People congratulate me when they see me out with a kombucha or other non-alcoholic drink in hand. “Still not drinking, huh?” No matter who it is that’s asking, they always sound a bit surprised and mildly impressed. While at first it was tiring, I understand now that they do not sound surprised because they expected me to fail, and they are not impressed by my restraint because they thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. (Although in the beginning that was certainly the general consensus). No, most of the time, the people who are remarking upon the fact that I’m still not drinking are the same people who will later tell me, on their way to drunk, how impossible it would be for them to quit drinking; the same people who will tell me that they tried once to abstain for a set number of days and didn’t make it.
Sometimes drunk and sometimes sober, these same folks always ask at some point, “how do you do it?” It’s a tricky question to answer with grace. I mean, because really, it’s a dumb question. How do I do it? I don’t drink. Period. It has nothing to do with whether or not I want to have a drink or whether or not I could or should. I just don’t drink.
This is generally followed with “I could never…”, which is more silliness. The correct response to this would be, “Yes you can. Stop drinking. Don’t start drinking even when you really want to. Just don’t drink.” But no one really wants to hear that; they want to be assured of how difficult it is to stay sober so that they don’t have to try. Because none of the people who are saying these things to me wants to stop drinking.
You know how I know? Because I watch them keep drinking.
In a culture where alcohol is such a socially acceptable addiction, is it any wonder that those of us who are striving for sobriety find it difficult.
I want to have a drink all the time. Sometimes a few days come and go and I barely think about it. Other times it’s all I can think about. There are times I’m driving in my car and the craving for a dark beer will sweep over me without warning. I can almost smell it, taste the dark richness on my tongue, feel myself swallowing it down. I drive home fighting the desire to stop and sneak in just one beer somewhere along the way. Sometimes at night, contentedly sipping tea while reading a book, I will suddenly be slammed by desire for red wine. My mouth will begin to water and I will spend a moment mourning the fact that I no longer drink, and then I distract myself in someway and the desire passes, or it doesn’t. Either way I don’t have a drink.
And that’s how I do it. I want to, I think I need to, I’m convinced I’ll never make it another moment… and then I don’t have a drink.
I’m writing this right now because I want a drink. The words on the pages of the book I was just reading stopped making sense because my brain couldn’t move past the all encompassing desire for a glass of red wine.
I hope that it will not always be this difficult for me. I hope that someday soon the power of alcohol will lose it’s grip over me and I will be able to go weeks, even months, without a weak-in-the-knees moment (or day) of craving. I hope that someday sober will feel like normal to me. I hope that I will continue to find strength, that I will continue to withstand.
But it’s not hope that keeps me sober. As far as that goes, it seems that not drinking is the key to maintaining sobriety.
- Kicking and Screaming Sobriety (redeemedsocialite.wordpress.com)