For years I thought I was an alcoholic but held hope I was just a problem drinker. Maybe I was a problem drinker back then. What’s the difference anyway?
Last week when I shared my story at a meeting and got to the point where I admitted I’d never had a DUI or lost a job or a husband or, god forbid, children, I felt I had to explain that I knew dire consequences were just around the corner. I did feel this in my gut, but the real reason I knew I had to stop was because I finally accepted that drinking like a normal person was much harder and less enjoyable than not drinking at all.
I attempted moderate drinking throughout my adult life. From time to time I’d decide not to drink during the week, which felt an especially poor decision come Monday night. This modified drinking schedule only lasted a month or so before I tired and gave up. Its end was never acknowledged with anything more than a toast to drinking freely.
The two times I seriously attempted moderate drinking, I went out and bought a book and joined a message board and everything. I followed the book’s guidelines and abstained for 30 days and congratulated myself for being able to give up drinking just like that. It reminds me of the sugar-free diet I’m on right now. It’s really fucking hard, but my sugar ban is not permanent and my brain knows that. Thirty days was just a little respite.
The last time I followed the moderation management program, I followed it to the T. I abstained for 30 days. I came up with a plan and even wrote it out and emailed it to my husband so he could share in the fun of transforming me into a normal drinker.
I stuck to my original plan of no drinks at all Monday through Thursday. I gritted my teeth extra hard on Mondays, but knew it was my last chance. Friday to Sunday, I stuck to my written limits of how much I would drink each night. For about two months, I kept this routine and did not slip or waiver. And you know what? I hated it.
Moderate drinking ruined drinking for me more than the consequences I hadn’t yet suffered. When I sipped beer, I did not get the buzz that feels like your brain slipping into a warm pool of honey. When I paced myself, the clock ran like its gears were gummed up with honey. I saw a half full beer as good as empty. Moderate drinking was hard work! It was not even fun!
Eventually I gave up and slipped back into my old drinking patterns and stayed there for months before I made the decision to stop. I’m not even sure what the final straw was, or if there was one. What I feared most during that time was that life would be miserable without alcohol. I just couldn’t imagine fun without booze.
Recovery is teaching me there is life without alcohol, and it’s actually sweeter than what I had before. Today it’s Monday and I’m grateful I don’t have to go home and feel restless and angry that I don’t get to have a drink. It’s just another day that I’m not going to drink because everything about my life is better when I don’t.