- Death & Loss of Life
Alcoholism: My Experience
Battling My Own Demons
There is a story in the Bible that describes a time when many angels in heaven rebelled against God, attempting to unseat Him and set one of their own up in HIs place. God defeated the rebel angels and cast them out of heaven. This is the biblical story describing the origin of demons.
In a similar way, in my own day to day experience, there are things that would take me out of the driver's seat of my own life and rule over me if I allow it. These are the demons of my life that I must battle daily. Though I am using the term "Demon" figuratively, the battles are very real and the consequences of losing those battles can be devastating.
Angels to Demons
Angels They Were, Demons They Have Become
All of the demons I have faced began as elements of a healthy, balanced life which I corrupted and misused. This admission has been my greatest weapon in the struggle for control of my life. Two of my demons were grief and alcohol abuse. Both alcohol and grief can be parts of a normal, healthy life or they can be mishandled to become demons attempting to dominate me.
On April 1, 2008, my wife passed away after battling cancer for ten years. The process of grieving is a necessary part of regaining a healthy life. I took the grief, sadness, despair and loneliness, which were healthy and good parts of the process, and twisted them into an ugly place where I remained for an entire year.
The grieving process is comprised of seven stages: 1. Shock and Denial 2. Pain and Guilt 3. Anger and Bargaining 4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness 5. The Upward Turn 6. Reconstruction and Working Through 7. Acceptance and Hope.
I got bogged down on stage four. I began to drink heavily which only helped me to avoid moving on into the positive stages of the process. During that year, I isolated myself from all significant relationships and focused on my loss and feelings of guilt.
Demon #2- Alcohol Abuse
My second demon was alcohol abuse. The demon was not alcohol. Alcohol is a normal part of the lives of many people who use it responsibly. The way I used alcohol was abnormal and irresponsible. Couple this with alcoholism as a disease, and what is left is a life spiraling downward toward disaster. And I had no idea how to stop drinking, even though I really wanted to stop many times.
Defeating the Demon of Alcoholism
I admitted that I was living enslaved to alcohol by my own choice. I have to be careful in this description. Alcoholism is a disease. Can it be that I had this disease by my own choice? No, the disease is not my fault. How I dealt with that disease is my choice and responsibility. In that sense, I was being destroyed by alcohol, by my own choice because I refused the help that was offered. I had to experience many negative consequences before I was able to make this admission.
This step of admitting I could not control my drinking was such an important step for me to take. I was very good at blaming other things for my excessive drinking. I pointed at my wife's death as an excuse. Things as normal as working hard everyday were excuses to drink. Any problem that came up, no matter how small, led to the bottle. Any type of stress with people or money turned me toward alcohol. Admitting I was unable to control my drinking was the single most significant thing that I did to gain my freedom. If I had continued to blame other people, circumstances and things for my excessive drinking, I would still be out there.
Finally, I accepted the help that was offered. Alcoholics Anonymous is where I found the help and support to arrive today at three years, six weeks and two days sober. The God of my own understanding, along with other men and women who are living sober lives, give me the strength to live a better, happier life each day. I also took advantage of the substance abuse center at our hospital. The counselors were able to help me with medical and psychological aspects of addiction that Alcoholics Anonymous is not equipped to handle.
Defeating the Demon of Incomplete Grieving
I admitted that I was bogged down in the middle of the grieving process by my own choice. At the time of my wife's death, I could have immediately proceeded with grief counseling and group support, and been guided through all seven of the necessary steps of grieving. But I chose to wallow in my despair, depression and self pity for a whole year. Finally, in despair, I accepted the help that was offered to me. I opened my hard heart up to God and to other people. I went back and received the counseling that was so critical to my recovery from grief. I dealt with my shortcomings as a husband and at her graveside, asked my wife to forgive me. There was an intense sense of freedom that rushed in when I let all of the negative thoughts go.
Alcoholics Anonymous website with reading materials and help for finding meetings in your area
I Admitted that my life was being ruled by these two demons, alcohol abuse and unfinished grief, by my own choice to not accept help. I accepted help, achieved victory over these two adversaries and have truly found a new way of living.
My demons have been defeated, at least for today. Just as Michael the Arch Angel cast Lucifer from heaven and has fought the demon back ever since, I also must be vigilant to guard against the return of my own demons. I fight them daily just as I gained the initial victory, by admitting my own inability to remain free and by accepting the help of God and other people.
Today I am living sober, happy and free. The bondage to alcohol has been broken and emotionally I have dealt positively with the loss of my wife. Life is manageable again. Good things are happening and even if they don't I have found a way to cope without seeking escape.
There is such a thing as victory over our demons.