Tales of a High-Bottom Alcoholic

By Jackie Monahan 05/17/19 – https://www.thefix.com/tales-high-bottom-alcoholic 

Having a high bottom can be more dangerous because it can go undetected for life. You can end up just living a soulless life. 

Jackie Monahan with friends.
It’s my job every day to remind myself that my life is so much more rewarding now. Cash and prizes are just extras, the real rewards are free and deeply fulfilling.
When I first got sober someone referred to me as having a “high bottom.” A friend, trying to be funny, yelled out, “that’s just because she has long legs!”

I was then told that a high bottom meant I had not caused too much damage to myself or others while I was drinking, but I feel like that’s subjective. A “low bottom” does not really leave much open to interpretation: jail, interventions, hospital, losing your family, your job, your home. You have to decide: get sober or suffer terrible consequences, one of which might be death.

A person experiencing a high bottom may not appear to be suffering outwardly, but inside life can be unbearable, unmanageable, or just not as good as it could be. My periodical heavy drinking was interfering with my quality of life and I had had enough. Surviving isn’t half as fun as thriving, not just financially but emotionally and physically.

When I first got sober I was sort of mad I didn’t have a low bottom; I might have gotten sober sooner and I would know for sure I had a problem. I was also mad that my idea of fun had to change. I wore beer goggles to view my whole life. Anything was tolerable if there was a “reward” later—later that night, later that week, or later that month. If I could look forward to cutting loose at some point, the rest of life seemed more bearable.

I co-wrote and co-starred in a film called The Foxy Merkins. It went to Sundance, sold out premieres, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. I drank on and off when I was writing, filming, and at all the premieres. In every situation, I felt like something was missing and I would drink more to get to the place of feeling complete…but it never came. Drinking had stopped being fun or gratifying because I wasn’t connected to myself. For me, that was a low bottom. I want and need to be fully connected to great moments in my life.

Some of my friends/enablers still try to get me to drink and don’t see what the big deal is, while other friends say “if Jackie can quit drinking, anyone can do it.” It’s not black or white, and that gray area almost kept me drinking for life. I can always point to someone else who has a worse drinking problem. If you have cancer, you’re going to treat it no matter how minor it is. Your mind isn’t trying to tell you to look at how bad the other guy’s cancer is. No one’s saying “your cancer is nothing in comparison. Stop being a baby. You can moderate cancer. Forget about it.” That is what my brain did for years, and what my enablers told me: “That guy is falling down drunk. Have you ever fallen anywhere? NO. Then you are not an alcoholic.”

When I first got sober I thought “why me?” Today I still wonder “why me,” but it’s more “why am I so lucky to get to live in the moment and to feel all of my feelings?” When I finally got to this place, I stopped being mad that I did not have a clear low bottom. It sounds ridiculous to me now but I had been really frustrated about it. I thought: “I am doing this program with all I got, I should be able to half-ass it because I have not caused as much wreckage as most people.” That is an example of my crazy alcoholic diseased thinking.

Now I know everyone has a different bottom. Every day of my life, my head tells me I can drink and I have to remind it I don’t even want to drink. My mind wants to kill me: it only leaves me alive to have a vehicle to run around in. It is my job every day to remind myself that my life is so much more rewarding now. Cash and prizes are just extras, the real rewards are free and deeply fulfilling.

Being honest and useful to the world is priceless. It’s easy to sleep at night when I am not lying to anyone, especially myself. Even if I’d never experienced any external repercussions from lying, it took a toll on me, because I knew. There is nothing like going to sleep at night with a clear conscience.

When I heard that they might be putting high-bottom stories in the Big Book, I experienced a range of emotions. I was happy that other high bottoms will find stories they can relate to in the book. My ego, on the other hand, went nuts: WHAT?!! I would have killed to have heard high-bottom stories when I came in. I might have gotten sober sooner. Or maybe my dad might have been able to get sober. But for today, I am not waiting to blow off steam. I don’t feel that I deserve to drink because I have been wronged. That’s how I used to live. If something went “wrong” I had to have a drink.

I never want to make blanket statements, these are my opinions and they change often. At no time do I want to claim that my opinions are set in stone. As my perception continues to grow, my opinions will change for the better.

“Normal” drinkers are people who never or rarely suffer consequences from drinking. They rarely get drunk, nor do they ask themselves if they have a drinking problem. They never feel they must learn to moderate their use. High-bottom drinkers can hold down a job, they can have relationships, and no one gives them an intervention; but their souls deteriorate over time. They tell themselves they will learn to moderate. High-bottom drinkers are usually surrounded by other functioning alcoholics and enablers—people who do not want the person with alcoholism to get better because that means they will have to look at themselves, and they won’t look better in comparison anymore.

Having a high bottom can be more dangerous because it can go undetected for life. You can end up just living a soulless life. Everything seems fine, but you never feel real gratification or get to know the real you or the greatness you are capable of.

