I believe I’ve had enough to drink.
That simple idea has shaped every facet of my life.
I came to this realization on July 27th, 1989. I was standing at a bar and doing something I didn’t want to do: Drinking alcohol. I was ordering vodka doubles – because although I didn’t want to drink I really, really wanted to be drunk. My hands were shaking so badly that when the bartender brought the glass I had to use both of them to pick it. A few weeks later a doctor told me that I’d pretty much destroyed half of my liver. I was 26.
Why did I want to be drunk? Because I love booze. Booze made it possible for me to be able to put up with my own company. I didn’t like myself and with good reason. I was a liar, a cheat and a thief. It may seem odd to other people but it really had never occurred to me that if I didn’t lie, cheat and steal I might not hate myself. Not doing those things seemed as impossible to me as not drinking.
About a month before this a therapist had asked me what I thought about my drinking. I said I didn’t know. That was a lie, like nearly everything else I said in those days. In fact, I knew a lot. I knew I spent most of my time thinking about my next drink.
Because I said I didn’t know, the therapist asked me to write down everything I had to drink for a month.
Because I didn’t want to know how much that was I decided not to drink for a month. And I didn’t.
I still don’t know how I was able to do this. In the previous 13 years I’d never gone more than a couple of weeks without a drink. During that month I’d write down a little 0 on my calendar at the end of each day and feel good for a moment. It was not a feeling I was familiar with and it didn’t stick around long, always eclipsed by the lies and the overwhelming fear. At the end of that month I knew I didn’t want to drink. At the end of that night in 1989 I knew I couldn’t stop myself.
A week later I went back to the therapist. He suggested I go to Alcoholics Anonymous. There I heard a man say if he had the first drink he had to have more, so he just didn’t have that first one. If this seems obvious to you it wasn’t to me. I kept going to those meetings in hopes of hearing more things like that and I did.
No one told me I shouldn’t lie, cheat or steal. I just saw that the people who weren’t doing that were a lot happier than I was. Which was probably why they were able to not pick up that first drink. Turns out those 12 steps you hear so much about are just a guide to how not to do those things and, in turn, be happy.
Even though I’ve been sober 18 years now, alcohol is still something I have no business using. To make sure I keep going to my AA meetings. That way I’ll always remember I believe I’ve had enough to drink.
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