I’m an addict. It’s in my nature to become obsessed and to compulsively engage in behavior that stimulates whatever combination of chemicals it is in my brain – seratonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphines, I don’t know – that creates a feeling of euphoria and peace. I crave this stimulation to the point of anxiety, and without a support system and framework in my life that encourages a healthy response to these cravings, I will be tortured and compelled by my own brain to go to any lengths to quell that anxiety.
Without a support system and framework of greater strength than I, I would plot my own destruction to quell the torture of the addiction.
I’ve been sober for over 14 months now (in a row!), but not for a day have I not been an addict.
I want to stay sober, so I try to study and seek the advice of other addicts who have successfully maintained sobriety for long periods of time. This active search for wisdom has provided me with many useful tools and methods to use when the compulsion of addiction is particularly strong.
The tool I use most is prayer. I probably pray a dozen times a day, maybe more.
The tool I use second-most is tabletop-sports gaming.
I’m no expert on the mechanisms of the brain, but I know that there is a certain call-and-response that occurs; I go through the ritual of filling out a lineup card, the click-clacking of the roll of the dice, I pencil in the result in the little box and there is, suddenly, a flush of something lovely in my body. It feels a lot like puppy love.
Is pursuing this hobby a healthy response to my addictive nature? I honestly don’t know. I play some game – Strat-o-Matic baseball, APBA Soccer, lately it’s been Mea Copa World Cup replays- pretty much every day. On days I don’t, I think about these games. A lot. I think about them when I’m at work, when I’m at church, when I’m at a family gathering.
But, you know, as far as addictions go, this one is pretty benign. Because of tools I’ve learned in counsel with other addicts, I know how to maintain family, faith, and employment above all symptoms of my addiction. And, I’ve chosen to channel my addiction into tabletop sports in part because this is a kind of addiction that will never lead to a barfight, an extra-marital dalliance, a night in jail, or worse.
My kids might someday be a little embarrassed by their nerdy dad with his dice games, but this is far better than the alternative, which is the shame of a drunken dad. I know that too well. And my wife doesn’t understand this hobby, but she bemusedly tolerates it. I’ll take bemused tolerance over loathing, bitterness, anger and pain any day.
I went to two Christmas parties this weekend, and didn’t drink at either. I felt comfortable, too, and managed to enjoy myself. That was a huge success for me and a sign of great progress. I’ll pat myself on the back for that today, but I won’t drink in celebration. Tonight, I’m going to play out the Quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup using Mea Copa. I won’t drink while I do that. Afterward, I’ll go to bed sober, beside a woman who is happy to have me warming her bed.
Whatever combination of chemicals it is that is warming my heart, flushing my cheeks, and filling my chest with gratitude and contentment tonight, I don’t know. I’m no brain scientist. But that I can call this my sobriety is a thing of wonder. It feels a lot like life, and right now life feels a lot like love.