The first week since I re-committed to blogging about my meeting, and I’m late. My apologies for the delay!
The literature came from the book Living Sober; the chapter, “Remembering Your Last Drunk.” An unusual turn of phrase, the title of the chapter refers to our predilection for calling to mind only the happy times. Sometimes this tendency is a good thing; few people would continue to procreate if they recalled the pain of childbirth. But in recovery from addiction, it is imperative that we remember the suffering that compelled us to choose sobriety in the first place.
Here’s the setup: you’ve decided you’ve had enough, you quit drinking. The process can be easy or hard, it’s not relevant. Time goes by, life improves: you feel better, you look better, your relationships are better, you’re more focused, organized, productive. Life is superb!
Then, the nudge to drink comes. It can come from a good place, such as a holiday celebration, personal victory, anniversary or birthday. It can come from a not-so-good place, such as stress, tragedy, disappointment. Either way, the glass of wine/bottle of beer/shot of whiskey seems like the perfect accompaniment/solution to your life situation.
It is that moment to which this chapter refers. Time and again, the mind will jump to the positives: how delicious the drink will taste, how much fun it will be to kick back with friends/by yourself and enjoy the feeling that alcohol provides, how many good times there has been in past moments such as these.
When these thoughts occur, and they will occur, I’ve yet to meet someone in recovery who has not had similar thoughts, the challenge is to play the tape through. Don’t stop at the early moments of your drinking career, but continue on to the bitter end. Because chances are, if you are even considering sobriety, the end of your drinking career paints a different picture than the beginning.
When this happens in my life, it is usually the celebratory times, and it is a glass of Chardonnay that catches my attention. The glass is beautiful, the color of the liquid in the glass is appealing, and I imagine how cool and refreshing the wine will taste.
Then I remember the following:
I have never once, in my entire drinking history, wanted simply one glass of wine. Even when I only drank one glass, I resented having to stop and wanted more.
So if I want more than one glass, already the picture in my head is changed: I’m drinking multiple glasses of wine. And then what? The story writes itself at that point… melodramatic behavior, hypersensitivity that leads to pointless arguments and huge scenes that need to be apologized for later, or, worse still, a blank spot where a memory should be.
In playing the tape through, the decision becomes almost elementary: I’ll take the non-alcoholic beverage, please, and I’ll thank myself in the morning!
The 12 or so attendees shared a bit about their memories of their last drunk. Some were memorable… one gentleman was simply going to take a sip of his friends’ beer, and by the last call ordered two drinks called “lady sings the blues,” with 4 shots in each drink, just to make sure he had enough! Just as many more, though, had lonely, miserable last hurrahs, where the joy was long gone, and drinking had just become a bad habit. Either way, the memory of the bad feelings associated with the overconsumption is powerful enough to remind them never to go back to that lifestyle again.
We had some great anniversaries yesterday: one gentleman celebrated 39 years, another celebrated 37 years and a third celebrated 60 days. There’s an extra energy present when someone celebrates an anniversary; you can imagine how amazing it was to celebrate three times!
The reading touched a nerve for two different attendees, as both had harrowing experiences with what they called their “built-in forgetters.” The first woman to share had 4 years of sobriety, decided she was cured, and then spent the next 4 years trying to find her way back to recovery.
The gentleman who shared a similar story had even more sober time, and he reported that the worst thing that happened to him when he picked up that first drink was… nothing. He had one drink, remained relatively unaffected, and it was weeks before he picked up a second. That was all the evidence he needed to convince himself he could drink again, and it took him close to a year before the drinking became problematic. And it was years before he was able to reclaim his seat in a 12-step meeting.
Both are profoundly grateful to be back; many don’t get the opportunity.
The reading was chosen by one of the attendees, rather than by me. This is relevant because, while I did not choose it, it had significance for me yesterday morning. The night prior, I had a drunk dream, something that occurs very rarely these days. This post is already going long, so I’ll try to write more about it later in the week, but for me the message is clear:
Today’s miracle falls under the “fingers crossed” category: on a night where at least 4 different events are occurring, things are tentatively managed to get kids where they need to be, when they need to be there. Anyone with teenage children will appreciate this miracle!