i had my big share earlier this evening…and rocked it like a boss! Thanks to you guys! i thought about your encouragement, support and concrete advice (breathing, look at at least three people, speak slowly, pray…) and the effect it had on me was immeasurable. Yes, my voice quaked a little, especially when i touched on my suicide attempt, but i don’t think anyone really noticed. The nice part was i made a lot of jokes–even better, people actually laughed! Go figure.
Here’s an edited version of what i had to say, if you’re interested.
Sooooooooo, this is stressful…
Before, when i was confronted with situations like this, i had a little trick. i called it vodka. Unfortunately, that was the only trick i had. i was a one-trick pony.
When i was sad: booze. Nervous: booze. Stressed: booze. Afraid: booze. Happy: booze. Bored: booze. When i felt nothing: booze. i only had one tool in my kit: booze. That’s insane! One tool!
AA’s second step says we believe a Higher Power will restore us to sanity, and i was so totally insane that i needed restoration. How insane was i? i was trying to restore myself–with only one tool! Do you realize how difficult it is to build something with your life or make something of yourself when all you have is one tool? Especially when that one tool usually was a screwdriver!
Here’s another thing that shows how insane i was. i drank for 30 years. 30 years. i drank for 30 years despite the fact my life was constantly getting worse. A normal person would say, “Wait, this is hurting me, I’ll stop it.” Not me, because i was insane.
Another thing. i drank for 30 years and i didn’t even like the taste of alcohol! i hated beer and wine but drank it all the time. i only drank hard liquor if i could mix it with something that would cover the taste! There must be some food you don’t like, right? Do you eat it? Of course not, you don’t like it so why would you eat it? But me, i drank for 30 years even though i didn’t like what i was drinking.
Of course i had a reason to drink, though. i was looking for something. i was looking for love, friendship, romance, courage, strength at the bottom of a bottle. Here’s how insane that was: i spent 30 years looking for things in the one place i knew they weren’t! Because i’d looked there before and not found them, not really, and yet i kept looking there even if i knew i’d find nothing!
Imagine you’re looking for a key. You check your pocket and find it’s empty and that there’s a hole in it. Do you check it again, right after? No, of course not, you know they key isn’t there. Do you check five times, ten times, 1000 times? Do you keep checking over and over again in the same pocket for 30 years? Of course not! That would be insane. All you’d touch is that same emptiness and the only thing you’d feel is that hole getting bigger and bigger, and that’s what happened to me.
Now, in recovery, i’m still insane. But. i lost that one tool i had and replaced it with a full set of better tools and i keep adding to the toolbox all the time. Also, i recognize the thoughts that are insane and i use my tools to fix them. With time, those thoughts are coming less frequently and with less strength, so maybe there will be a time when they all but disappear. But that’s for another day. Right now, i’m happy to be here with you and i thank you for your support in keeping me sane.
Thanks again, everyone who commented and sent me moral support! It was a truly beautiful gift and helped me so much. You guys are the greatest!
i’ve been asked to be the feature speaker at the largest English speaking meeting here in Yeaman, which is the kind of big you see in movies set in Queens. i’m looking forward to it in the same way you look forward to having a kidney stone removed if you have to do it yourself.
So why? i don’t have to do it–the person who asked said many people outright refuse because it is a little daunting–but i thought i’d go for it because
- i believe in service to Alcoholics Anonymous and don’t feel i have the right to say ‘No’. When i think about all the program has done for me, i need to be looking for more ways to give back.
- i’m feeling braver about speaking. i’m still sure my voice will crack and i’ll turn all red, but my sponsor and i have been working on this thing where i share at every meeting i attend for the express purpose of getting over my shyness, and it’s working.
- Something i saw on Facebook: Everything you want is on the other side of fear. i need to learn to be brave.
- Something i thought of myself: Instead of looking for ways to get out of tasks, i need to be looking for ways to get into them.
- Something else i thought of myself: That which doesn’t kill me makes me more sober.
Wish me luck!
Photograph by Kyle Thompson.
Earlier i mentioned how Daniel Radcliffe got recovery advice from Gary Oldman. But who did Goldman get advice from? Sir Anthony Hopkins. So, in keeping with my “6 Degrees of Celebriety” theme, here’s a post about Tony Hopkins.
Anthony Hopkins had his last drink on Monday, December 29, 1975. His second wife (Jenni Lynton) left him on Christmas and returned to England. He hit the bottle hard as soon as she was gone, only to call her drunk and sobbing while she told him he needed to get help. Then, when he drank so much at a party that he blacked out, a Hollywood agent gave Hopkins a card for Alcoholics Anonymous. He had a last drink the following Monday morning, called AA, and has been sober since.
What it was like
I wasn’t popular as a child. I never played with any of the other kids, and I didn’t have any friends. I wanted to be left alone all through my school years. I’ve felt like an outsider all my life.
I hated the Sixties. For most of it I was drinking myself into oblivion. I was in a coma for most of it, so I missed the whole decade, including the Beatles, completely. I would drink about eight pints a night – I remember being in Liverpool on those drizzly evenings in the pub, getting the last drop in.
I had some bizarre nights with Peter when we made The Lion In Winter, but to be honest I don’t remember them. He enjoyed his drink – and I did, too. We weren’t close friends or anything but we got drunk very quickly and there was always amusement and laughter. I love drunks; they are terrific – except when they throw up on you.
I would show up on movie sets after drinking and not sleeping. I made a terrible film called The Looking Glass War in 1968. I had a scene with Ralph Richardson in the back of a car that I don’t even remember doing because I was so drunk.
