When someone is newly sober, friends and family often unwittingly ask innocent questions that pack a punch. The most common thing I seemed to hear was, “Oh, you’re not drinking? Is that, like, a forever thing?” This always threw me for a loop. “Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s hard to say,” I’d respond. Eloquent, as always.
In those early weeks of recovery, I could truthfully not even consider the notion of “forever.” I was utterly consumed by each moment, each thought, each hour. I was edgy and restless, trying to stay busy with distractions, yet feeling a deep physical exhaustion from the constant effort of resisting alcohol.
The old adage “One Day at a Time” suddenly made sense, and as each long day ended I’d gratefully lay my head on the pillow and think, I made it through. The days added up, but “forever” was still beyond comprehension.
I hoped in my heart that I could correct my alcohol habits, re-set them and eventually drink “normally.” I didn’t know how long it would take to complete that change, but in my heart I held out hope that my beloved wine and I would one day be reunited. Other people seemed happy to just have one glass of wine now and then, and although this concept had become completely foreign to me, I saw it as something I might aspire to myself. Fix this pesky negative pattern and be like everyone else again.
Eventually, I became adept enough at life without alcohol to do other things with my time and I turned my attentions to learning everything possible about addiction and recovery. I wondered why most programs were so adamant about lifelong abstinence rather than moderation. I wondered why the word “disease” was even used, and if there were other perspectives about addition. I heard from people who had tried to return to controlled drinking and found themselves right back in their old patterns almost immediately, despite long periods of abstinence. “The disease does push-ups,” they’d say, leading me to question my belief that over time abstinence would cause my addiction to suffocate and wither away.
I can tell you that now, as I approach my fourth anniversary of sobriety, life without alcohol gives me utter freedom. The idea of living out my days in sobriety makes me smile, because my life is so much better this way. Yes, when something difficult happens I have the knee-jerk reaction to escape my emotions by numbing out with alcohol, but instead I deal with life and move on. And yes, the tiramisu looks delicious and the Champagne is inviting. I think of alcohol as an old lover with whom I’ll always feel a spark but in whom I know better than to indulge.
A friend recently said simply, “I think we do better when we are abstinent” and something clicked in my brain. Recovery isn’t about a life sentence of rules that drag us down, it is about finding a better way to live. For me, that means life without booze.
Likely forever, and most certainly for today.