What if I don’t see it coming?

The other night I had a really vivid relapse dream. I was sitting at the dining room table across from my long-dead grandmother and great-aunt, who were bickering about something. They were sisters prone to bickering in real life, so what they were bickering about is probably not important. To my right at the table, my own two daughters were bickering about something unclear and, again, probably not important. In the dream, my dad poured me a glass of pink wine and I gulped nearly all of it and then had the thought “no wonder I drank so much…it’s so sweet” before realizing I had just blown my sobriety. I was of course heartbroken and the dream so vivid I felt relief like I’ve never felt upon waking from a nightmare.

The reason I had this dream was probably because of a recent conversation about why we may never fully be able to call ourselves recovered. This, to me anyway, implies that we’re cured, and getting too far removed from the pain of drinking seems to be why many people relapse. This isn’t why everyone slips though, and yesterday I came across a reason I can more easily understand.

Every once in awhile I like to google famous people I know were sober to see if they’re still sober. I don’t know if it’s morbid curiosity or if I’m looking for affirmation that doesn’t mean much anyway since we’re all on our own journey. I read a touching piece on relapse by an author I remember reading in early sobriety.

Her relapse was not with alcohol, but with pills, and it read to me like something heavy and complicated. She had her heart broken, and damn, I guess we all know what that feels like. You don’t think it’s going to hit you that hard, but it does. This is the relapse threat that scares me most of all…these devastating, if inevitable losses in life.

What I found interesting in her article was that she’d previously listed with her sponsor all of the things she thought might make her drink. Her list was not surprising…the death of a child, terminal illness, loss of a parent or loved one. The idea of  planning ahead wasn’t surprising either, though I admit I was taken aback at the idea of having a mental escape clause, a free pass if life got too rough to handle sober.

My drinking got out of control when I used it to cope with hardship. It took about two years for me to realize I had dug a hole that looked suspiciously like my own grave, but I can easily trace it back to that time in my life when I drank to dull the pain. Let me be perfectly clear that a Stresssful Life Event did not lead to my alcoholism. If it hadn’t been one thing, it surely would have been another. In typical Polyanna fashion, I am in fact extremely grateful for this pain for allowing me the chance to bottom out sooner than I might have otherwise. I learned that drinking may dull the pain, but it brings fresh layers of hurt that I can only blame myself for.

There is no reason bad (or good) enough for me to want to drink. I can’t afford to give that idea a millimeter of room in my head, though I suppose it helps to know firsthand that it doesn’t work anyway. One day this idea will be tested. Something bad will happen at some point in the future, of this I am sure. Today I choose to believe that success is the best revenge. If life hurts me, I hope to do my best to keep moving forward.

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18 thoughts on “What if I don’t see it coming?

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  1. Occasionally I still have a dream where I am in a pub having a drink. I don’t usually bother to analyse the reasons behind it anymore. I just see it as a handy wee reminder of what I am and where I am going, and never to be complacent.

    Ronnie.

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  2. i won’t quote, but love your second to the last paragraph. I get that; my drinking became out of control over a hardship too…at least that’s what i like to tell myself. And I do believe that was the tipping point, but it had been a long time coming and finally the excuse was there.
    I cannot think about a scenario in which I might drink either. Or maybe I can. The fact is that now, for the first time, I know what will surely kill me. So the ONLY scenario I can picture is giving up, and I will drink, and I will die. I am not ready to go that route yet, and hope I never am.

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  3. I really love this bbb, and it’s very timely for me. I have to agree with Mish though–the only reason I would ever drink again (willingly) would be if I were signing my death certificate. And even then, I’d like to think there would be a bucket list of things I’d rather do.

    Going through tough times or times of loss, are the times that I especially need my wits about me. When my mom died, there was just too much to do, and plus I don’t want to disappoint her or ruin her legacy, you know? When I slipped 6 weeks later and blamed grief, it still didn’t solve or fix anything. It just created 100 more problems.

    And now, going through Spot’s cancer, it is a bitch. It sucks. But if I drink, that’s just that much time that I won’t have to spend with and enjoy my little girl. I want to cherish each moment, not obliterate it. And sure, I may crack open the chocolate bag, but I’ve never blacked out from Reese’s. And when she goes, I’ll get through it. One way or another.

    Because why there may always be a reason or two to drink–lord knows I can rationalize anything–there will always be a million reasons why I shouldn’t.

    Love the post. xoxo

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  4. Lots of juicy stuff here – love it. As far as the dreams – they still come up and they are terrifying. There is that moment when I wake up and wonder for just a split second if it really happened. That’s when I am most thankful to be sober.

