Monday, February 8, 2010

Sobriety, 14 years on

For those of you who did not know, I am an alcoholic in recovery. While perusing Bluelight, a Harm Reduction board which proved very useful when I was writing my manuscript on poppies, opiates and painkillers, I found a lengthy thread on alcoholism by several of the board's active and recovering alcoholics.  I wanted to share my thoughts with them and thought my post might prove helpful to others who think they may have a drinking problem.

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I've been sober for fourteen years (15 as of October 28, 2010). I've attended a few AA meetings but I'm not a 12-stepper. Reading this thread has brought back a whole lot of memories, including a lot of shit I would just as soon forget.

FWIW, here's what I learned from my addiction.

Sooner or later you're going to hit a point where you can no longer deny you have a drinking problem. From that moment onward drinking will no longer be any fun. The booze will always have that nasty aftertaste of self-loathing, no matter how much you try to tell yourself that this time is going to be different than all those other times before.

That doesn't mean you're going to quit drinking after this. I went on boozing it up for years, but it was never the same. It was no longer funny stories about "Christ, was I wasted." It was "Yep, I'm a complete fucking failure and I know it, and here's a toast to my latest spiral down the bowl." I suspect most of the people posting here know exactly what I'm talking about. The good news is that once you're here you are only a few small steps from getting sober. (Let's face it, what's the sense of doing something if it isn't fun?)

The first few months are really the hardest: I quit for a couple months more times than I can count. Once you get out of the habit of drinking, you start getting into the habit of not drinking. You don't get that "I had every intention of just going to the coffee shop but before I knew what was happening I was in the bar with a pitcher in front of me." You still get cravings now and then, sure, but you have to make a conscious decision to act on them: you lose those body memories of walking to the bar or the convenience store and replace them with body memories of doing something else that doesn't involve booze.

Do I still miss alcohol? Occasionally. I'm a bit of a foodie, so it would be great to have a glass of wine with dinner. And I still think longingly on occasion of a nice microbrew. But I know that if I have that high-end drink today within a few months I'm going to be buying rotgut whiskey just to keep myself numb. And when I think about that, I realize losing out on wine with dinner or a pint of Guinness on a hot day is a small price to pay for living the rest of my life.

Don't get too upset if you slip up: if I had a dime for every time I slipped, I'd own Bluelight. Just because you drank today doesn't mean you have to drink tomorrow. Before long you'll find you are spending more time on the wagon than off it. And even if you never completely kick the alcohol habit, two months on the wagon and one month off has got to be better for your system than continual drinking.

Last but not least: if you are physically addicted to the point where you are starting to get DTs, get medical assistance immediately. Alcohol withdrawal can fuck you up royally and even kill you. I strongly advise against do-it-yourself detox using benzos you bought on the Internet or on the street: some medical situations call for professionals, and alcohol withdrawal is definitely one of them. (If that's not an option, you gotta do what you gotta do - but if at all possible get a competent doctor involved in your detoxification).

To everyone posting here: good luck. Getting sober is going to be a struggle, but if you keep trying sooner or later you're going to make it.