I was reading a book about sobriety, (Sober For Good by Anne Fletcher), and something in it made a lot of sense to me. One of the “masters” in the book (masters are people who have been sober for 5+ years) said that he realized that his drinking was out of control when he resumed drinking after a three month stint of sobriety. Only after this period of abstinence did he have the perspective needed to realize that something was wrong with the way he was drinking, and that he needed to kick alcohol to the curb permanently.
Huh. Kind of like the eight month period I spent being abstinent while I was pregnant last year, perhaps?
It’s not so much that my drinking was more out of control than it usually was when I started again, it was that I was better able to see it clearly this time around. I had never been abstinent for more than a few weeks in the past, and I had always found ways to minimize, rationalize, and compartmentalize my drinking behaviors. I wasn’t being honest with myself. Denial about alcoholism runs deep, so it is not a huge surprise that I needed a paradigm shift to make a change. I was no longer able to tell myself that my drinking behavior was congruent with my values… the truth had been exposed while I was living a sober life while pregnant.
Being a mother is another huge motivator for me to quit, but that is a story for a different day.
My advice to people worried about having a drinking problem would be to take a break from drinking.** What harm could it possibly do? One, three, or six months could help you to gain the perspective needed to see if you really have a problem. If you quit drinking with the intention of investigating how it feels to live life sober versus drunk, you could learn a lot about yourself. But many people have to hit a bottom of sorts, I guess, to be motivated to change. I certainly liked drinking way too much to try out quitting with no good reason, and needed to hit bottom. Even though there have always been a zillion reasons for me to quit.
Wow, though. I am amazed. Sober revelations rule! I never would have thought about this while drinking.
**Not that I’m qualified to give anyone advice. I am soooo brand new to all of this. I have a lot more time to think now, that’s for sure!
I need to remind myself to pay attention to the small details. I was pretty close to drinking a tiny amount off alcohol yesterday evening, and I am sooo glad I didn’t. I do not want to be sliding down any slippery slopes ANYTIME in the near future. The situation reaffirmed my commitment to sobriety. It also made me think about a few things.
When is it okay to have a small amount of alcohol? In mouthwash? In a recipe? In vanilla extract while baking? Never? I wasn’t totally sure. I’m weirdly glad that I was forced to think about and reflect on the subject so I know what to do in the future. Now I have a plan. I’m ready for you, sneaky alcohol.
So… what brought on this freight train of thoughts?
Well. I recently heard a friend talking about having a bitters and soda drink, and it sounded nice. The perfect foil for the hot summer days we have been having lately. I told my husband that it sounded like a refreshing non-alcoholic drink and he agreed, so we drove to the store to buy bitters and club soda. The liquor store. I guess I should have thought twice about going there in the first place, huh? It was the only place I knew that sold the stuff. After purchasing the bitters we read the label and realized that bitters has a huge percentage of alcohol. 43% to be exact. Wow, who knew? Not me!
A bitters and soda only needs a few drops of bitters, but I couldn’t do it. It just felt wrong. I immediately got online and posted a question about it in the Women For Sobriety forums. I got five or six answers right away, which really helped me make my decision and stick to it. So…if any of you from WFS are reading this… thanks ladies! I felt supported, and I needed that. I also e-mailed Belle my daily sober e-mail and asked her advice (I am a member of the 100 Days Sober Challenge- which totally rules). She replied today in her usual helpful and thoughtful manner.
Most of the advice I received said it is best to avoid anything with alcohol in it. Recipes, mouthwash, flavorings, and so on. I knew that was the right answer in my gut, but also had a little voice in my head saying, “what’s the harm? It’s only a few drops…” Listening to that little voice could be a recipe for disaster. My husband didn’t see what the big deal was either, but he came around after I explained to him that drinking ANY amount of alcohol could be a very real threat to my sobriety.
The bitters is currently hidden in our basement in a unknown (to me) location, and we are going to give it a way to a friend.
Whew. Crisis averted.