Today is day #767 on this particular journey and I just got home from a vacation to Canada and the US to visit friends and family. It was a great trip, to be sure. I checked visiting Alcatraz off of my bucket list and ate more food than I care to admit. I also introduced my girlfriend to everyone and enjoyed some rest, relaxation and had lots of laughs. And for once I hung out in all my old haunts and remember the whole time!
It occurred to me, as it always does, that I always instinctively want to drink on planes. Luckily flying isn’t a regular thing for me these days, so it’s not a burden that I bear often. But damned if I don’t get on a plane and immediately start thinking how nice a cold beer would be. There are probably a lot of reasons for this but I think for me it stems, in part, from the fact that the alcohol is free (on international flights) and I know I’m safe.
A lot of people romanticize their drinking days as something that could have been wonderful. As some kind of ‘glory days’. I’d be a liar if I said I never had a perfectly safe, responsible, enjoyable night drinking and being drunk. I have. Many in fact. But Alcohol took too much from me on the bad days that the good days were irrelevant. But the fact remains; I’ve never had a ‘bad’ drunk on a plane. And maybe that’s why I find myself in a very rare position when I board an aircraft. I find myself sitting there with thoughts of “just one”…
Now any alcoholic with any sense knows that you are in trouble when those thoughts start. You would likely be advised to call your sponsor and get to a meeting. Well, I’m sitting approximately 35,000 feet in the air. I have no WiFi, no phone service and obviously no meeting. So it’s on me. That’s fine. I can handle a little temptation from time to time. I’m a big boy with a box of tools learned at AA. I order a tea and sip it while watching whatever nonsense is on the screen in front of me.
But it begs the question: why do I want to do something that would have a great deal of terrible repercussions while I’m doing something as enjoyable as going on a holiday? There have been moments in sobriety when I’ve felt terrible and wanted to go and get blackout drunk. These moments are rare, but they are to be expected from people like me. I move past them — sober — and continue living my life as best I can. So why, then do I want a beer on a flight when I’m having a great day? Why when I’m miles from the stresses of everyday life? Far from trouble, work, responsibility or any troubles at all. The answer is as simple as it is blunt: because I’m a goddamned alcoholic.
I often say “I would drink to celebrate my good day. I would drink to forget my bad days. I would drink because it’s Tuesday.” It’s kind of telling that my sense of humour compels me to tell a dad joke about something kind of dark, but such is life. I suppose, taking my own words on board, this is just one of the good days to celebrate.
That explanation, while chuckle-worthy, is a facade. The reality is that I have no idea why I want to drink, I just do. It’s in my nature to get blind drunk for the sake of getting blind drunk. Sure I did it to excess on bad days. But I’ve done it to excess on good days, too. And some of them were surely Tuesdays. The point in all of this is that I can take a vacation from the real world, but I can’t take a vacation from being a drunk. Let me repeat that. I can take a vacation from the real world, but I can’t take a vacation from being a drunk. It’d be nice if I could, though. But
I think that is part of the reason why I want to have a beer on a flight, too. I get to fly off to some exotic destination (or in this case, not-very-exotic Nova Scotia) and escape life for a little bit. I guess deep down I want to escape sobriety, too. Not that I see sobriety or the joys it brings as a prison. Quite the opposite, in fact. But somewhere deep down in the parts of my subconscious that drive my base compulsions, I still want to drink. And that part of my brain seems to be pretty convinced that this whole ‘sober thing’ is just a sentence that I’m serving; eventually I’ll be free. Eventually the addiction can go back to running the show.
Luckily I have my program, lots of support and a genuine love of my life that I didn’t have when I lived life as Drunk Dave. So I guess I get to continue working on myself so that the days of wanting a drink, even on a plane, get further and further behind me. I can imagine many fates worse than this one.
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