I was laying in bed last night, sliding towards sleep, when the thought occurred to me – I could drink tomorrow and no one would know.
I entertained the thought for a few moments…moments turned into minutes. I would be alone in the house. I’ve had a tough work week – I deserve a little downtime and relaxation. Just one pint of vodka wouldn’t mess me up too much. No one would notice.
Suddenly, I had decided to drink.
It scared me. I got up the next morning with the thoughts still in my head. I thought about it at the gym. How I could get some cash back at the grocery store, just like I used to. How I could get some binge food, just like I used to. Maybe if I drank and ate and threw it all up it wouldn’t really count.
I went straight to a meeting after the gym. I’m truly grateful that there’s a 7AM meeting in my area that I can go to. And I told on myself. I shared that not only was I thinking about drinking, I had made a plan to drink. I shared that I wanted to stay sober.
In the meeting we read a story from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and there was a paragraph that struck a true chord with me:
…it can still occur to me what a good drink tastes like and what it can do for me, from my stand-at-attention alcoholic taste buds right down to my stretched out tingling toes. As my sponsor used to point out, such thoughts are like red flags, telling me that something is not right, that I am stretched beyond my sober limit. It’s time to get back to basic A.A. and see what needs changing (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001. pg. 396-397).
It was exactly what I needed to hear this morning. My planning and scheming for a drink was a sign that something was wrong!
The truth is, I’m stretched pretty thin right now. Work is stressful. Home life is stressful. I’m working hard on my recovery from multiple illnesses. And I’m trying very hard to be perfect.
Perfection is the key to all my unhappiness. If I could only be perfect, no one would ever be upset with me. In fact, if I was perfect, no one would ever be upset. Even when things or people in the outside world upset people in my life, when they enter my sphere of perfection all their troubles should melt away and they should become perfectly content.
I feel so obnoxious having written that, but that’s truly how I feel. And trying to reach that level of perfection is exhausting and draining. It has left me on the edge of sober life and alcoholic misery.
Here are the red flags I see in my life right now that let me know I’m in danger of a relapse:
- I’m thinking about drinking/planning to drink.
It’s not just a passing thought that I can quickly tame with my mantra (“I don’t do that anymore”). It’s a long, contemplative, detailed assessment of how I can get away with drinking in secret. How can I get the alcohol? Will I have enough time to drink it all and not be too drunk? How will I get rid of the empty bottle?
I answer all these questions and more until I have a detailed plan to drink.
- ED is getting louder.
I’ve been craving binge food. The number one problem with binge food is that it is also purge food. And yesterday I gave in. Donuts, macaroni and cheese, and a sub sandwich, all eaten in about one hour – all purged as they were eaten.
I’m admitting this here because I need to tell on my disease. This is not an easy thing for me to be honest about. My reasoning was “at least I’m not drinking.” But it’s only half a step away from a drink.
And I want to do it again today.
- I am angry/emotional.
My emotions are all over the place right now. I do not have serenity. I’m anxious and nervous about everything. If you walked into the room and said “Boo!” I’d be on the ceiling.
I like to control my emotions. So I’m wrapping all this angst up into a tight little ball and keeping it inside. I’m not talking to anyone about it – not even my sponsor. In fact…
- I’m not talking to people about what’s going on.
Yes, I told on myself in the meeting that I wanted to drink and that I had made a plan to drink, but I haven’t dug into the reasons why. I haven’t talked about the emotions that I’m burying. I haven’t talked about the bingeing/purging. I haven’t talked about my anxiety.
I’m doing what I know to do – what I’ve always done when I’m faced with difficult emotions. I assume that no one wants to hear about it. So I keep it all inside.
The problem is that not talking about any of this – trying to maintain a facade of perfection – will definitely lead me to a drink or a drug. I will become so desperate to feel something different – to let go of the tension – that I will go back to my old ways.
And I don’t want that misery. So I must be brave enough to accept the solution. I must continue to speak up in AA meetings. I must reach out and talk to people. I must continue to hold on to my sobriety one day at a time.
I cannot keep walking on the edge of sober life. I must dive into the deep waters of sober living, committing myself completely to sobriety.