I think about this sometimes: would I rather have been one of those people who just never developed a taste for alcohol? I have friends like that, people I’ve known since we were teens, and who used to stand out for their dislike of the hard stuff. We meet at parties, both with our lemonades, and I wonder if their path is preferable.
But, crazy as it might sound, I’m grateful to be an addict. If nothing else, it’s interesting. It’s forced me to think about things and develop coping mechanisms that I wouldn’t have had to, otherwise. I don’t believe that I’m just catching up to sober people, honestly: I think the process of recovery itself is an experience that goes beyond that.
I would never have started blogging if it weren’t for getting sober, and this blog has been a gateway into some long-held ambitions that are starting to be realised. Perhaps I would have pursued those ambitions earlier, if I had been sober from the start – but I doubt it, because I had turned away from them long before I had a drinking problem.
Most of what keeps us dependent on our substances is fear. We are terrified of life without our crutch. I have lost count of the number of people I have talked to now, who make desperate attempts at keeping alcohol in their lives on any terms. Who try moderation again and again, despite the fact that there is nothing so miserable for an alcoholic than to have to count drinks, set rules about how many alcohol free days they’re allowed, watch their intake daily. Or who sabotage their marriages, their jobs, who lie and cheat and hide and steal, because anything, anything at all, including the total degradation of body and mind, is better than being without their drug.
Life in the raw is the scariest thing we can think of. Scarier than liver disease, scarier than bankruptcy, scarier than divorce. It’s crazy, but for an addict, it’s true.
And then. Oh, my friends, and then we face that fear. And we give up drinking. And at first that sucks, and we put on weight and we feel tired and depressed and our emotions go haywire and nothing good happens and we think what the FUCK have we done. But after that, it gets better, and I’ve written extensively about the physical and emotional benefits of sobriety and I will continue to do so, but not today.
Today I just want to tell you that even if nothing else good happens except this one thing, it would all be worth it: when you’re an addict, and you give up the thing you are addicted to, you have confronted your biggest fear and you have kicked ten types of shit out of it.
And basically, once you’ve done that, and realised how hollow the fear is, everything else is easy. Telling friends and family – pffffft. Learning new skills, when you’re a perfectionist who hates learning anything new because you will be imperfect at it – piece of cake. Giving up sugar, facing up to a toxic friend, telling that guy you think you love him, emailing the editor of a prestigious addiction magazine completely unsolicited, to ask them if they’d pay you to write for them – bring it the hell on, what else have you got?
A doctor warned me yesterday, in relation to a minor medical procedure, that some women experience quite a lot of pain. ‘Can’t be worse than labour’, I said, and I was right. It’s the same with scary things. Can’t be worse than giving up alcohol, I think to myself, and I’m right about that, too. I don’t take fear very seriously now, because the thing I was most afraid of in the world turned out to be a stupid thing to be afraid of. Totally ridiculous!
So, no, I’m not sorry I drank champagne when I was 15 and immediately loved it, and then I kept drinking, and that somewhere down the line the drinking stopped being as much fun, and I realised I’d turned into an alcoholic, and had to give up drinking. It’s been one of the best things that ever happened to me.
And the editor said yes.