I get asked quite a bit about what I’m most grateful for in sobriety and that can be a difficult question. Most folks I know are very thankful for their recovery and protect it fiercely and most of us have SO MANY perks in sobriety that we can hardly narrow them down. From small things, like always remembering where your car is parked, to bigger things, like not telling your Trump supporting Aunt to shove a pine-tarred dildo up her ass on Facebook. There is SO MUCH.
I could seriously go on for hours about how well I sleep and how terrific I feel physically and yada yada yada, but for now I’d like to expound upon one such affliction that often plagues the drunk and addicted.
We alcoholics are widely known to have a “thinking” problem and not just a drinking problem. I’m no different. The obsession that came with my alcoholism was absolutely stunning and terrifying at the same time. In hindsight I sometimes wonder that if I’d just focused all that effort and energy into something productive and worthwhile I may have stumbled upon a cure for Cancer or invented Alexa. That’s how much time I spent thinking about booze. However, it was a slow progression. In the beginning I would bemusedly sit at my desk at 4:30 pm and think longingly of a frosty martini waiting for me that evening when I arrived home. A treat for surviving such a mundane day. Or a challenging day. Or a great day! It didn’t matter, the martini was still waiting, like an old friend or an obedient dog. Always ready to comfort me and help me relax.
It didn’t take long for it to sink in deeper than just a passing notion. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all been on our way somewhere and suddenly we’ve forgotten if we’ve left on a iron or a hose perhaps, or a lit candle in the living room. It is ALL YOU CAN THINK ABOUT until you remedy the situation and that is truly what alcohol became to me; a grand obsession. Would I have enough? Will the party have vodka? What if it’s beer and wine only? I’ll have to pack a damn flask. Will I have time to get a buzz on before the game starts? Can I drink a full glass of whiskey before the dinner party commences? I HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING FOR GOD’S SAKE I CANNOT GO IN TO (insert really any situation here) UNLUBRICATED. ARE YOU INSANE?!?
And so it went and let me tell all of you aliens out there that can drink responsibly and in moderation; IT WAS EXHAUSTING. It became not just a preoccupation, but almost a demonic fixation. It was draining mentally and down in the deep recesses of rationale I knew it wasn’t a favorable complex. I wasn’t stupid, I knew it was going to end badly, yet I didn’t care. I didn’t want to die, of course, but I didn’t really want to live, either. I wasn’t blatantly ignorant, just a raging alcoholic. I know the lines are nebulous at times, but there IS a difference. We bend reality to suit our addiction or maybe it’s the other way around. Someone once said, “we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as WE ARE.”
Of course it got worse. I would bargain with myself over day to day chores in order to reward myself with a cocktail. I moved happy hour up to 3pm instead of 5pm when I was unemployed. Booze ran my schedule and trust me, it’s no way to live, if “live” is even an accurate term. When I say booze owned me, I mean it, it OWNED me. Friends would ask me out to social functions and I would come up with lie after ridiculous lie why I couldn’t join them and the somber truth was that I couldn’t fathom being out in the world without my bottle by my side and let’s face it, finding a purse that holds a two liter of potato juice is a fashion challenge. And guys, if I did get caught out in the bright headlights of sobriety I was not happy about it. I would actually get physically restless and nervous about where my next drink was coming from. Very quickly I transitioned from someone who drank to feel differently to someone who drank to feel normal and that is when the darkness began to sink its talons into what used to be me.
From that day forward every day became about when I could start drinking and where I would get my booze and anything that fell in-between had to surrender to that shameful schedule. The social butterfly quickly retreated into a cocoon and we all know where that landed me – into a web of isolation and lies, and ultimately, into liver failure.
Now I am no longer shackled to that weighty and oppressive ball and chain. Alcohol had me in it’s death grip and it took over two decades for me to realize that the grip was becoming a noose and if I kept on that schedule, I’d eventually take my own life. The freedom that comes with sobriety is nothing short of exhilarating. A lot of newcomers to sobriety note with delight on how much extra time they seem to have now and it’s absolutely true. It’s amazing what you can accomplish and appreciate when you’re not blacking out, lying to yourself, or avoiding life on life’s terms, for starters. Again, I’m not saying it is easy, it’s sure as hell not.
But it’s so very, very worthwhile.