I might still be stuck in a nightly black-out, binge drinking routine if I hadn’t found the book Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston. I related to much of Ann’s story of addiction and was inspired by her recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous, but what left the greatest impression on me was her analysis of why so many women in our generation, and our daughters’ generation, are dangerously addicted to alcohol.
I read Ann’s book alongside Gabrielle Glaser’s Her Best Kept Secret, over a three-day weekend. The two books are opposite in many ways. Ann talks glowingly of her experience with AA, while Gabrielle encourages alternative paths to sobriety, or controlled drinking, and brings harsh criticism down on what she sees as the unhealthy dynamic in the rooms of AA.
It was the combination of these two books, these two different perspectives, and eventually many others, that helped me understand that I did not HAVE to drink to be whole. It was reading many theories, and stories, and individual experiences, that lead me to the understanding that stopping drinking had nothing at all to do with following someone else’s voice and everything to do with finding my own.
I ultimately wrote my way sober in a community of people trying to work out their own issues with alcohol. Some were from AA, some from Smart Recovery, some trying naltrexone, some using Antabuse or Campral, some trying moderation techniques, but most were simply writing it out one day at a time. Writing a sentence, writing a paragraph, writing a page, or writing a poem, but writing out the problem and finding the answers each as individuals, in a community that worked together.
I’m not sure exactly what the statistics are on achieving and sustaining sobriety by those who try, but what I’ve seen reported is usually abysmal. It’s a difficult fight and the work must be done diligently and humbly, but it seems to be equally important to do it with positive energy and hope. It seems to be important to do it in an environment where you are encouraged to use every resource until you find the combination of things that work for you.
Today is Ann Dowsett Johnston’s birthday and the first day of Arid August in my community BOOM. Come join us! See where it takes you.
This time last month, when I posted an invitation in The FIX for Dry July, I got a bit of criticism in the comments that was worth thinking through. One of the comments on our Dry July articles suggested that it was irresponsible to cheerlead the idea of taking a month off drinking because stopping and starting and stopping and starting creates a kindling effect that is dangerous. I wasn’t familiar with the term kindling, so I looked it up.
It turned out that while kindling is not a term that I was familiar with it is an experience I’ve had so I didn’t need to do much reading. Basically, the idea is that if you are an alcoholic or have AUD or are addicted to alcohol (call it what you will) if you stop drinking for a while and then start again, you will most likely find that your appetite for alcohol is exactly what it was when you stopped, but your tolerance will not be. Your recovered body will not be adapted to the bottle or two an evening routine anymore so it’s more likely to hit you hard quickly and dangerously.
For example, from my experience,
When I was pregnant I didn’t drink at all for about 10 months. I was drinking way too much most nights before I got pregnant and expected the nine sober months to reset my alcohol meter, but within a couple of weeks of drinking freely after I stopped nursing each baby, I was up to my former levels and quickly beyond. I remember feeling shocked and surprised that the period of sobriety had only served as kindling to the fire of my addicted brain.
The interesting thing about the articles I found on kindling was not that they had much to say that was new to my experience, but that they said it in such an inflammatory way. The only articles I could find on kindling were scientific-looking posts that linked to rehab centers. They were woven with frightening stuff about the need for medically assisted detox if you’re a heavy drinker and the threat of death if you don’t hand yourself over to an expensive treatment facility because that is the ONLY safe way to get sober.
Alcohol withdrawal can kill you if you are physically dependent. It’s rare but it happens. If you think you might be physically dependent on alcohol please see your doctor.
We are not medical professionals nor are we professional addiction counselors. We are a community of peers. And initiatives like Dry July, Arid August, and Sober October are ways to get a foothold on figuring out what we as individuals need to do and can do, concerning the drinking thing. These initiatives offer the opportunity to set a goal in a community where you can join the momentum of a group. It’s a focus. It’s not about fear it’s about hope. I don’t see any cons to talking about Arid August
We are not here to judge, or to compete, or to impress each other.
We are simply here to support and inspire each other in working through a difficult but tremendously rewarding process. The process of reclaiming ourselves.
Each of our wonderful, unique, multi-dimensional selves.
Tell us your story. Ask a question. Offer a resource. Share your experience.
Rediscover your voice One Day at a Time. That’s Why We’re Here.
With love and in sincere gratitude to those who helped me through my first months sober I built the box that houses this community to reach back.
Reach out and we’ll grab your hand.
Rethink the Drink