The other night I went out to dinner with some family members I haven’t seen since before I quit drinking. One is a sister who has struggled mightily with alcohol for several years. The booze is winning, I’m afraid. She isolates and lives a pretty sad life. I kind of doubt she’ll ever stop. The other is an aunt, who got to the restaurant a little early, as I did. She invited me to join her in a glass of wine. I said, “Actually – I quit drinking.” She was pretty surprised and responded, “That’s great! I’m not going to ask why, but – good for you!” I realized later that when people make a point of saying they’re NOT going to ask why, they’re REALLY asking why. Without skipping a beat, I told her, “I’ll tell you why. I didn’t like where it was going. If booze is an elevator, for me it was only going down. I think I was heading for real trouble. It didn’t add anything positive to my life so I got rid of it.”
I don’t know if she expected that level of honesty from me but she seemed really impressed. Her only brother (my dad) was hospitalized for depression and alcohol abuse when I was a kid. My mother’s father was an alcoholic, as was at least one of her sisters. Besides the sister I mentioned, I have two other siblings I suspect might have a problem with alcohol. Alcohol abuse most definitely runs in my family.
I think the bravest, strongest thing I ever did was to seize on that one moment of desperation and utter despair of the morning of August 18th last summer. That one moment in time when I flashed both back and forward, seeing where I started with a couple of beers on the weekend when I was in my 20’s, to constant obsessive thoughts about drinking. Then looking ahead to a future full of more blackouts, hangovers, shame, and what I believed to be the probability of an early, unpleasant death.
That absolutely scared the shit out of me.
And then telling my husband before I could talk myself out of it, like I’d done a million times before. You probably know what I mean – all the times you make more rules about and around your drinking, only to break them almost immediately.
Anyway. The point of all this is that, after a little more than 8 months of sobriety, I’m getting more honest – with myself and others – about what was really going on in my mind when I decided to quit the demon rum. And I’m coming to the conclusion that, if there’s a continuum of alcoholism – a progression of sorts – I was well on my way.
And unlike what you might see in the rear view mirror, as I look back I see things more sharply and clearly than ever.
Quitting drinking is the best, most important thing I’ve ever done.