Forcing your beast into a cage will be a battle.
Once you get your beast on a leash, there will be a tendency for the beast to yank that leash. It might pull the leash right out of your hands. Getting the beast on a leash is about awareness of the existence of your challenge. Until you slow the train from an all-out blur of speed into that brick wall, you can’t make progress. You cannot work towards a solution to your problem until you admit, acknowledge, and accept that you have a problem. You have to admit the beast exists and that it’s gotten out of control. Wrapping your head around the problem is like wrapping the leash around the beast’s neck and bracing yourself to pull tight because there will be a fight.
Next, you start the process of dragging the beast towards the cage and forcing it inside. Picture a cat being forced into a carrier to go to the vet. I don’t know about you, but whenever I attempted to put my cat Audrey (deceased 2021) into her carrier, she would transform from a docile lap cat into a wild animal. She would push back, dig in her heels, squirm, and sometimes wriggle her way out of my hands and escape into hiding. Be prepared that your battle with the beast will be similar. You may grapple for a while with the beast before you get it under control. You may have to seek out others to help you get the beast in a cage. Remember, it has been powerfully controlling you in the past. It may overtake you all alone when it realizes it is in danger of losing its grip on you. Even then, it might pull a Houdini on you and escape a few times before being securely in the cage. Keep putting that bitch back in as many times as you need to until you succeed. Relapses happen. Keep trying.
I believe I began to force my beast into the cage when I decided to get sober.
February 3rd, 2012, my last night of drinking, was a spectacular fail. I was fighting a common battle with my drinking habit in trying to quit on my own. I’d attempt to stop for a few days, vowing it was “the last time.” I would inevitably fall right back to my old ways. This last night, I swore that I would not drink any shots, preparing to “only drink wine.” I was accompanying my ex to a gig he was playing at the Hammock Shops in Pawleys Island. As soon as we arrived, he went over to set up with the band and I headed to the bar. There was a drunk older woman slurring loudly amongst a few quiet drinkers looking down at their glasses. “How embarrassing,” I silently judged as I waited for the bartender. “Hey,” she blurted as she spotted me. “Wanna do a shot with me?”
I glanced over to be sure my ex was busy and hoped he wouldn’t notice. “If she’s buying, I can’t very well be rude,” I justified to myself. I took the shot with her and so began a night that became a memory that is sharp and blurry at the same time. I started the night the same way I promised myself and my ex I wouldn’t. The evening spiraled slowly out of control from there. My ex said afterward that I was so drunk that he wondered if someone had drugged my wine. The truth is I did it to myself. Several glasses of wine later, I found myself in the parking lot smoking a joint with s few Hagley hags. We had made it over to Frank’s and drank at the bar for a while over there. Apparently, I hitched a ride back over to the Hammock Shops with an attorney who was close with my ex’s family. After that, I went further off the rails. Weeks before, I had started an illicit texting conversation with a local artist I had met. Our written relationship was slowly building in tension. I texted him and suggested we meet at the PIT. I walked across the highway – not a good idea for anyone at that hour, drunk or sober – to try to hook up. I somehow safely made it to the PIT and picked my way through the rowdy crowd trying to find him. He never showed up (thank God), and I tried calling. I found out later that I had called one of the Hagley hags instead and left an explicit and incriminating voicemail on her phone. Embarrassing. Giving up on the artist, I started to walk back to the Hammock Shops. Only, I was walking in the wrong direction. I ended up on the steps of the strip of shops next to the Pawleys Island Bakery. My ex somehow figured out where I was and came to pick me up. When we arrived home, I stumbled to the living room and passed out face down on the floor. My ex left me there until the morning after discovering the thread of texts on my phone.
The next day dawned with a huge fight with my ex. I had no defense against my behavior. I ended up sitting outside on the cold concrete of the front steps of our home in Hagley Estates. Ashamed and afraid, I searched on my phone for one of those meetings drunks go to in order to quit drinking. My very first meeting, I cried so hard I broke a blood vessel in my eye. I hadn’t hit rock bottom yet, but it sure felt like it. That was the first time I managed to get all four legs of the beast inside the cage. I have never relapsed with alcohol. Yet. Every day, one day at a time, I am granted a reprieve. I’m a unicorn as far as relapse is concerned; most alcoholics relapse several times before getting sober. Although I have been successful with that particular addiction, the beast has shape-shifted a few times.
Imagine a lion or a wolf in a cage. How do you think it would behave? The beast won’t lie down and submit the first time it finds itself caged. It will put up a fight. It will growl and struggle and lash out in an attempt to escape. It might succeed. If not, it will seek out other ways to wreak havoc. My beast has shape-shifted several times. It has found creative new ways to derail me as I work towards controlling my vices, worries, and self-doubts. There’s no death rattle for my beast or for yours. It may fall silent for a time, crafting and creating new ways to throw you off course. Once I got what seemed to be the biggest of my beasts in the cage and found healthy sobriety, I still had plenty of work to do. I got sober in 2012 and it took me nearly a decade to feel like my life was manageable. I had to make my way through a chronic illness, the painful divorce of my ex’s parents, and then our own divorce. I had to struggle on my own and dig myself out of debt. I had to weather some heavy storms before I discovered that I could leverage the power of my beast.
And, putting the beast to work for you is the third step.
Stay tuned for more on leveraging the power of the beast within…