I’m a little proud of myself right now.
How often do we say that to ourselves? Probably not much. Definitely not enough.
I am a recovering alcoholic. I’ve been sober most of the last 29 years. Yes, I’ve had some relapses. Too many to count, in fact. But I didn’t drink today, which is especially awesome, because I really wanted to.
MUSIC IS FOR LOVERS
About a month ago, I bought two tickets to a concert by a group called “Silversun Pickups”. Well, that concert is tonight. I should be getting ready for it at this very moment. But I decided not to go.
Why would you do a thing like that?
Because my mental health/sobriety/safety come first. Let me explain.
I’ve been feeling a little “off” all day. I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to go to my DBT class, and ended up deciding to go. I’m really glad I did, too. Today’s lesson was about Radical Acceptance, something everyone could use a hand in understanding. It’s a doozy.
Well, I felt even more “off” after class. I knew I had this concert to go to, but now I didn’t feel like it. I wasn’t excited about it, even though I love the group. And it was at First Avenue in Minneapolis, formerly owned by the Purple One himself, Prince (aka Funkiest Minnesotan Ever). So that was extra cool.
Despite my efforts, I just could not find anyone to go with me. Now, I don’t typically mind going places by myself – as a classic introvert, I’d rather hang with myself, at my own pace, than be dependent on someone else’s mood and schedule. So that wasn’t an issue.
But on my way home from DBT, I noticed a brief thought that a drink would sure be nice. Well, one brief thought became two became three…and before I knew it, I was preoccupied with planning on how I was going to get wasted while I was supposed to be at this concert.
NOT GOOD TO THE LAST DROP – NOT FOR ME, ANYWAY
Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I’ve been sober for about seven months at this point. Because I believe there is no cure for alcoholism, I tend to think and talk about it in the present tense. It’s always somewhere, lingering in the vast recesses of my mind, waiting for a vulnerable moment or a foolish thought like, “I’ve got this.” So when I say, “When I drink…”, what I mean is, “During my active drinking periods…” It just makes more sense to me.
When I drink, I get wasted. Shit-faced. Demolished. On purpose, with determination and intent, eyes wide open. I can’t seem to help it. In fact, that’s the whole point of drinking, if you ask me.
According to my brain, that’s what alcohol is for – to take you away from your worries and make you okay (or numb) for a little while. There has never been a period of what would be considered social drinking for me. I’ve drunk alcoholically ever since I took my first drink at age thirteen.
Therefore, when I want to go get drunk, I need one thing specifically. Well, two things: Money and time. One of these I have none of, the other I have an excess of. I’ll let you guess which is which.
Time is the key ingredient. I need enough time to down the number of Jack and Cokes my body requires at that moment. Ergo, a concert would have been a perfect cover. And, since I would have been having fun at a loud concert, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about my wife calling me.
So, for a brief while this afternoon, I thought I had it all planned out. I would leave to go to the concert but not even leave town. I’d find a watering hole and get drunk, in peace. After the first couple of drinks, I’m sure my hands would stop shaking from the guilt I was feeling and it would no longer feel like my heart was about to jump out of my chest.
I would finally be able to relax.
The only problem with that idea (okay, there are many problems with that idea) was that I knew better. Most of my brain was telling me not to drink, not even to leave the house. My body was sending me all kinds of signals – my stomach was knotted up (because, hello, bad decision), I was getting grumpy (because I felt guilty), and I was totally conflicted by my black-or-white choices. I didn’t know yet what I was going to do. I did know I didn’t want to tell my wife about my plan because then I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. But I didn’t want to not tell her, either, because I knew that talking about it was the best thing I could do.
After mind-fucking myself for about an hour and a half, I couldn’t take it anymore. I said to her, “I’m not going to the concert tonight.” She looked at me, and I was like, “If I leave the house, I’ll end up drinking.”
Her response? “Enough said.”
Yes, I do know how lucky I am. CeAnne is incredibly supportive and understanding no matter what I do or say. It continually blows my mind.
She could have been angry that I wasted 60 bucks on tickets but blew off the show.
She could have raised her eyebrows and given me the look.
What did she do instead? She thanked me for telling her, told me she was proud of me, and gave me a nice, long hug.
DID I JUST ACCEPT REALITY?
I’m actually still trying to figure out how I got through that. In the past, if I’ve been determined to drink, I have. No holds barred.
It’s not often that I have an insane urge to drink, but people tend to think that since I’m an alcoholic, I must always want to. They try to protect me from print and TV ads, happy hours, even conversation involving alcohol.
The thing is, most days I don’t think about it at all. I mean, it’s impossible in this culture to avoid all references to alcohol, and I will admit that Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam ads do cut through me a little. But really, the only thing you can do is figure out how to live with it. Make some kind of peace with it and go on about your day. Don’t let it torture you.
That sounds like acceptance to me.
Twice in the last month I really really really wanted to drink. One was tonight, of course, and the other was about 4 weeks ago. But you know what?
I won. Both times. That tells me that I can defeat the thoughts that are trying to defeat me.
It used to be that when I relapsed, I would call a very good friend and tell her about it. Without fail, she would say, “You’re supposed to call before you drink!”
I think about that when I do have the urge. And since I’ve been able to do it successfully a handful of times, I realize that if I tell someone my plan beforehand, there’s a very good chance I’ll survive the day sober and with my self-respect intact. The only difference between now and my past is that now, I actually do it.
But it takes practice. Because practice makes permanent.
A CHALLENGE FOR YOU
I believe that everything we do, we do for a reason. There is some kind of payoff, however twisted or neurotic or self-absorbed it might seem.
The next time you are thinking about doing something that maybe you shouldn’t – something that makes you dismiss your values, something you think will feel good right now but will not actually help you, something that makes your insides feel all squishy – pay special attention to that feeling in your gut. You know, that knot? The butterflies? Or maybe it’s in your chest, or you get a little weak in the knees, or your hand starts to shake as you pick up that drink/drug/weapon of choice.
Pay attention to that.
Discomfort can tell us when we’re about to make a bad decision.
So be good to yourself.
Originally Published on The Depression Warrior
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