If I told you that I never think about drinking alcohol anymore, that would be a lie. So I won’t tell you that. I’ll tell you the truth about what a return to drinking would look like for me. It isn’t a lie, but it isn’t pretty, either.
One of the greatest benefits from permanent sobriety for me is the end of the mental gymnastics of high-functioning alcoholism. When I was a drinker, I spent countless hours debating my alcoholic status, and creating drinking rules in a vain attempt to control the uncontrollable.
I can’t really be an alcoholic, can I? I don’t sleep in a gutter and pee myself. I don’t beg or steal booze money. If I just drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink, and only allow myself booze every sixth Tuesday and Friday of the month, or only the day after a full moon, I’ll be able to manage my drinking.
The whole thing was exhausting – the rule making, the self doubt, the trying and trying and trying and trying to exert control. Sobriety has freed me from the loop of cranial catastrophe that was my effort to be something I could never be: a moderate drinker.
So now, when I think about a return to drinking, at least I am honest about it. The debate about my ability to moderate is over. The results have all been tallied, and the evidence is clear. I am an all or nothing kind of guy. I don’t do things halfway, and when it comes to alcohol, I have only one choice. For me, it is sobriety, or it is complete alcoholic destruction.
At the end of my active alcoholism, I was getting a glimpse into the future if my drinking had continued. Alcoholism is a progressive disease. There is no moderating once that invisible line into addiction has been crossed.
At the end, I was drinking on Monday mornings on rare occasions, turning to vodka because the depression was overwhelming and unmanageable. I started to sometimes do the things that led those gutter bums to the gutter. I wasn’t there yet, but I could see how a guy drops his standards to such a low point that it leads to living under a bridge with the next plastic pint of Dark Eyes Vodka as the one and only goal in life. I wasn’t there, but I could see the path.
So if I was to start drinking again, I don’t have any illusions of moderational glory. If I drink, I’ll drink all the time. Morning, noon and night, I’ll be chasing that euphoric buzz and trying to keep my drunkenness a secret.
I would laugh and be obnoxious. I would cry and be blubbery. I would be red-eyed and look exhausted all the time. I would be disheveled and constantly seem to need a nap and a shower. I’d be anxious and visibly jittery, and I would make rash decisions and have a famously short temper.
My water bottle would be unwaveringly by my side, full of vodka and serving as a security blanket for my frazzled nerves. I would hide my predilection from everyone and no one at the same time. The gutter would be calling, and I would be trying not to answer.
My relationships would all unravel. First, my wife and kids would leave me with tears in their eyes and confusion in their hearts. Then, the friends I imagined I was entertaining with my repeated jokes that weren’t really all that funny the first time – they would drift out of my life. Career, home, savings, security – there is no room for any of those when you carry everything you’ve got in a dirty backpack as you move into your new residence under an overpass. I would surely drink it all away.
I like to think I am smart enough and have made enough progress to know that drinking alcohol isn’t for me. The truth is, the only thing I know for sure is that for me, moderation is impossible, and no amount of mental gymnastics can solve that riddle. If I drink, I will be all in. That is my reality. So, when I think about drinking again, I must always remember what that looks like for me.
The occasional craving for alcohol is not a threat as long as I always remember that, “just one,” doesn’t lead to two or three, it leads to a million. That’s my reality. That’s the truth that keeps me sober.
Do you want what I have? Do you want permanent sobriety with a ton of different tools to keep growing, learning and understanding your truth? If so, we would love to have you join us in SHOUT Sobriety, our program to help people navigate the massive challenges of early recovery from alcoholism. If you are ready for your truth, we are ready to share everything we’ve learned. For more information, to make a donation or to enroll, please click the button below.