The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Times I Quit Drinking Alcohol

Sand, Sun, Ocean and AlcoholThe two-headed monster of shame that I was battling – shame from my behavior and lack of control when drinking, and shame from being the only non-drinker at most social occasions when I wasn’t – was fierce and daunting. By my fourth, fifth and sixth attempts to slay the beast, my resolve was strong and my attempts at sobriety lasted not just a few weeks, but four to six months each. I knew what to expect and was prepared for the unanticipated. It was the anticipated that tripped me up and sent me back to the drink.

My drinking was not all about bad behavior and regrets. I saved almost all of that for drinking alone at home where only my wife and, to a much lesser extent, my kids witnessed my snarled lips and depressed slouching. In social settings, I was the life of the party (at least it seemed so in my own booze-soaked head). Social drinking, while heavy most times, was full of laughs and story-telling and good food and great friends. Social occasions were something to anticipate with great joy – except, of course, when I was anticipating a social occasion while I was trying to quit drinking.


The Fourth Time I Quit Drinking Alcohol

My fourth attempt at permanent sobriety was thwarted while snow sledding with another family. Mark and Mallory had two boys in the age range of our kids. Both had very impressive jobs, were great parents and fun, responsible drinkers. Mallory would encourage us all to, “drink early and often,” when we had family dinners together – the implication being that we would enjoy and early buzz, drink coffee with desert and be sober in time to drive home. They had a beautiful house and a manicured lawn and a kitchen with a huge island surrounded by stools for entertaining.


As the trudges back-up the hill became slower and more labored, it was clear that the sledding adventure was ending and we would soon be home drinking and preparing dinner. I had been sober for five months at the time, but Mark and Mallory didn’t know that. The thought of admitting my brokenness, my problem, to such a well-put-together set of friends filled me with more shame than I could handle. While we shook the snow off of our sledding gear, Mallory suggested we start the evening with hot toddies. I gave Sheri a look of reluctant humiliation and reached for the whiskey.


The Fifth Time I Quit Drinking Alcohol

The fifth time I quit drinking, my resolve lasted four months and came to an abrupt end in the middle of Kansas. Anticipation of our Indy 500 weekend with a dozen friends and 300,000 friendly, and beer guzzling, race fans was an insurmountable obstacle to my sobriety. I had attended the race many, many times. On most race weekends I was drinking, and a few I was not. Drinking beer with all the beer drinkers was simply way more fun than drinking water and listening to slurred cheers of sun-soaked inebriant-swilling suds enthusiasts. I had proved I could sit through the afternoon sober. I had done it on several occasions. This time, however, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to be left out. I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I didn’t want to miss the fun. I wanted to drink at the race. So, as miles of Kansas prairie disappeared into the rearview mirror, so too did my commitment to permanent sobriety.


The Sixth Time I Quit Drinking Alcohol

My sixth attempt to quit drinking ended at a funeral. It was not grief or loss that sent me back to the bottle, but rather anticipation of missing out on a raucous great drunken time at an industry convention Sheri and I would attend the following week. This was an annual event that we never missed and enjoyed thoroughly. Some of the attendees were at the convention to pick-up tips and ideas to improve their businesses. Most of us were there to drink and laugh and drink and eat and drink and sit by the pool and drink and dance and drink some more. For a heavy drinker like me, this event was nirvana. The convention was hosted at a beautiful property full of amenities including pools, an ocean front beach, lots of bars and a look-the-other-way attitude of the staff about beverages poured into plastic Solo cups from beach-bags dripping with melting ice. There was no driving, no kids and no curfew. It was a three-day booze-fest where my drinking was less shameful and more expected.


As I sat at the funeral and listened to loving family members cry and share fond memories of the deceased, my mind was fixated on the shame of attending the convention sober. In this case, my dread about explaining my abstinence was matched by my horror of missing the drunken debauchery that would happen after midnight when the lightweights and eager-to-learn-stuff-in-the-morning crowd had long since retired for the night. Some of my fondest drinking memories – littered with blackout-caused time lapses – were made at this convention. Instead of showing respect for, and honoring the life of, the person we were there to mourn, I bowed my head and sat quietly in the church pew and succumbed to the powerful beast of shame. It had been six months since my last drink. At the convention the next week, I would definitely drink, and drink hard. And that is exactly what I did.