With a low bottom, people are forced to quit drinking: they have to or they will die. High bottoms aren’t necessarily facing death, but they have to quit to really live. At least I did. Things still don’t go perfectly, but how boring would that life be? I now do my best to welcome my life challenges. I now know how to deal with them head-on, and if I don’t I have a crew of new friends that can help me help myself. Now, fun is always being in the present moment, connected to all that is, and not trying to figure out the next drink.

Life is not perfect, but at the same time, it kinda is.

New Year’s Resolutions: Making and Keeping Your Sobriety Goals

New Year’s Resolutions: Making and Keeping Your Sobriety Goals 1

For people who are struggling with an addiction, the end of the year is a difficult time. There are potentially more temptations and triggers during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s than any other time of the year. Now that the indulgent holidays are wrapping up, people nationwide can focus on bettering themselves for 2018.

Approximately 40 percent of Americans make resolutions, viewing the new year as a fresh start.

Setting goals for the coming year can provide inspiration and encouragement for lifestyle improvements.

Although millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, more than half (60 percent) fail to actually keep them, according to research out of the University of Scranton. This failure rate may be due to unrealistic expectations, lack of discipline or a loss of motivation, among other things. If rehab is a potential New Year’s resolution for you, don’t let fear of the unknown or a lack of motivation hold you back. Many people make a goal to master ‘something’ in the new year, why not put yourself first and make Sobriety worth mastering!

By overcoming your addiction, you can make 2018 the best year yet. Through sobriety, this year you can:

  • Spend money on your future. That might mean investing in treatment, detox and/or therapy support. It might just mean taking the money that you would have spent on drugs or alcohol and putting it toward a better version of you.
  • Make decisions you are proud of. Promise yourself the mistakes of 2017 will stay in the past. Forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made and start living a life of integrity and honor. It’s never too late to start making better choices.
  • Face your demons. Whether it’s past trauma, depression, financial struggles or insecurity, everybody has something that plagues them. Instead of self-medicating, let 2018 be the year you get to know yourself well enough to know your demons—and then share your feelings with a trusted friend, family member or therapist.
  • Invest in your relationships. Friends and family can make the transition to sobriety easier by providing care and support. When you are sober, you can give the people in your life the time and attention they deserve. Maintaining relationships can be difficult, but the payoff is well worth it.
  • Find clarity and meaning. Without drugs or alcohol muddying your outlook, you can focus on the things in life that are important to you. Whether it’s taking up a hobby, learning a language or exploring your faith, there are so many things that can give your life fun and meaning. Make it a point this year to live intentionally.

For the best success in making New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to set specific, attainable goals. You can set up a schedule for the things you want to accomplish, and take it pieces at a time. Sobriety, success and happiness aren’t achieved overnight. Allow yourself breathing room, forgiveness and opportunities for change. Take that first step for YOU in 2018, make a call to a professional for help or attend a local 12-step meeting such as AA or NA to learn about living a program of sobriety from others Experience, Strength and Hope.

Finding Gratitude in Addiction Recovery

Many times, addicts are led to drug and alcohol abuse from continual feelings of hopelessness and depression. A tragedy may have happened in their life to lead them into this train of thought, or they may have troubling relationships, or they may just not feel good enough. And being in the snares of addiction can wear at someone’s self-worth and sense of hope, further digging them into the hole of despair.

Building gratitude can help them dig their way out as they move toward recovery. First, some bad thought processes and behaviors have to be changed. Then the addict can more fully begin to gain and express gratitude.

Finding Gratitude in Addiction Recovery 2

Unlearn Bad Habits

For addicts, it is difficult to focus on gratitude because of the mental blocks that are common in addiction. Many addicts feel isolated and alone because well-meaning family and friends just don’t know how to interact with someone who is perpetuating destructive behavior with disregard to the negative consequences. The addict will welcome this isolation, as he doesn’t receive any more questions or nagging about his substance use. Addicts also feel a weakened sense of societal behaviors and norms, and thus feel uncomfortable in a crowd or group setting. They lose the ability to socialize normally with others.

These awkward social encounters are brought about by the addict’s sole all-consuming mission: finding the next high. His brain and rational thought are essentially hijacked by out-of-whack chemicals unbalanced by drug use. The brain demands to have the euphoric high it previously felt, felt again, and again, and again. While this part takes more physiological healing, the others can be healed more through emotional recovery.

In order to help an addict, you need to know how addict’s think.  Check out this resource to learn more. As suggested, as the addict progresses toward sobriety, help him learn not to isolate himself and help him to rebuild relationships, perhaps even your relationships with him. Family counseling is perfectly appropriate in this situation as the addiction has deeply affected not just the addict, but also his loved ones.

This move toward social interaction can significantly help the success of the recovery, and so can gratitude. Once the addict is moving toward recovery, he can gain a better perspective on what to be grateful for.

