Day 153 (Five months): Owning My Power


Tomorrow, I go on a long vacation to exotic locations.

I’ve been wishy-washy on whether I would succumb to drinking on this month-long venture, sending out mixed signals to my poor, confused husband. Actually, he is probably not that confused — he’s seen this show before.

What I’m doing is setting the stage for drinking.

I imagine the place it might be, even though I have never been anywhere we are going: I will be sitting in a quaint cafe, overlooking some famous sea, and the waiter will appear, holding a frosty drink. “It is a tradition in Swaziland,*” he will say, “That visitors are offered our national drink.”

(Disclosure: I am not going to Swaziland, if it even exists.)

“To refuse is to gravely offend the giver,” he continues,”and brings curses and bad weather on  your vacation. No one has ever refused such a drink.”

Charmed but threatened, I would gracefully accept the drink, and take a sip, as per the local custom. Everyone in the cafe would cheer, and raise their own glasses to my health and ability to assimilate with the natives. Fun would be had by all.

I’ve been imaging this, but per my new sober training, I am also forced to analyze the thought process that led to such a bizarre scenario. In the interest of time, here is a summary of what I’ve come up with:

  • I know I am setting the scene to permit myself to drink. I can choose to recognize this and stop, or recognize this and continue. IT IS MY CHOICE.
  • I can continue to make seemingly throw-away comments, like “I wonder if they even drink Cosmos in Swaziland,” or I can stop. I am not fooling anyone. Either way, THE CHOICE IS MINE.
  • I actually no longer feel the urge to drink. Almost never. I rarely have thoughts about it. Instead, I fantasize about hot fudge sundaes and creme brûlée. I could (and am) changing this by considering, covertly, that the vacation of a lifetime is a passable “excuse” to drink. I could continue to allow these thoughts, or I could stop. THE CHOICE IS MINE.
  • Whatever choice I make, I am not making it, as in the past, because the desire to drink is so overwhelming that I am ill-equipped to handle it. I am not in the midst of a personal drama. No one I know is dying. I am healthy and happy. I could make it through this trip by walking myself silly and getting in great shape. I could take beautiful photos and post them, annoyingly, on Facebook, practically pointing out to everyone,”I’m here and you’re not!”

Or I could get back on the treadmill, because they know me there. I know that version of myself. I could hang out with her a while. Maybe she’s lonely.

Or I could stop these idiotic, destructive thoughts (the old, drunk me is lonely?) and embrace strength instead of weakness. Hope instead of hopelessness. Life instead of half-life. Change instead of choosing to stay stuck … again.

But I can’t stop knowing it’s up to me.

Day 130: The Clever Voice


The drinking voice in my head is very, very clever.

It has come up with hundreds of scenarios and excuses that serve to show the gullible, hesitant, sober me why it is OK, even in my best interest, actually, to drink. In the spirit of “telling on myself,” I want to relate this newest scenario the voice has come up with:

I have always played with the idea of writing a drinking memoir (leaving out the most embarrassing parts, of course), but the longer I am sober, the less I remember what it was like to be madly in love with, to be physically, mentally, and spiritually vanquished by alcohol.

Could I really write about this effectively now, at an impressive four months’ sober? In my dozens of journals, there are long loopy tirades, clearly written while drunk, with desperate pleas to be saved from drinking, but I can’t really feel it.

And I would have to feel it to describe it exactly.

And I don’t think I could do that unless … just for a short time … I went back into the trenches. Sort of like a foreign correspondent.

You all (my future readers) would watch from the sidelines as I ventured into the den of the demon itself, all for a higher cause. Fighting my unwillingness, the threat to life and limb, and the risk of getting sucked under forever, I would bravely, selflessly, go forth to my favorite drinking spot, inhale deeply, and with great trepidation, order a Cosmo.

I would be like a superhero, saving Gotham City. I would be doing it for you, for all of the future generations that will read this book, chilled to the bone as they contemplate the kind of sacrifice that I made, to once again, in the spirit of science, experience what alcohol actually does to one’s mind. I would let them hook me up with electrodes and scan my brain during what I think might come to be called Operation Going Under. (Should that be the book title? What if it’s made into a movie? Who should play my part? Someone younger than me … to appeal to a wider audience. Reese Witherspoon? Jennifer Lawrence?)

This scenario has actually worked on my simple mind in the past. Because when I listen to this voice, I become a sheep. A wooly-headed, easily-led, gullible sheep. A sheep following the wrong shepherd.

Enough of the sheep analogy.

I feel better getting this down on paper. Or in a Word document, or whatever this is out in Blogsville. Because when I tell on the voice, it loses its power.

Thanks for listening to the voice with me. It’s not so convincing anymore.

Day 126: Daydreaming on the Front Line

EPSON scanner image

A post by Mrs. Mac, who has about the same number of sober days as I do, helped me make a connection:

She’s talking about needing the connection of blogging, reading blogs, etc., to stay on track. I had really gotten away from blogging in the past month, and I can now feel myself less committed to the cause of sobriety.

And last week, I listened to a tape my Deepak Chopra that described the body as in either growth or decline. Chopra pointed out that any time you are not exercising, your body begins to break down. His example was that Olympic athletes who are made to stay in bed for two weeks lose the equivalent of 10 years of training. That is really shocking, especially for someone who has spent the last decades in a state of inertia, exercising only in my brief periods of sobriety or to flex my arm muscles in raising a drink. I have been in rapid decline, both mentally and physically. Of course the good new is, I can turn it around at any point. Today, for example.

I’ve decided that my awareness surrounding alcohol addiction is the same. If I don’t activity blog, read books, or seek out recovery, my sobriety is in decline. In other words, doing nothing does not just leave me where I was on the road to recovery, it sends me backward, and I don’t need to drink to make that happen. Staying sober isn’t enough. My memory of what alcohol did to my life starts to soften around the edges, leaving a glow of nostalgia. It’s like seeing a black and white photo of someone smiling, without realizing it was taken in a war zone.

My daydreams are beginning to show me another place and time where life was ruled by hazy afternoon light, with the romance of outdoor cafes … and drinking. There was always drinking to enhance that glow and drown out the sound of bombs bursting in the distance, like fireworks.

But the reality is that I was at war with an enemy that has taken far stronger souls than mine. And daydreaming on the front line is never a good idea.