Because this whole alcoholism and sobriety stuff really interests me, not least because I am a drunk who has stopped drinking, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the subject and a watched a smattering of documentaries too. I’m sure if I developed another disease or condition I’d be keen to learn as much as I could about that too, so I don’t consider it at all strange that I’m devouring all perspectives and opinions I can get my hands on. The book that has resonated with me the most has got to be Allen Carr’s ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking‘.
The title itself is probably enough for many to immediately dismiss it as another quack theory designed to fill us drunks with false hope and therefore not worth the paper it’s printed on, but this book really reinforced how I feel. It’s in that way quite similar to ‘The Naked Mind‘, and aspires to show us how we have been brainwashed from birth and I would suggest that anyone who wants to hold on to the view that sobriety is difficult steers well clear of both books as there is a palpable risk they’ll change the way you view alcohol forever. And why take the chance if you feel you already have the answers you feel you need? In that case, don’t read them. For me personally, reading them was like putting into words how I have felt since I stopped, namely how I for the life of me now cannot name one single benefit of drinking alcohol and how I’ve sat in AA meetings with my chin on the floor listening to people state how sobriety is so tough. My own journey has been the very opposite and it was only days into not drinking that I discovered that the tough bit was the drinking.
But as with anything to do with the human condition, I don’t believe there is a one size fits all and perhaps that’s where I’m the most at odds with AA and its teachings. I value many things about AA but the very notion that “it works if you work it” makes me squirm. Of course it bloody does! And I can therefore, just like AA, claim I have a method that comes with a 100% success rate IF YOU WORK IT. Here it is and it’s totally free of charge: don’t drink alcohol. There. One instruction only and I promise you you’ll achieve sobriety so long as you work it. You’re welcome. Oh, that doesn’t work, you say? Well. There is nothing wrong with my method! And I told you it works if you work it. The instruction is very clear and you CANNOT fail if you just follow it. Well, then there must be something wrong with YOU! What if I were a doctor and you came to me with a troublesome infection, and I prescribed you something for it? You take the medication but the infection doesn’t go away. I prescribe you another batch. Infection comes back. More medication. Ad infinitum. Would you be filled with confidence that I know what I’m doing if I then told you that the medication works? Didn’t think so.
No, that sort of approach I think does more harm than good.
As for my own sobriety I can tell you this. Tomorrow it’s five months of not drinking and I feel absolutely fucking awesome! I don’t like calling it “giving up drinking” simply because I’ve not given anything up. Quite to the contrary, I have just rid myself of something that only brought a whole bunch of negativity with it. I won’t lie – I’ve had lots of fun with alcohol as part of the picture but all of that fun was in spite of the booze, not because of it. AA was a good anchor at the beginning and I intend to keep its benefits to my sobriety in my tool kit, 100%. Easyway and The Naked Mind two other sources that I read at precisely the right time in my sobriety, just as I’d discovered some of my own truths and they further cemented exactly how I feel about booze. Then there is a multitude of other books, documentaries and, perhaps most importantly, blogs I’ve been absorbing like a sponge, all these little streams that together create a huge flood wave of thinking around alcoholism and sobriety that is benefiting me massively.
Sure, I occasionally get that ping! at the back of my mind when a lifetime of brainwashing makes itself known and I have those images of alcohol and what I was taught my whole life that it represents: celebration and a good time. Of course that happens, how could it not? So far, it seems to help to just reel myself back in and remind myself that it’s all an illusion and think back on my drinking and what it was actually like. Guzzle a box of wine and catapult myself right into black-out home alone. Oh yeah, some celebration! What I want to point out though is that the pull of the beast is strong, but how it’s perhaps a little misunderstood. Or wrongly perceived, rather – that it’s not there because of a bunch of flaws in ME but because I’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this thing brings me good stuff. Having said that, I clearly react to alcohol in a way that some people (aka non-alcoholics) don’t, so I do also believe that SOMETHING is different in my wiring but one doesn’t have to exclude the other. Example – I could be allergic to kiwi fruit, like my kiwi husband quite ironically is. So I could be brainwashed into thinking that eating kiwi fruit will bring me benefits at the same time as I react to it in an unfortunate way that non-kiwi fruit allergic people would. As if poor hubby believed eating kiwi fruit would sprinkle glitter on life and insist on eating it in spite of his allergic reaction. That’s what alcoholism is for me – this thing I react so badly to but drank because I thought it put a sparkle on life.
Another voice in the huge flood wave of thoughts that I’ve enjoyed hearing is Russell Brand and his thoughts around recovery. I’d say Brand’s views appear to be very in line with the AA way but his approach is more straight forward, plus of course he has an engaging way with words that I believe is easier to relate to than the now somewhat dated voice of the Big Book. Besides, when it comes to the 12 steps I do firmly believe we would all be better off for doing them and Brand has a really excellent way of interpreting the program – some people might hate his way but I like it a lot, he strikes a chord for me and when he sells spirituality I find myself opening my purse, not holding it more tightly. Uhm, that sounded a bit dirty but it wasn’t meant to, sorry. Either way, I pick bits here and there from him too, as I do with AA, Easyway, blogs and the rest.
That all got a bit waffly, I realise that. But perhaps it illustrates how I view alcoholism and sobriety when it comes to myself, how I’m finding truth in a whole bunch of places and figuring out what works for me at the same time as I accept that it’s not going to be the same for everyone. To be honest I don’t give a shit if you follow this method or that, whether you go to AA meetings everyday or keep sober by doing cartwheels around the house each morning – whatever works for you is bloody perfect!
Today it’s 150 days of sobriety and tomorrow it’ll be five months – I’m pleased as punch! I think when I first quit, if I’d realised my five month anniversary would fall on midsummer – by far the biggest (and wettest!!) celebration in the Swedish calendar, I would have groaned with despair. Now? No biggie. Alcohol brings me nothing but crap, remember? It’s a shift in my thinking that’s happened during these almost five months of sobriety and I do hope my brain doesn’t get tricked back into thinking booze brings positives. Always easy? No. But it’s not exactly hard to be present, alive and feeling physically and mentally well and strong. Life will serve up its usual greatness and the occasional curve balls, but whatever happens I know it’s infinitely better and I’m much better placed to cope with it all when I don’t poison myself.
Today I’m not going to have a drink.