Getting sober after a great deal of time spent getting drunk is a difficult process. In fact, difficult is a gross understatement. That’s why organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery and Moderation Management exist. They are designed to help problem drinkers find their way out of the darkness. There is no one size fits all. What works for one person might not work for another. Some believe moderation is the key. I did not.
On January 7, 2010 I quit drinking…finally. I’d been trying to quit or at least moderate my drinking pretty much from the moment I took my first sip of beer at age 17. Why? Because I am and have always been an alcoholic. My belief is that I was born that way. I come from a very long line of alcoholics and addicts. I also believed I was different; that I could control it; that I could moderate and be normal.
Except that I couldn’t.
When I drank, which at first was definitely not every day, I got drunk. I would have pulled out all ten of my fake fingernails before I would have ever admitted it, but I aimed to get drunk on every occasion. I mean…why bother if you’re not going to get a good buzz on, right? Otherwise it’s just extra calories.
If I wasn’t getting drunk – I was thinking about getting drunk. I was always wondering when I could schedule “date night”. If we went to a party I was always scoping how much wine there was…you know…for me. Would there be enough? How much could I get away with drinking without anyone noticing? This math phobic female could calculate how many ounces were available for every man and woman in the room and divide that by the number of hours of the event to determine whether or not I should even have one drink.
Because…if I had one…I had to have it all. So if there wasn’t enough then why bother?
This is the same logic that kept me from drinking when I was the designated driver on “girls’ night out”. I wasn’t like my friends. When it was their turn to be the DD they could have one drink over the course of four hours and then get everyone home safe and sound. Not so for me. I hated the feeling that one drink gave me. That “not quite tipsy but a little bit sleepy and slightly hung-over” feeling. No thank you. Diet Pepsi for me thank you very much.
Deciding to quit drinking wasn’t so much about getting sober as it was about not thinking about drinking anymore. I was just so tired of all the calculations, thoughts, planning, worry, lying and everything else that went along with my relationship with alcohol. All that crap I had to do just to control or moderate my drinking so I didn’t look, talk or act like a drunk was overwhelming and just plain exhausting! I mean, I knew that I wasn’t an alcoholic but there was no reason to give anyone the wrong impression.
So I quit drinking. I white-knuckled for awhile, tried AA, and found my way to recovery through blogging. Like I said – each path to recovery is different and honestly, writing and connecting online was mine.
One of my blogging buddies often posted about having tried a group called Moderation Management. She ultimately decided to abstain completely but remained involved in the group for a long while. MM is an organization that approaches problem drinking in a completely different way. They are a national support group network who help people determine whether or not they want to address their problem drinking with moderation or abstinence. If they decided moderation is their path, there are tools and a support network to help them achieve their goals (even if they ultimately decide to abstain like my friend).
In reading through the website and delving deeper into their practices, principles and values all I could think was, “Damn! That’s a lot of work just to keep alcohol in my life.” I couldn’t help but notice that if I used all the tools and support the website offered that I wouldn’t be thinking about drinking less – I’d be thinking about it more. And thinking about it more would mean I’d be back in that hellish cycle of planning, counting, lying and worrying. I got tired just reading through the site. I knew, without a shadow of doubt that abstinence was the only way to remove the harmful effects of alcohol from my life, AND give me my much sought after peace of mind.
Once in a while I’ll get a question or comment on my blog or in an email that wonders about the effectiveness of moderation and whether or not I’ve tried it. I always answer honestly with a resounding, “Yes of course I’ve tried it…hasn’t every alcoholic? It just wasn’t for me. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Everyone has to decide their own path to the light.
In fact, I was like the poster child for Moderation Management. According to their website, I was likely more of a problem drinker than full-blown alcoholic. I could likely have moderated my drinking. After all, I never lost a job. My family was still intact, happy and healthy. I wasn’t sick (although my triglycerides were ridiculously high). No DUI’s. No arrests. I exercised, ate well, managed my life…and drank two to three bottles of wine a night. Every night. Alone. Not one glass. Not two glasses. Not one night a week. Not a couple of nights a week. To me…that’s a little more serious than just a “problem drinker”. Even more disturbing was the fact that I didn’t WANT to moderate my drinking. I wanted to sit, alone, and drink…every single night.
Again, I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to overcoming the abuse of alcohol. If moderation works for you then I, for one, am very happy for you. All I’m saying is that all that thinking and tracking and worrying and counting is just not for me. I’d rather occupy my mind with thinking about my kids and their kids; about how much I still love my husband after 32 years together; about where the next phase of my life will take me.
About how, on most days, alcohol doesn’t even cross my mind.
In fact, my mind is suspiciously quiet.
Must be all that peace.