Gain Gratitude

Finding Gratitude in Addiction Recovery 3

Gaining gratitude for healthy parts of life can be a catalyst for change in the addict. He will begin to experience true and wholesome happiness again through a grateful attitude, away from the artificial and dangerous rush of ecstasy felt by his drug of choice.

An addict may not feel like he has a lot to be grateful for, as his life may still be in shambles due to his addiction. But, he can be grateful for the small steps of picking up the pieces and restoring order.

What is very beneficial for a recovering addict to do to develop a knack for grateful and positive thinking is to keep a grateful journal, where he lists everything he is grateful for each day. He can write down small, seemingly inconsequential things like, “the sun is shining” or “I have food to eat” or “I have a bed to sleep in.”

He can also be grateful for his recovery, as it is giving him a future. Alcohol Rehab explains the importance of a grateful mind in recovery: “A grateful attitude will mean that people can face the challenges that confront them in recovery calmly. They will tend to see problems as a chance to grow rather than some type of [hardship]. This positive way of dealing with things will lead them towards the ultimate goal of recovery, that is, complete serenity.” Indeed, peace is the highest goal for recovery and a grateful heart leads there.

Express GratitudeFinding Gratitude in Addiction Recovery 4

Once the addict learns to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, this gratefulness needs to be expressed in order to rebuild healthy relationships. The addict should express gratitude first and foremost to his supportive family and friends who have helped him throughout the recovery process. Showing gratitude to these selfless, and often emotionally exhausted, individuals will help form stronger bonds and help the loved ones to feel appreciated.

The addict should also find self-worth again, or build it if it never existed in the first place. With self-worth comes self-love and gratitude for oneself. This gratitude should be expressed in the addict saying positive things about himself. Help the addict by asking him to say three things he loves about himself every time you see him. He may roll his eyes at first, but you both will see the positive effects it has on his demeanor and sense of self-gratitude.

With these steps, the recovering addict is on his way to full healing and a happy, peaceful state of mind.

Taming the Beast with 12-steps

Taming the Beast with 12-steps 5

I had a long discussion with my sponsee last night. She had expressed that after a recent relapse, she thinks she may never “get” our 12 Step program.  I once was as hopeless and remember that feeling well, so I told her this:

I have a beast inhabiting me. It is a living and breathing entity and this beast wants me dead.

Before I found a 12 Step program I did not know how much I was nurturing this beast.

When I stopped drinking without a program I only had “arrested” this beast. I hand cuffed it and put it in the back seat of my car.

Of course this beast escaped as it is so powerful and knows me so well. It lives inside me after all.

Once I entered a 12 Step program I acquired the skills, tools, and weapons to incarcerate and contain my beast. I built a prison for it to sit in. If I could wipe the beast out completely I would, but I don’t have those tools. Yet.

When my beast starts to speak I silence it by starving it not only of alcohol, but from the negative thoughts that the beast will use to manipulate me into helping it escape from its cell, overtake my life, and then finally end it.

Some days I have compassion for this beast and I find myself indulging it with my negative thoughts. When I catch myself talking to it I take my tools and my higher-power and I get back to work on maintaining its prison.

I “get” this program so well because I know how this beast operates now. I have learned how to arrest and contain it because I followed a program of action, sought out advice from many others in the fellowship who have successfully contained their beasts.

I know not everyone wants to be part of a 12 Step Program. I was that way for many years. That beast was a master at convincing me a program wasn’t for me.

So if you are on the fence about trying a program, think about what your beast wants you to do.

I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, I know from experience the beast can be can tamed. My thoughts are geared toward the people who are in active use or chronically relapsing and are considering AA or other programs.

Treat yourself like a Toddler

Treat yourself like a Toddler 6

“Treat yourself like a toddler” Overheard at the tables last night and it gave me that slow opening ‘ah ha’ moment. Why are we so hard on ourselves in recovery? Often times our #1 resentment or critic is ourselves… Day 5 or day 500. 😕  Would I carry these same thoughts towards Toddler LF?

So I’m going to try something different today, treat myself like a Toddler. Talk about my alcoholic self in the 3rd person, give her a bit better care and understanding…

  • “LF gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” – Perhaps I should stop the Netflix binges after 8pm…
  • “LF shouldn’t wear those cute boots for work, they will get too tight after a few hours and her feet will hurt” – okay, I will wear something more comfortable, yet fashionable.
  • “LF doesn’t need to eat donuts in the morning, too much sugar – will make her tired and cranky later” – let’s by-pass the coffee shop at the train station this morning.
  • “LF needs some quiet time each day.” – perhaps a little bedtime story is in order tonight.  🙂

The fact for me is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved person in recovery, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, healthy snack choices, and my eight hours of sleep.  😆

What type of things would you say to your ‘toddler’ self to guide in the right direction for your recovery journey?