This giving up the booze, giving up a way of living that did, at various points give us some joy or relief otherwise we wouldn’t have done it, is difficult. Giving anything up that has become ingrained is hard but booze has so many components; it affects you physically and makes changes to your brain chemistry, it has social and cultural elements and creates a strong psychological attachment. Added to that, those that are seriously dependent on alcohol will suffer serious debilitating withdrawal symptoms and experience a changed brain chemistry that will often put having alcohol as a higher priority than their own survival!
So, fat chance of giving up then?
No is the answer, because people do give it up. Some bloggers on here have been sober for years. I’m a newby and luckily didn’t get to the point where stopping gave me terrible withdrawal symptoms, but I’m not stupid or naive. I know that more people go back to booze within a year than stay off it. I need to keep reminding myself it’s hard and that it can go wrong and the way I deal with that is threefold:
1 I look and constantly remind myself of all the positive aspects of being sober. It’s a great state to aim for and maintain.
2 I will treat the dreaded possible relapse as firstly a minor lapse if it’s literally one drink, one mistake, a “I fell off my bike so I’d better get back on quickly,” moment or regroup, learn and try again (definitely no self flagellation or recrimination) if it’s a full blown relapse.
3 I will bathe and luxuriate in the mutual support of other bloggers. ( I have oddly come to think of a few of these,often anonymous, unseen bloggers as good friends. Not surprising given their big hearts and openness). I hope those in a similar situation would agree that the support of other bloggers and reading their stories and their joys and frustrations makes an incredible difference in terms of maintaining sobriety. I would add though that some bloggers disappear and I’m assuming it’s because they are either confident in their alcohol free lives or they have started drinking again. If the latter, that seems such a shame because their stories are more the norm and not everything goes the way we’d like. In my view if someone has stopped drinking for a year, a month even a week, that’s a success that can never be taken away. Going back to drinking is not some personal failing it’s what can happen to any of us, and hearing about it and what’s been learned could be useful for all concerned. After all this is a process not a fixed point.
Going back to point 1, let’s get positive, because giving up the booze should be less about what’s been given up, less about what we are not doing and more about how great and beneficial going alcohol free can be.
Tonight I’m going to join a bunch of people who are going to be attending a small music evening in a wood somewhere in Suffolk. There will be folk singers, a sea shanty group, violin players and I’m going with my friend and we shall play a few songs. It’s in a private wood and the owner has laid on a barbecue and loads of drink both alcoholic and soft. Should be a great, enjoyable night.
Here’s the thing. If this were two months ago I wouldn’t be going. Why? Well, it’s because I’m going alone meeting my playing companion there. I have to drive and I would not have been able to countenance a night like that in the past and not being able to have a drink. In other words I would rather NOT have gone than have gone and not be able to drink. That’s grim. Tha’s terrible. It puts drinking ahead of music and socialising, and that happened a lot. What I probably would have done is I would have been manipulative and invited a friend who lives nearby and subtly persuaded him to give me a lift. Once there because I never drink before performing I would have persuaded the organiser to put me on first or second finished playing and then the evening would have truly began- I COULD DRINK. I would have got pissed, probably tried to play again , embarrassed myself, think I’d had a good time, lose friends and spend two days nursing a hangover. What a fucking joke.
That’s the negative. Here’s the positive.
Instead tonight, I’ll drive, play whenever the organiser suggests, take my own interesting non alcoholic drinks, be prepared to tackle some cravings as I watch everyone drinking, remind myself of what I’m gaining, and enjoy the music and companionship instead of focussing on the next drink and getting drunk. Why oh why did it take me so long to get to this place?