape the trap, but I didn’t know the key.
There is only one key, and that is willingness. I had to become willing to change. Some people think changing jobs will do the trick. Some people think changing friends, geographic location, type of alcohol (from scotch to just beer or wine for example) will open the door and let them escape the trap of fear and anger. Those approaches might help for a little while, but only a little while. Anger and fear always take over again until one becomes willing to be honest with oneself—truly honest. Notice that I didn’t say that you have to become honest with yourself, you just have to become WILLING to be honest with yourself. Becoming honest with yourself might take years (maybe a lifetime) to accomplish and if you’re an alcoholic, you really don’t have that much time life. The disease will kill you. But, if you are WILLING to be honest it’s different. You can become willing to be honest in a heartbeat, and that heartbeat can be the beginning of a new life—a life outside the trap of lies, fear, and anger otherwise known as alcoholism.
Life becomes easier without the lies generated in the state of anger and fear. Someone told me that if I always tell the truth, I never have to remember what I said. That’s freeing. Freedom is wonderful, but it comes with some conditions. I am free from the trap of alcoholism for today as long as I don’t take a drink, am willing (although not always able) to be honest with myself and others, make a conscious connection with a higher power of my understanding, and am willing to make amends for the problems I create when I fall short of rigorous honesty. When I do those things new feelings are possible and probable: serenity (not boredom), happiness, pride (the good kind), hope, faith, and love.
If you’re feeling mostly anger and fear and find yourself numbing those feelings with alcohol like I did, there is a solution. There is a key to escape the trap. You can turn the key in an instant by deciding to be WILLING to be honest with yourself and taking the first step toward your freedom. You’re the only one who can become willing. Nobody can give that to you or do it for you. You have to take it for yourself. If you’re willing to get honest, sober, happy, and free, then there are plenty of people willing to help you along the path. You just have to ask. You can call your local attorney assistance program. You can call your local AA number (it’ll be online or in the phone book). You can ask a friend who has recovered if you know one. And, you’re welcome to email me.