It’s day #654 on this particular journey. I hope you’re traveling well.
Since the earliest days of my abstinence from alcohol I’ve had (often well meaning) friends, family and even strangers ask me how long until I could drink again. My answer, invariably was, whenever I want. I stick by this answer, even when some older, wiser members of AA might scoff at my arrogance. However, I don’t mean this as some kind of display of toughness or power. I can in fact, drink whenever I damned well please. But that it’s not the same as will drink.
As an alcoholic I know I have a problem with ‘things’. Anything that requires ‘moderation’ is something that I will have a problem with. I suppose it’s probably a good thing that I’m not 6’2, dark, handsome and chiseled because I’d probably find myself addicted to pursuing models! How fortunate for me that I’m not. (Ha!)All joking aside my issues with moderation are very real and very serious. I can give you a (relatively) harmless example. I’m not a coffee drinker; I’m a coffee lover. I’m a coffee enthusiast. One cup has never been enough. I’ve had to learn the medically safe levels of caffeine for an adult male to consume per diem. Otherwise, I’d end up exacerbating my already anxious disposition. My first thought in the morning is of coffee (a welcome change from the days when that thought was of beer). My motivation for getting to sleep at night is often something like “I can have coffee in the morning”. Luckily coffee is not something that often ruins lives. Also, since I am employed by one of the biggest (and most generous) coffee producing companies on the planet, I don’t need to pay for coffee anymore.
But you can see where my behaviour screams “addict”, eh? I can’t even do coffee in moderation without some very clearly defined limits. In this case I know not to exceed five shots of espresso or three ‘double shots’. (The math doesn’t add up because the double shots I have access to are actually 180% caffeine shots.) So imagine how well I did with something as cunning, baffling and dangerous as alcohol!
For a normal person a casual drink is an option. It is for me too, it’s just under different circumstances. Let me explain: You may be able to go out for a meal and beer with your friends, have one beer and be done with alcohol for the evening. You might be able to pour yourself a glass of wine at the end of a long day and curl up on the couch and watch the evening news. Or, perhaps you can enjoy a scotch on the rocks while watching a sporting event at home with some friends. No problemo, right?
I could have one beer and not drink another, too. But it would have to be under these particular conditions. I would have to bring one beer with me on a hike 10k into the woods and wait until dusk to drink it to ensure that I wouldn’t be able to brave the 10k walk in the dark back to civilization to get more. And here’s the kicker: it would still ruin my life because I have an alcoholic brain. Because I have a drunk brain the very next day I would have the following series of thoughts:
- That one beer didn’t hurt. (I’d conveniently forget that I had that beer in the middle of freaking no where, with no access to any more!)
- So, today will be exactly the same even if I’m at a pub with a pocket full of money. I can just have one!
*6 months later
- Man, maybe I am an alcoholic. (facepalm)
So, why is 654 days not enough to have a drink? Even one in the middle of the woods? Well because alcoholism doesn’t have a cure. In AA when someone has a relapse and comes back they often refer to their time outside of the rooms as ‘research’. It’s kind of a code word for compiling more evidence that we can’t simply drink like other people. “I went out there and did some research. My findings were that I am still alcoholic and no, I cannot stop at one.” Alcoholism is a disease, but I think, at least in my own thinking that alcoholism is a symptom. The disease is really escape. Escape of what? Who knows. Or, maybe you do, but either way alcohol is a pretty good way to escape it.
I know people who consumed alcohol or drugs to escape some internal pain. I know others who did the same to escape from their own social anxiety. Others, still do it to escape the banality of life. I probably fall into the latter.
There is no ‘cure’ from alcoholism because it isn’t really a disease in the sense of a cancer or HIV. It’s a symptom of something else that can’t even really be tangibly explained. But there is hope. We can use the tools to get a reprieve for today. Like most anything else, staying sober is a matter of tackling smaller problems one at a time in order to build a bigger accomplishment. In this particular case it’s easier to stay sober for a day (or, hell an hour at a time) than to say “I’ll never have another drink as long as I live.” That’s a tall order. But I can stay sober today. That’s doable.
We get a reprieve for today. Not tomorrow. Not next year or a single other day. My name is David and I can not drink today. That’s about as far as I’m willing to go.
Thanks for reading. I wish you another 24.
A friend of Bill