I never drank like other people, ever.
Right from the beginning I drank to get drunk. I figured out that me + booze = numb and that was exactly what I was going for. Most people were either passed out or throwing up and I was just hitting my stride. I would have no recollection of most of a night and people would say Wow! You were drunk? I would feel proud, like a badass, because I was so good at drinking.
It was during my early twenties that I started making deals with myself. It was almost someone’s birthday, so I would drink until that night and then quit. I’d quit after this hard thing was over. Maybe I could quit in the fall, since no one quits drinking in the summer. I would decide to quit on Monday. Then I’d drink on Monday, so I’d have to wait until the following Monday. I’d quit on the 1st of the month, but drink on the 4th. I might as well keep drinking until next month since the whole month was ruined. I was all about clean slates.
I’d bargain with myself about the amount I was going to drink. I would go out and promise myself I was only having two drinks and end up waking up still wasted someplace I didn’t remember. I would swear that if I stopped and got a twelve pack of beer tonight I wouldn’t drink again that week. Or that I would make those twelve beers last for the rest of the week, because I really needed to slow down. The more I made these arrangements with myself, the more I ended up drinking. I made deals and broke them constantly. I wanted to quit drinking, but I had no idea how.
I am not a one day at a time woman. I cannot be trusted with a new day every day. If I say “just don’t drink today” I’m at the wine store before sundown. Not drinking just today meant I had to decide whether I was drinking TOMORROW. Oh my god. SO MUCH PRESSURE. I had twenty plus years of evidence that told me how that worked out. Laying in my bed on a cold December day at noon I said it. FOREVER. I rolled it around in my head and it felt…good? Could it be? That forever doesn’t feel awful, or too big, or like something I can’t escape, but that there was deliverance and it felt solid and like FREEDOM?
Forever is not a jail, it is a KEY. I can still feel the enormous relief that washed over me in that moment. I had misunderstood it all along! If I said forever I never, ever, never had to decide if I was going to drink again. I didn’t have to check my pockets for the answer, I knew it, always.
The thing that made it impossible all along was that I thought drinking was a decision I was capable of making.
I understood that I was unable to withstand the pressure of making this decision daily. My life sang with relief. I finally decided one time and was finished. I never have to choose again if I’m drinking. I made that decision already. There are no questions, no back and forth, no maybe’s.
I hear it, the unspoken rule about how people who are really getting sober don’t take chances by saying things like forever. Saying forever jinxes my recovery. I could see it in someone’s eyes, I would talk about forever and then they would make eye contact with someone else. They would both give me that there, there patient look. She’ll learn that look would say and I’d want to pummel them.
Some people get charged up about forever. “But you can’t really say that, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” they’ll say. OH, YES I DO. It’s two different ways of thinking about the same idea: one way you get to decide every day, one way you never have to decide again. One day at a time gets a lot of lip service, but almost no one talks about the other side of the coin, saying forever.
Thinking about getting sober forever has all this fear around it. It’s the too big place that is overwhelming and sad. Oh no! I’ll never drink again!?! What if I want to drink again? But I said forever? I spent my entire drinking career making just those kinds of excuses. I had anxiety about a party that wasn’t even planned, a wedding or a celebration that was only an idea. The word forever was the obstacle that prevented me from having any fun. What if my brother gets married and I don’t drink at the wedding? What will people think? How would I let loose? I’d start to think about never drinking again, then remember spring was coming after winter. I had to have white wine on patios so there was no way I could never drink again, because, well…seasons.
But what if? What if, one day, you just decided to never have to decide about drinking again? That you said forever at 9 AM. When the 5 o’clock craving rolled up you’d know, without a doubt, what the answer is? The next day there wasn’t another blank piece of paper, but that same one with the word FOREVER written boldly across the page. Every time my biology pipes up with the addiction I don’t have to fumble around, I already know the answer.