The first time I heard of ‘doing a geographical’ was at AA meetings. I kept coming back to meetings, as suggested, and this enabled me to become familiar with phrases applicable to alcoholism. I understand it as blaming the location for the current behaviour and changing the location in an attempt to leave the behaviour behind.
The disease alcoholism inevitably follows the alcoholic to wherever they go. The external environment may have contributed to the introduction of alcohol and availability prior to the onset of symptoms such as obsessing, craving and dependence, but changing the environment is insignificant in addressing the problem once it’s present.
I had a traumatic experience in my early twenties when a family member passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest. The paramedics attended, then left, and police eventually arrived several hours later. A sudden death requires police attendance. I decided shortly afterwards to leave home for the first time. I moved to Dublin, Ireland in an attempt to start fresh.
Whilst living in Ireland I felt liberated. I developed good working relationships with colleagues in good jobs and I had a steady relationship. On the surface everything was positive and exciting. This didn’t last. I would finish work and between getting off the bus and getting to the front door I would buy some cans and maybe a frozen pizza, but the alcohol took priority because I wanted to change how I felt rather than sustain my basic needs.
I was introduced to other drugs, however I was only ever interested in alcohol. I thought I knew how to handle it. I regard it now as nicely packaged poison but before embracing recovery the allure of alcohol was all consuming. My drinking gradually became unmanageable. I moved from the apartment I was living in to a shared house near to the airport. My relationship ended, I gave up on work so I could carry on drinking. Urinating into empty wine bottles so I didn’t have to leave the room seemed reasonable to me at the time. I didn’t want to face anybody, the thought of going out to buy more alcohol filled me with dread. I felt bewildered, lost and fearful of everything.
My geographical had been a self fulfilling prophecy before I’d even left home. Alcoholism is like being on a train. You’re in the safe surroundings of the carriage, clickity clopp clickity clopp clickity clopp until you notice there’s no next stop, only carnage, devastation and an abrupt end. The insanity of repeating the same thing and expecting a different result but ending in death can be avoided, there’s hope, we do recover.
There’s loads of pitfalls to alcoholism and wiping the slate clean to fuck it up again was how I treated life, disposable. Life becomes meaningful when we stop running and not only face life, but accept it with a conviction to be wise enough to change what we can.
Further Reading: On The Move – Working the AA program showed this alcoholic how to get from geographics to gratitude. p486-493 Alcoholics Anonymous