A Thundering Herd of Drunk Unicorns
April 12, 2023
Sobering Reality – I Am Good with That
March 8, 2018
Rounded Corners
May 29, 2018
  • Reply
    Breadhead friend, Mike Young
    January 10, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Matt, I read your January 10 post first from a Share from Tim Peterson. I was so taken by your story I went back to read it again and found these earlier posts. They only confirm what a battle this has been and how much I want you to claim victory when you can. I’m uncertain if you can ever claim total victory, but you can say you are doing your absolute best and commit to continue to do so. Wow man. Quite a story. I pray you continue to persevere.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      January 10, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks, Mike! Maybe I am looking at it wrong, but I am not a huge fan of the “one day at a time” approach. I prefer to think with certainty that my drinking days are behind me. I think I can claim victory as long as I do so with undieing respect for the adversary.

  • Reply
    The Uncontrollability of Recovery | Sober and Unashamed
    April 24, 2019 at 4:14 am

    […] regular intervals stimulated by normal life events. This is why we relapse. At least, this is why I relapsed over a half a dozen times until I found the knowledge and patience to wait for my brain to […]

  • Reply
    November 29, 2023 at 7:50 am

    Your testimonies to your life cycle of alcoholism and the feelings that you battled within yourself as you made the several attempts is quite moving and helped me to realize the extreme difficulty of the mental illness. My husband has cirrohsis of the liver diagnosed 2 yrs ago. Surprisingly, but maybe not, He had become a heavy drinker of Lady Bly Rum then Absolute Vodka in the last 5 yrs. Only in the last 7 months did he allow himself to really pay attention to the warnings from Dr.s and is now finally facing his reality of his failing liver and maybe short future of life. He has several times quit in the beginning he went only 3 1/2 ?months. But party’s and cooking and preparing for a party ended that. Since then he has tried several other non successful sobriety. He usually gets away from DT’s while hospitalized. Then he supposedly get better gets his paracentisis and gets feed back from blood work a week later, with results improved and encouraged that his laser pills and other water pills will control the ascites then he get depressed and starts up again. He always complains that his body is always in pain from past accidents and that there is no relief like alcohol. It also seems to give him energy and anxiety is relieved. He is very busy and dies accomplish ALOT in the beginnings of his alcohol use. He is very able and can do and fix almost anything. He is a perfectionist who has always been good at everything he has taken on. Seriously intelligent and street smart and very experienced in many types of jobs of all kind. He now is in no position to quit cold turkey as is health is at risk for a heartattack with the toll of the DT’s and the shock to his body. So now he tryst the “tapering off” way. But he will not allow any help or recording of his feeling and or progress to really follow through then the binging starts over again. He is depressed and miserable. Refuses any help from human fellowship even his adult daughter who live with us have tried to help and work with him but he is very sneaky and lies. Our relationship is almost just brother sisterly now. We have not shared same bed in over 5 yrs. When we argue he stays in the garage sometime for days. He gets is alcohol from walking to store or riding a bike( which we have locked up many times in the past. That only enrages him later after he has found a way to get it. To him I am his full blown enemy when he drinks. Lately I work come home relate with kids and house and barely see or speak to him. When he is either binging or “tapering off” he sleeps alot. The families prayers for him half exceedingly been amped up for past year and he goes through very deep prayerful times and keeps vigils at night. But the alcohol at some point changes all of that and he become truly evil and blasphemous!! It is a major attack on me and he knows this. His demons enjoy watching him spiral into a hateful p.os. It has seriously become a no Brainerd that the alcohol bring his demons up front to surface and cause full chaos with me and his children. Anyway, I just needed to vent to you. I know there is nothing you can really advise at this point in this sick sorrowful game. But I very much appreciate your sharing your very personal struggles and final overcoming of this painful illness. I have had to really back off and kind of resolve myself that he will most likely die in next year or 2. I myself have been depressed and have gain 25 lbs these last 2 yrs. I really lost myself and emotionally been beaten down with grief worry loneliness and hope that keeps being broken. I do not know who I am suppose to be other then my children’s mother snd caregiver and prayerful warrior for our family. ps my husband has not worked a job in 2yrs. because of his alcoholism, he has recieved S.S. Disability from a loss of eyesight in 1 eye. Well God Bless you and your family and all your readers and their families. I will be praying for us all.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      November 29, 2023 at 8:19 am

      What a devastatingly painful and traumatic experience for you, Molly. Thanks for having the bravery to share. You deserve support. We hope you’ll consider joining us in Echoes of Recovery.

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