    But the deeper issue you wonderfully talked about was the idea of drinking if and when something catastrophic was going on…or even something remotely catastrophic. I recall having a conversation with a friend who asked me something along the lines of what you posed – would I drink if something happened to a loved one? Terminal disease? I had to think about this for a bit. What if my entire family were wiped out in some horrific crash? Would I jump on the bottle? My alcoholism would love that. What if I had 2 months to live? How would I handle that? The conclusion I came to, and what you talk about as a mental escape clause, is that my sobriety is not contingent on any thing or any one. I got sober for me, and I will stay sober for me. I not only think of what my legacy would be, but I wouldn’t be of any use to someone who will later go through the same thing, and will need someone to lean on, someone who would get it. And of course, stinking drunk does nothing to help anyone, including myself.

    Success is a good revenge, but an even better way to live.

    What a great post – thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  5. I used to think of the reasons I might relapse. Less than 2 years in my Mum died. I didn’t drink because I by then knew others who hadn’t I talked with them. I’ve seen people with terminal disease go to their end and not drink so I know it can be done if I need to I’ll use their example and strength I hope. 8 years in I still have relapse dreams some times they scare me still.

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  6. Wow, some dream! I had a few relapse dreams the first year, but haven’t for awhile.

    Like you, though, I really worried that I wouldn’t see relapse coming. For one thing, that’s how a lot of people describe it: oh, I didn’t drink for 8 years, and then one day I just picked up a glass. And when I’d press them about it, they really couldn’t come up with anything more. In some cases, they were people who were no longer involved in any kind of recovery group or practice, but not always. Right now, I can’t seriously imagine drinking again–sometimes it’s a passing thought, but no real desire. But…who knows? It feels safer to keep others in recovery in my life and listen to their stories. There was a post and some comments on Crying Out Loud today that brought it all back vividly. Good to read!

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  7. Thanks for this very honest post, I love what everyone said. I too have had relapse dreams, and dealt with the death of my mom sober and I have also relapsed in the past more than I’d like to admit. When I was in early sobriety I was alway preparing for those tough moments when I might want to drink, I alway had a plan, I always had phone numbers to call and places to be to get support. But I never thought of the good days as being a trigger. But in fact my last drunk happened when nothing was going on! I mean nothing, life was good, I felt happy. I fet happy so I though I could drink safely! (who ever thinks that!?) This was the beginning of my last drunk which lead to three days in a blackout! Ugh. But yes, the pain of that last drunk is what keeps me sober today, and all the memories and all the drunk dreams.

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  8. Drunk Dreams…OMG! i have them with less and less frequency now, but when i have them, they’re doozies. Last month i dreamed some “friends” spiked a lemonade with vodka without telling me, just to sabotage my recovery. i woke up super bummed until i realized it hadn’t really happened, but also with a strong sense of injustice and full of questions about resetting my sobriety date. There was a vague sense of dear over this that followed me around for days. i think the more we tell ourselves we can never drink again, the stronger the fear and the stronger the need for the fear to come out in our dreams.

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    1. You’re really on to something with this. I hadn’t had a drunk dream in awhile, probably because I don’t usually unearth the reasons why I can’t drink anymore (forevermore). It’s good for me to stir things up now and again. Your idea brought a lot of comfort – thank you!

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  9. i really like your post! I relate to all of it. my drinking got out of control when i tried to escape hardship.. yes. i have drinking dreams too. i sometimes wake up and think theyre really for a second and am so disappointed. i definitely have things i can imagine happening that i don’t think i would stay sober for–even though i know drinking would make it so much worse i know i wouldn’t be able to stand the pain of loss of a child so since God doesn’t give us things we can’t handle hopefully He won’t give me that right? XOXO love your blog. mine was beer, too. aren’t too many people that make it to the rooms on beer alone…

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  10. Had one rookie drinking dream some time ago and it did seem real. Dreams are weird to begin with so I don’t put much stock into them on a night to night basis however if any of my dreams ever does get to repeating itself I’ll be sure to sit up and take notice.

    Not too concerned at the moment on the big item temptations. I’ve read somewhere that US Grant did not drink when battles were at hand but did knock them back at a steady rate when things were slow or boring. For some reason I’ve always sharpened up under pressure and Lord knows the current pressure rate has me as sharp as a good #2 pencil can get. Now leave me alone on a winter day with some good music, a piddly garage project , and a thirty pack and it’s good night nurse. But here at the end of week nineteen life is playing to my strengths and avoiding my weaknesses. There’s more than enough tough stuff falling around. So Katy bar the door, week twenty is upon us and from from where I sit it looks like a cake walk.

    I think your posts just get better and better. I truly look forward to each one. Thanks for writing and thanks to everyone for their comments.

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  11. You know, it’s kind of funny – I don’t worry too much about this. I think it’s because – sadly – in 2006/early 2007 I had one hell of a hard time, and if I was ever going to turn to drink, it would have been then, I do believe. But I didn’t. It’s kind of a ‘nice by-product- of going through such hell sober: you know you can do it! Though, of course, I’d really have preferred NOT to have had all that trauma.

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