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  • John Staley

D is for Decline, Degeneration & Deterioration

These three word describe the antithesis of recovery. It implies falling from somewhere and yet many of us alcoholics are born into lives of decline and deterioration beyond our control. I had an abusive, alcoholic father who manipulated me, my mother and my brother for a lot of our lives. Long after he died he still had a stranglehold on my life. I was filled with resentment, rage and hate. Still residuals of those feelings lingers and wafts up from time to time. I no longer blame my father for my life. I started and lived life from a low point and the discovery of alcohol seemed to catapult me into a world of immense joy and excitement. I think for a brief period it did but it also halted any real development I might have had to becoming a properly functioning adult.

The chips were stacked against me and I was borrowing from the house always happy to take another complimentary drink each time the cocktail waitress of life would come by. For years I drank and took chances with relationships, jobs, my health and finances. I was young and able to physically withstand the effects of alcohol and surrounded myself with friends who not only excused my alcoholic behavior but encouraged it and joined in. We were quick to disguise our enabling as support and friendship. There were some true friends among them, some I still hold dear to this day but our behaviors were whole-heartedly degenerative and destructive to ourselves and everyone around us. I never learned any other way to live. For twenty years this was the best I came up with and slowly but surely it became increasingly harder to maintain. I was in a constant haze of booze-filled nights and sickening mornings. My hangovers from hell were complete with headaches, heartaches and stomachaches. Inevitably there was always some mess to clean up

They say that "recovery" is recovering the person you were before you started drinking. Well, I was a child with a catalogue of bad habits and bad ideas about how the world should work . My recovery was just as much about relief from the insanity of alcohol as it was about learning to make my bed each morning, pay my bills on time and eat a vegetable once in a while. I was doubly fucked --- addicted to alcohol with remedial life skills at best. No wonder surviving in sobriety seemed such a daunting task. I think there has been as much discovery as there has been recovery over the last four plus years. The things I am capable of and the person I am becoming would have been inconceivable a short while ago. Yet here I am here I am exercising and taking out the trash. Working on my self awareness and cultivating loving relationships with the people close to me. I am excited about learning and trying new things. I want to expand my world and am more open to new ways of thinking than I ever have been.

There are still moments of sadness and days filled with doubt but I now have tools to cope with these things. There are shovels to dig my way out and I am building a stairs to a better life. Rickety as they may be, the foundation I have found in recovery is strong and I am ready for the next level.

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