A funny little realisation hit me when I sat in the last AA meeting. Once again, the general consensus seemed to be – and indeed what the chair underlined several times, gesturing each time to emphasise this point – that “sobriety is hard“. This lady’s husband had been an alcoholic and died because of it. Other people shared stories about stressful jobs and other difficult situations. SOBRIETY IS HARD. Even Red, five years sober, told me this over and over, how she will never be safe and going to AA meetings is what keeps her from drinking. And the poor lady whose husband had died from alcohol? How in God’s name had she landed at “sobriety is hard“? Wasn’t it alcoholism that was so freaking hard it took his life? Surely? It was heartbreaking to listen to, like many AA stories are.
But what they are talking about isn’t sobriety at all. They are talking about LIFE.
What goes amiss is the fact that alcohol has done nothing for any of us, in fact when it comes to us lucky sods who finally got to a point where we wanted to stop drinking, we want to stop because for the most part we have realised that booze will only destroy us. Of course you’re going to be forever fearful if you stop drinking but still believe it will bring some kind of benefit. No wonder you’d have to go to meetings for the rest of your life then!
Imagine you have a bit of an ear ache. I give you some ear drops with the promise it’ll make the pain go away. You use the drops and lo and behold, the ache subsides! Only a couple of days later, however, the ache comes back and now it’s worse than before. The drops made the pain stop last time so you use the drops again on the sore ear. Once again, the ache goes away. You can begin to see where I’m going with this, right? That’s right, a couple of days later the ear ache comes back and now it is becoming unbearable and it’s spreading to your other ear too. Then you are told that it’s the drops that are causing the problem. Well, you had a slight ear ache to begin with but the drops have magnified a problem and now turned it into a much bigger mess. No doubt you feel relieved that you now know the reason why it started to get so much worse! Would you keep on using the drops? And can you hand on heart tell me that you would – now that you know that the ear drops were what made the problem so much worse – feel deprived at not taking those drops anymore? Of course you wouldn’t.
Obviously the ear drops represent booze. The ear ache represents life and as beautiful as this life is, sometimes it throws shit our way. Thing is though, drinking poison isn’t going to solve any of that shit when it hits the fan. In fact, it’ll just make it seem much worse than it is and it’s going to take us much longer to clean it up.
Luckily I never poured alcohol on problems and thank God for that, because I imagine if you use alcohol as a crutch (well – it isn’t a crutch, remember the ear drops?) it’ll be harder to let go of it. I was always terrified of alcohol in that scenario because it’s always strengthened how I already feel: if I felt happier, alcohol just seemed to enhance my good mood. Again, that’s an illusion and quite possibly the maddest one of all because alcohol is a DEPRESSANT so how in God’s name can a depressant make me happier than I already was?! It falls on its own illogic. It is simply not possible for a depressant to create feelings of happiness. So those feelings were there anyway and if anything they remained strong IN SPITE OF me drinking, and in any case certainly not because I drank!! Fact. And so it also follows that no social gathering, event or other situation where we might think drinking will help us celebrate is made better because we’re drinking alcohol. I for one have never come away from a great party thinking it was great because the wine tasted good.
But I get it – if you perceive alcohol to be the thing that helps you cope with life, it’s going to be harder to walk away. And ONLY THEN will you forever be fearful! Only when you still believe somehow that alcohol will bring something good with it will you feel deprived.
So, I quit drinking almost seven weeks ago. Have I felt deprived? No!!!!!!! No, no, noooooooo! I feel fanfuckingtastic! I feel strong, full of joy and I can’t point to a single occasion that was less enjoyable because I didn’t drink. Quite the opposite – the evening at the jazz bar hubby took me to for my birthday I enjoyed so much and that was only because I wasn’t drinking! If I’d been drinking the obsession to guzzle wine would have taken over and I wouldn’t have been present. I can guarantee you that if I’d been drinking I’d been itching to leave half way through. I cannot WAIT to go away for hubby’s birthday and see an amazing city I can’t wait to explore with him. If I was drinking it simply wouldn’t be that way. I’d wake up with hangovers for starters that’d make me too sluggish to want to head out and see the sights, and I’d be too busy working out which bars to hit and then how to make sure we’d have enough wine back at the hotel to enjoy any of it. So no, I don’t feel deprived and I certainly don’t feel I need to be fearful for the rest of my life. I’m not going to pour ear drops into my aching ear once I know those drops are only going to aggravate the pain I’m already in, am I?
What I listen to in AA meetings are people talking about life. And almost always the stories show how we’re all much better placed to deal with any problems without alcohol as well as how much more enjoyable life is without alcohol. Why in God’s name would you feel you need support networks to help you keep in mind something you already know? If you truly knew and believed it that wouldn’t be the case – it just doesn’t make any sense! I don’t want to eat dog shit and I don’t need to join Dog Shit Eaters Anonymous to help me remember that or to help me avoid eating dog shit. You will only need that if you still don’t quite believe it and you’re holding on to the belief that eating dog shit will improve your life somehow. It’s only when you truly see and believe that it doesn’t that you’ll be free for real. When I listened to Sparks, I ended up feeling dread – I just didn’t get it. If anything, I felt quite sorry for her, it seemed to me so tragic somehow. Here we are and what more proof do we need that life is infinitely better without alcohol? It’s only if we still hold on to the illusions around booze and believe it’ll add some benefit that we’re going to be trapped in its grip. Drinking alcohol will bring me as many benefits as I would get from eating dog shit. That’s correct: not a single one! NOT A ONE! And no, it doesn’t taste much better either.
Once again though, I do know that I react badly to alcohol and more severely than whatever a “non-alcoholic” does. For that reason, AA meetings are wonderful because it’s quite liberating and lovely to be around people who feel exactly the way you do. I won’t agree that sobriety is hard though. Drinking, on the other hand, that’s what’s hard. It does nothing for me except hold me back and push me down. To make it all worse something ignites in me when I drink that awful poison that means I cannot stop. Talk about a perfect storm! I am so, so grateful that I finally woke up. SO grateful.
So no. It’s not something I try to get through one day at a time. It’s something I say easily and without dread: today I won’t drink!