It’s great to post all these pieces about my come-to-Jesus with myself about my alcoholism, how much better life is sober, how proud I am of myself, etc., but how about when things really just suck and I want a drink? Like now. There are days like this. Luckily they are fewer and farther apart. But they are downright awful.
Holidays are hard for so many people in many different ways. Yes, I realize how incredibly blessed and lucky I am. I don’t mean that lightly. I am truly a fortunate person, even more fortunate now that I can see that. My gratitude list is quite long. But still, Thanksgiving for me is very difficult. Ironically, it is my 18-month anniversary to the date. A year and a half of sobriety is nothing to sneeze at, but its significance shrinks substantially when I’m craving a drink. That and many other arguments against picking up seem to have their magic powers zapped from them. That’s when the demon of the disease flexes its muscles and tries to take over. I always picture that scene in “Animal House” when Pinto has the little angel on one shoulder and little devil on the other pulling him in different directions. My little angel sits on my shoulder and tells me I would be throwing away 18 months of sobriety, that I would feel terrible the next morning, that I would go back to numbing my way through life, etc. The little drink devil says who gives a flying fuck. It would taste so good. It would take the edge off. It would give me that deep sigh and release. I literally start salivating at the thought of a giant glass of red wine. It’s an internal struggle that is completely exhausting.
Thanksgiving was when I stopped drinking the first time, a few years ago. I drank all day and into the evening. I proceeded to have an emotional meltdown in front of my friends and mother, saying some things that I regret to this day. Another Thanksgiving, I don’t even remember leaving a friend’s house to go home after drinking non-stop. So I should face this holiday tomorrow being thankful for my sobriety and all the wonderful things that come with it. Then how can I sit here and STILL wish I could have a drink? Every practical, rational and sensible reason why I can’t indulge in the wines that will be passed around the table with the Thanksgiving turkey are floating in front of my face. Do I swat them away with a rebellious, non-sensible mental fly-swatter? Or do I welcome them and let them permeate my thick-headed skull?
Alcoholism has been described as being “an obsession of the mind” in addition to a “physical addiction”. So which is harder to fight? I believe that the physical addiction is overcome earlier in the recovery period. The shakes, the withdrawals, the exhaustion–eventually they go away. The obsession of the mind is another story. Clearly it’s still there if I’m talking about wanting a drink 18 months later. However, take one sip of alcohol and it triggers that physical addiction again immediately.
Anything you read about alcoholism will tell you about rationalizing your ability to drink. Maybe I can just drink wine and not hard liquor. Maybe I can just drink beer instead of wine. Maybe I can just drink on the weekends. Maybe I can just drink after 5pm. All of these “abilities”, of course, are signs that you are not an alcoholic. Good luck with those. Amazingly enough, that rationalization exists well into your sobriety. Even now I sometimes think that if I have gone this long without drinking, it may now be possible for me to just have one glass of wine. Maybe that first drink won’t lead to a zillion others. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve been “cured” of my alcoholism. Again, dream on.
For those of you who were hoping to read something that would help you get through a day like this, a day when it’s just plain hard to not stay in bed with the covers pulled over your head, I wish I had the magic answer. Believe me, I do. The fact that I am writing this at least means that I pulled the covers back off and got out of bed. The fact that I haven’t picked up a drink today means that working hard for my sobriety has taught me to reach out to do whatever is necessary so that I don’t–call or text friends, read something helpful, listen to some meditation tapes or just try really, really hard to breathe. To take a deep breath, pray and remember that we do this one day at a time.