The View from a Barstool

Sitting at a crowded bar in a hip brewpub in a foreign city sounds like a dream for some people. A monster selection of drinks on tap. A menu full of trendy, overpriced food. People shoulder to shoulder waiting to place an order. The music over the speakers reeks of the British invasion. Regulars who were sitting next to me when I came in have cashed out and gone home for the night, paying regards to their favorite bartender before she heads off on vacation. Alone in unfamiliar territory, I am able to find comfort in this environment. Even with nobody to talk to – nobody to carry on a conversation with – I am surrounded by people. And people make me comfortable. This place helps me feel at ease, at home.

But for many of my friends and others, this place is a nightmare. It’s a reminder that days gone by were a living hell. A reminder that while drinking was once an escape, a comfort, a measure of normalcy – it is now little more than a path to certain death. Too many nights exist in the past where you remember going into the bar but don’t necessarily remember coming out. You would drink to feel nothing. Drink to feel something. Drink for drinking’s sake. But mostly you would drink because you could not stop. You didn’t enjoy it anymore. You don’t enjoy it anymore. You simply understand that despite any desire you may have to do so, you cannot stop.

No matter how much you’d like to fix your marriage or repair the relationship you have with your kids, you cannot stop drinking. Hell, those are some of the reasons you started drinking in the first place. Or so it seems.

What underlying trauma is at the root of your addiction? Do you have a genetic predisposition to addictive tendencies or compulsive behavior? What makes you drink, me eat, another person gamble, your cousin do drugs or your neighbor look at porn and masturbate incessantly? Something does.

We’re all broken. We’re all searching for answers – for something to fix us – for something or someone to solve all of our problems.

This is where I’d usually talk about Jesus, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to recognize that sometimes we need to sit with the knowledge that we are not alone. We must come to a place where we recognize that alcohol is not evil, but it is deadly for some people. Food is a necessary component to our daily living, but some are plagued by eating as a means to cope or not eating to achieve a perceived ideal or managing what they eat due to errant personal perceptions such as body dysmorphic disorder. Some people can bet the ponies or play the lotto without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in gambling debt.

Where I find comfort, others find nothing but heartache. But this disease, this spiritual disease that affects all of us, knows our strengths and our weaknesses. While the base malady may be spiritual, the consequences we suffer are also physical, mental and emotional. Our spiritual disease has the potential not only to kill us spiritually but also to bring about emotional death, death of our mental faculties and ultimately physical death. If we don’t find help, we will die.

It just so happens that as I was getting ready to cash out, the gentleman next to me and his wife struck up a conversation. I stuck around a fair bit longer than expected. We talked about work, life – even politics (fortunately that was on a broad scale and not directly related to the current presidential race). Nice people. It just goes to show you that life can be found in a place where some people go to die. We don’t have to avoid everything we like to do in order to honor our brothers and sisters, but we should have a certain level or respect for them. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9

While everything I know about recovery tells me that sitting on a barstool alone is a sure sign of addiction, sometimes we just need to go someplace where nobody knows our name.

– Alex Walker

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