In early 2013 I realized that I might have an issue with drinking and control. I was successful, hardworking, athletic, and recently divorced. The divorce set me off my normal routine. I had more nights out with the guys and clients, so there was an excuse to drink every night. Two or three beers a night became four or six and more on the weekends. My drinking wasn’t completely crazy, but it was far above the CDC guidelines for safe drinking.
The CDC guidelines for safe drinking? Yes, I looked it up.
My concern that I was drinking too much was on my mind, but sort of on the back burner. I kept my overdrinking “at bay” with daily goals. With resetting the goal each day, paying attention, and keeping track. As long as I was aware and involved in a controlled sort of “plan” I decided I was a “responsible drinker”. I bought a breathalyzer and kept it in my car to avoid DUI risk. Responsible.
I was obsessed with being a RESPONSIBLE drinker but could not imagine just stopping. My drinking behavior began to weigh on me. I felt like the beer was too central in my life. I checked the CDC guidelines and bought a breathalyzer and kept it in my car to avoid DUI risk. Looking back that sounds insane. But the idea of going sober was too extreme to me.
In January of 2018, I tried “Dry January” and I made it 23 days alcohol-free. But ONLY 23 days. After that, I thought maybe I should quit. Why was it so hard to not drink for 23 days? It made sense to join AA if I was going to try to stop drinking 100%. Forever. So I tried going to AA meetings but they kept saying things like “once you hit bottom” you will quit, or “alcohol is cunning and baffling”. It all seemed kind of desperate to me. In AA they even said “trudge the road of happy destiny”…
I didn’t really want to trudge. I wanted to run, dance, bike, skip…. anything but “trudge”.
Certainly, something didn’t seem right but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Then I found BOOM Rethink the Drink, a group of people talking honestly about drinking, quitting, and moderating. I saw that these were my people. I read studies. I enrolled in an alcohol cessation program through my local hospital system. I learned how the drinking trained my brain to turn to alcohol for every issue: problems, celebrations, relaxation, socializing, group events, athletic events. I was part of a drinking culture, and I couldn’t argue that by strict definition, I had a “disease”.
I wanted out. I wanted health!
I wasn’t sure if complete abstinence was necessary, but I knew I struggled and usually failed to moderate my drinking. I decided I needed to make a goal. 365 days. One year. I had heard of a program called “One Year, No Beer” and that idea sounded like a good idea. One year. No. Beer.
So for me, this is a Process not a Diagnosis. There is no miracle cure or quick fix. Staying sober long term is about learning over time from trial and error and daily consideration.
Learning to go to Browns or Indians games and not drink. Learning to go to parties or social get-togethers and not drink. Learning one activity at a time that they are just as fun alcohol-free Maybe even more fun.
Staying sober is a choice to live life more fully present. It is a process for me and it takes time. It isn’t an “all or nothing” – “life or death” type choice. Simply a process to learn to do things without alcohol and enjoy them as much or even more than before. I have had some slips along the way during these 3+ years, but I never lost track of what I wanted. A life without the interference of alcohol.
One of the medical podcasts I listened to a while back stated the average time for someone to go from problem drinker to 100% alcohol-free was 7 years. Knowing I am making progress every day, and it has been 3 years and 5 months since I first attempted a “Dry January”, I think I will definitely make it much quicker than 7 years.
Staying sober? That is my process. I’m taking it one day and one choice at a time. I am more peaceful, present, healthy, and happy than when I drank every day. I’ve noticed if I am open and seeking, the thing I find is usually unexpected, sort of a serendipity moment. When I was drinking, there wasn’t much seeking going on, and anything I might have discovered was overlooked. Today I plan to be calm and helpful and see what turns up. AF, ODAAT!
I’ve heard that if you stop drinking and you want to stay sober you have to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have always been a bit “itchy” like I need to get up and move. Or I shouldn’t be here. Or I don’t belong. Or I should be somewhere else. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.
I think that itchiness is why alcohol slowly got ahold of me. It took a long time for the drinking to become a problem because as a younger man I had dreams and goals and alcohol never helped with those so drinking was relegated to the occasional Friday or Saturday evening to “blow off steam”. I kept alcohol at bay. I largely avoided it until my kids were grown. Then it slowly took up more of my time and more of my brain space. Eventually, the itchy feeling got itchier and only alcohol seemed to scratch it… but like poison ivy… scratching just made things worse
I liked this little fern I saw growing on what seemed to be just rock, no soil. It’s like sobriety taking hold when there is nothing to root into, but still, our sobriety can survive and thrive in the most difficult of circumstances…. If we just let it.
We are not meant to addicted to poison, we are meant to thrive and grow!
Every day sober is so much better than drinking…. #FREEDOM
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