Big Daddy: What makes you so restless, have you got ants in your britches?
Brick: Yes, sir...
Big Daddy: Why?
Brick: Something - Hasn't - Happened...
Big Daddy: Yeah? What is that?
Brick [sadly]: the click...
Big Daddy: Did you say the click?
Brick: Yes, click.
Big Daddy: What click?
Brick: A click that I get in my head that makes me peaceful.
Big Daddy: I sure in hell don't know what you're talking about, but it disturbs me.
Brick: It's just a mechanical thing.
Big Daddy: What is a mechanical thing?
Brick: This click that I get in my head that makes me peaceful. I got to drink till I get it.”
― Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Sometimes I miss the click. That “mechanical thing” that happens in the body, mind and spirit of addicts everywhere. When I first started drinking I had not yet read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof but I realize now that "the click" is what I loved most about my early drinking years. Those first few clicks were pure magic. They started as a relaxing sort of inner glow. A warmth. A newfound confidence. I would start to feel a supremely optimistic sense of not giving a damn. Not caring how I looked, or what I was wearing. Or who I was talking to, or how I sounded, or how I was dancing. Everything just became easier. Smoother. It was all a lot more fun. My lifelong anxiety vanished from one minute to the next.
In my early twenties I used to drive a real wreck of a car. At the end of its long life it would take a while to get it going. I would turn the key over and over again, hoping that the ignition would catch, that instead of a sick, dying death rattle I would hear a smooth purring hum. Holding my breath, I would turn the key and hit the gas, praying to God for that sound, the click when the engine would catch. The click that meant I could go now. When the engine would finally start I would let it run for several minutes and then, once I knew I could go, I would peel out dramatically. Anyone who is an addict knows about the click. The knowledge, like when the car finally starts, that now and only now can we get away.
A friend of mine who was addicted to opiates talks about how his face would get numb while using. And once both lips and the tip of his nose had gone numb he knew that the click was coming for him, like a freight train. It was about to hit him smack on…and he was ready for it. He loved it - until it almost killed him. For an ex-intravenous drug user I know, the click would come before he even shot up. Just by tying off his arm to start the process he would get the click, he would know by that action of tightening his tourniquet, that relief was on its way. Sometimes, for an addict, the knowledge that drugs and alcohol are on their way can give us the click. Relief is coming. Euphoric, blessed, willing-to-die-for relief.
I had my 3 children via C-section. The morning after my first delivery my doctor came in to check on me. They had me on morphine or Oxy or Demerol. Something strong, because I had asked for something strong. Something I had been looking forward to. My doctor came in to see how I was feeling. “Are the pain meds working?” she asked sympathetically. “No” I answered churlishly. She suddenly was a flurry of activity. She put her clipboard down and came over to my bedside. She put her hand against my forehead to check if I had a fever and asked “how bad is it right now? The pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad is it?”
“What?” I grumbled “Oh. I’m not in that much pain really. 2 maybe? 3 if I move around. I was just……” I trailed off. How could I tell her that what I was hoping for…what I really wanted…what I had been expecting….was the click? The opioid click. The high. The relief. The click that lets me relax. “I’m fine” I told her. “Really. I’m fine, I’m not in much pain. The medication is working. I guess….”
And it WAS working. I had just gone through a major operation and because of the medication I was not in a lot of pain. But addicts don’t care that much about pain as long as we can get high. And that's how I discovered that opioids, like the ones they were giving me after my C-sections, don’t really give me the click. As Austin Powers might say “they're not my bag, baby”. Everyone's chemistry is so wildly different. Some people get the click from meth or crack or pills or weed. Or stealing or cutting or binging or starving. Or pornography or lying or crime or cheating. It doesn't matter what we abuse. What we are all searching for in whatever addiction we trap ourselves in, is the click. And with my chemistry being the way it is the most reliable click I could ever get came from good, old fashioned, legal, booze.
Finally there comes a day, the scariest day of an addict's life, when the click doesn't come. And so we drink more. And it still doesn't come. And in my case, like many others, I just kept chasing that click, to the very gates of hell. I lost the click in my mid 20s and I drank and tried to find a drug that would help me reignite my slowly fading, increasingly elusive click for another seven years.
That was the bottom for me, knowing that the click was gone. The "instant" relief was gone. My medicine could no longer be relied on. I was at the jumping off place that is discussed in the A.A. Big Book on page 152:
“He cannot picture life without alcohol. Someday he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know a loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping off place. He will wish for the end.”
But before the end I decided I would give A.A. a try and thank God I did. When I first started writing this blog my husband asked what I was doing. “I’m writing a love letter to A.A.” I told him, laughing. But that is really how I feel. I could write a love letter to A.A. every day until I die and still I don’t think that could express my gratitude. Because what I have learned here is not how to forget about the click but instead how to get the click in other ways. As Brick would say, “the click I get in my head that makes it peaceful”. Granted, it took me quite a while to detox, to slow down, to understand that the click we get in sobriety is a less hysterical, less unpredictable, less immediate click than the one we get while using. But the click we can access in recovery is a deeper click, a less destructive click, a sustainable click.
And I can get it in any number of ways. I can go to a meeting, call another addict, take a walk, exercise, read, do yoga, breathe. All of these work for me now. And the longer I stay sober the more things I discover that can give me that click. I have learned, so slowly I didn't even realize it was happening, that the click, that gorgeous click, can now come from any number of things - none of which are alcohol, none of which are drugs, and none of which will kill me.