Here I am, 1308 days into my sobriety, and just plain pissed off. Pissed off that I still want to drink as badly as I do 3 1/2 years later. Yes, the holidays are hard. And for many people, they are much more difficult than they are for me. People who have lost loved ones and desperately miss them during this season. People who find themselves all alone. People battling serious illnesses. But I am battling a serious illness. One that no one likes to talk about. Alcoholism is no joke. And frankly, it sucks.

There is drinking all around during the holiday season. I’m surrounded by it. I look at people enjoying their red wine and I salivate at the sight of it. When I’m feeling strong in my sobriety, working my program like I should, I am able to turn the other cheek and get on with whatever I’m doing. When I’m not where I should be in my sobriety, not going to enough meetings, not keeping in touch with my sponsor, that salivating turns into a desire, an urge to drink, that simply grows stronger. It almost takes on a life of it’s own.

When it does, I feel like it’s an old friend that I miss very much. A friend that I have been forbidden from seeing again. I know deep down the bad things that will happen if I start hanging out with that friend again, yet I long for that camaraderie once more. Other people can drink, why can’t I? I start to throw myself my own little pity party. It’s not fair. Then the stinking thinking starts in. Maybe now, since I’ve been sober for a while, I’ll be able to control my drinking. Never mind that it’s pretty much never worked for anyone else, but somehow I think I’m different. I actually tried it before and went a while with my drinking “under control”.  It very quickly, however, spiraled out of control.

In the battle against alcoholism, it’s literally all or nothing. There’s a chapter in the AA Big Book entitled “How it Works” that says “half measures availed us nothing.” To me, these are 5 of the most important words in the entire Big Book. You have to be all-in to successfully fight this disease. The chapter also says: “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of be­ing honest with themselves. There are such unfortu­nates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasp­ing and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.”

Rigorous honesty. That’s tough. Try it. You may even think that you are being completely honest with yourself but it’s not as easy as it sounds. And even if you are completely honest with yourself, that’s not enough. Steps 4 and 5 in AA are two of the toughest steps there are. Step Four states that we are to have: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and Step Five says we should have “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Many people never make it past these steps. It’s just too hard to deal with some of the skeletons in their closets. Some people think that just by being honest with themselves and identifying their character defects is enough. It’s not. The program states that we must admit them to another human being. The Big Book says “if we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time, newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives…..Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but they hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only THOUGHT they had lost their egoism and fear; they only THOUGHT they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.”
I’ve been stuck on Steps 4 and 5 for a while now. I thought that I had done Step 5 pretty thoroughly. But as I said, “pretty thoroughly” doesn’t cut it. It’s got to be done completely. I’ve shared some of “the exact nature of my wrongs” with my best friend, some with my sponsor and some with my therapist. But unfortunately, some still sit inside of me and until I deal with them, I may continue to be pissed off at how often I crave a drink. Rigorous honesty.

While the holidays are tough, the New Year brings with it new opportunities. I’m going to work on my fourth and fifth steps and continue on with the rest of the steps. I’m going to work my program thoroughly, completely, and honestly. I’m tired of the struggle with the cravings and tired of whining about trying to understand why I can’t have a drink. I can’t. I’m an alcoholic. And that’s rigorous honesty right there.

Can you honestly love a dishonest thing?” — John Steinbeck