I was in a bit of trouble, becoming awkward to work with. [Sir Laurent] Olivier recommended I go see a psychiatrist friend of his. I did for one session. He said my behavior was due to “creative exhaustion,” or some crap like that. The problem was, I was drinking too much! So that was the end of my psychiatric therapy.
It was like being possessed by a demon, an addiction, and I couldn’t stop. And millions of people around like that. I could not stop.
Her actions [Jenni Lynton, his second wife, left him] saved my life. Suddenly, I realised she wasn’t going to help me anymore. She’d tolerated me longer than most. Other people simply wouldn’t put up with my crap. I was a real loner. I threw friends away through hostility.
I drank a lot, but I wouldn’t have missed it. I look back on it as sort of dreary enjoyment, because I don’t have to be there anymore.
When you look at what a poor, tired mess John Barrymore was at the end of his life, and what a catastrophe that was, it’s just so sad. To go insane and either drink yourself to death, or blow your brains out, like Hemingway, it’s very sad. Let’s just say I don’t recommend it.
What made me stop drinking was not remembering where I’d been the night before.
One day I just thought, “I’ve had enough of this.” It was simple. I didn’t want to go on feeling bad.
For me, giving it up was finding the airlock, the escape hatch. It all happened one Monday morning in 1975. It was as if a voice said, “Ready! Go!” It was that clear, the voice of gold. The best part of myself, my subconscious, came to rescue me.
And then that Monday: Boom. And it was over. It was like a great pilot light was lit. No explanation except, I guess, I was open, willing and ready.
As God as my witness, an enormous powerful voice came into my mind. It said, “It’s all over now, you can start living. What’s happened has been for a purpose, don’t forget a moment of it.” Suddenly the craving to drink was taken from me.
I don’t know how. I had no religious connection or a connection to what I thought was God. When I look back I think I was so lucky to get out of that one.
I was hell bent on destruction. And I just asked for a little bit of help, and suddenly, pow.
But I now realise I am the problem with my life. I am the killer of myself, I am a self destructive force.
My only demon that I had was that I drank too much. I was very insecure and frightened, but I wouldn’t have missed it because I have no choice! It happened. I look back on it as a valuable time in my life. Alcohol gave me a great amount of courage and energy and anger, all things I never would have had the nerve to do. So I’m very grateful to that period in my life, which launched me, in a way. But finally, that kind of fuel rips you to pieces, so I said “enough of this.” But now I feel relatively peaceful, relatively happy.
I’m glad I’m an alcoholic…Obviously, I’m sorry for the hurt I caused people – but being an alcoholic was an amazing and powerful experience. God, how I loved tequila, such wonderful stuff. It used to give me strange hallucinations and occasionally it would provide strange spiritual awakenings, which is ridiculous for an atheist like me. There were some days when I’d drink a bottle of tequila and I didn’t care if I died. I was so washed up, so empty. [Shared as feature speaker during an AA conference]
Yes, I really am glad I’m an alcoholic. I’m not trying to be cool. It may not feel like it at times, but we are rich people. The scar tissue I have built up over the years is now my strength and power.
I have wasted too many years being angry, resentful and hostile. Now I realise I don’t want this anymore. I need to be a productive member of AA and give something back.
My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.
Ah, the addiction to chaos! The addiction to drama! Never. I never want to go back to that life again.
I don’t feel that awful kind of angst – like I was on the wrong planet – that I felt for years. I feel now I belong somewhere. I belong in my own skin.
I don’t miss drinking, not at all. I don’t want to ever go back there. Now I just love English tea and digestive biscuits or Hobnobs.
Sources for the quotes:
- The Daily Mail
- The Guardian
- The Telegraph
- Anthony Hopkins Movies
- Christian Post
- The Free Library
- The Hollywood Interview
In my Celebriety post about Daniel Radcliffe, I referenced a conversation Radcliffe had with his Harry Potter costar Gary Oldman about drinking too much. As Gary Oldman has gone from getting arrested for drunk driving with Keifer Sutherland to getting sober in 1995 and going so far as to meet his (now ex) wife in Alcoholics Anonymous, it seemed appropriate to do a six degrees of sobriety exposé on him.
i’ve recently been anxious and stressed out by others acting out in my real virtual world. The situation has left me incredibly tense and feeling less than adequate.
A few years ago, i would have dealt with this using the only tool i had at my disposal: alcohol. Now it’s more daunting because i still feel the same dread but i don’t have the option of drinking over it.
Fortunately, i have more than one tool in my box now, and i’d like to share them with you here in case they might help you, the next time you get a little wound up.
The Serenity Prayer
i stand by this old standby. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change (which means other people’s behavior), the courage to change the things i can (myself), and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Where are you now?
i say this to myself when i catch myself falling down the rabbit hole of my thoughts, because eventually i get so far deep that my ideas start chasing their own tails and i lose my sense of the real world. Asking myself “Where are you right now?” forces me to focus on the real world and my physical place in it.
Once one of my biggest defects of character, now i let myself postpone worrying. When i notice the anxiety ramping up, i tell myself to put off thinking about the situation until tomorrow. This is nice because i’ve noticed time and sleep have a great way of diluting pressure.
The Happy Ending
When the problem ends–and it has to end eventually, it’s just a question of time–the ending will be happy because i won’t have drunk over the stress. i’ll have won, and that feels damn good.
Why He Drank
Harry Potter put me around people like the actor Richard Harris and I heard all their amazing stories about their drunken nights. That was what I was desperately trying to pursue.
There were a few years there when I was just so enamoured with the idea of living some sort of famous person’s lifestyle that really isn’t suited to me.
Interviewer: You’re only 22. Don’t most people in their early twenties drink too much?
Daniel Radcliffe: Unfortunately it’s not that simple. I have a very addictive personality. It was a problem.