Summer is hard. Maybe it isn’t difficult for all recovering alcoholics, but it is for me.
The image of cracking open a cold one on a hot summer day has stuck with me throughout my seven plus years of sobriety. If I concentrate on the vision long enough, my senses come alive. I can feel that cold bottle in my hand, perspiration starting to slide gracefully down the side. I can image the sensation of that first drink, a feeling of excited liberation surging through my body. That vision has gotten me closer to relapse than anything else.
At times, I can almost convince myself that just one won’t hurt me. I visit my brother at his lake place and watch him have a beer while barbecuing supper. He may have another one later in the evening, but that’s it. He can have a beer or two without repercussion. I can’t. It’s that simple. It has to be.
Thinking Through the First Drink:
As much as I would love to enjoy a cold one on a hot August afternoon like today, I need to think through that drink. Yes, maybe that first beer will feel like I imagine, but that wouldn’t be where it stops. One will become two and three and twenty. It always does.
That is a truth in my life that is my lifeline. I will not be able to have one beer and then enjoy the rest of the evening. If I somehow do stop at one (and let’s be honest, what’s the fun in that), I will be burdened with an obsession that will not dissipate. It will invade every thought, every conversation. Nothing will be enjoyable because I can’t stop thinking about drink number two.
Even more likely, however, is that I will get drunk. Once I feel that initial buzz, I will be off. I will drink until passing out. Along the way, I will likely abuse many of my relationships. Maybe I’ll choose to drive and kill myself or others. Maybe I’ll get so sick I have to be hospitalized…again. The real agony though, will come in the morning. I’m not talking about a hangover, although those are terrible in their own right, I’m talking about the shame. That crippling, devastating, and unrelenting shame that comes with relapsing…again.
Jumping Off the Relapse Merry-Go-Round:
I believe I have had a sobriety birthday in just about every month. Sometimes I would get a year under my belt, but more often I would relapse in the six to nine-month range. I just couldn’t push past it. It wasn’t until I moved to Moorhead that I found an amazing group of strong and sober women. They took me under their wings until I was able to fly for myself. It is with no dramatization that I say I owe them my life.
So, I think about them when I get the urge to drink. I think about my first sponsor in Alexandria who really planted the seeds of recovery in my stubborn and often closed mind. I think about my nieces and nephews and the type of aunt they deserve to have. Mostly, however, I think about myself. I remember how hard my journey has been at times. I think about my job and what it means to me. I think about my parents and wonder if my mother is really watching from heaven. If she is, I want her to be proud. I am so grateful that I was able to repair that relationship before she died. Another miracle recovery has provided.
Ultimately, I never drink the cold beer from that vision. I have learned that water can provide that same refreshing satisfaction. It might not give me a buzz, but it protects the things that I love. Drinking will eventually take them all and I know that. So I don’t pick up.
Schlitz beer used to have a slogan that said, “You only go around once in this life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.” Somehow beer was supposed to enable someone to do that. They got it wrong, however, at least for me. I understand that you only go around once in this life, so I am grabbing all the gusto I can. I’m just doing it sober. For me, that’s the only way it works.