Friday, February 17, 2012

The last first drink

I've been struggling with blog posts this week. I have a draft here that is basically about how much I love chocolate since quitting drinking. But that's it: I now love and crave chocolate. I am still not drinking. No insights, no thoughts as to why that is. Therefore, no blog post.

Instead, I've been wanting to talk about some points in my history as they relate to drinking. I imagine that most alcoholics can trace their love affair with booze along some path or another, with landmark events that seem significant in hindsight. First drink, last drink, first here is the story of my first relapse.

I quit drinking because of a violent, final fight with my then-boyfriend, so in effect, I ended two relationships at once. I broke up with the boyfriend and I broke up with booze. I'll write about that some other time, but basically I was quite shaken at how events happened, and since both myself and the boyfriend were ridiculously drunk that night, and because of our shared history of over-drinking, it made sense that maybe alcohol was the problem.

I made it 11 months, and secretly believe that quitting drinking when I did (about 8-9 years ago) might have been the best decision I could have made in my life. Then, 11 months later, I made another decision that effectively cancelled it out.

In my months sober, I moved out on my own, started at the gym, and joined rugby. Rugby, frankly, was a surprise. It was the moment when I realized that adults can discover new passions, that intense, insane dedication and love to a new hobby or interest is not something that only happens to kids and teenagers. I love rugby. I do not know what I will do when I decide I am too old to play. Best not think about that.

I managed to play rugby for 3 months or so while maintaining my sobriety. I think that while I was sober, I had a lot of the same experiences I'm having now: the joys of remembering my nights out, the physical health, but also the weird drinking dreams, and that persistent fantasy that I could probably control my drinking if I wanted it enough.

By November of that year, I was planning a relapse. My time spent sober had been great, the reasoning was, but I just needed a cooling off period. I was stable, now, having recovered from my break-up, and had a whole bunch of new friends in my rugby club, and one or two drinks on occasion might be just the thing to make everything perfect.

Rugby is a social sport. The saying I learned that year was something like: "Soccer players are gentlemen on the pitch and hooligans off it, while ruggers are hooligans on the pitch and gentlemen off it." The "3rd Half" of a rugby game is a bunch of dirty, sweaty guys chugging beer in a variety of entertaining ways. Not everyone on my team drank, and I'm sure only a few of them are struggling with alcoholism, but beer was a part of my first rugby experiences.

Anyway, that year we went to New York on a tournament, and, knowing that there would be free and cheap drinks, that I would be surrounded by friends and fellow-ruggers, and that it was in a new environment so could not possibly link alcohol to anything familiar back home, it seemed the perfect time for a planned relapse.

So, on the big boozing night after all the games were played, I lined up my drinks, let my buddies know what I was doing, and let loose!

Nothing disastrous happened (to me: there are naked pictures of several of my club-mates from that trip). I do remember, though, that I felt disappointed...I had been expecting that my abstinance would have lowered my tolerance, so that the drinks I lined up (8 or 9 beers, I think) should have gotten me completely wasted, but by the end of the night I was still not drunk enough. You know, I should have taken that as clue number one that the relapse was a mistake.

If you are a drinker like me, you know: there is no such thing as "drunk enough" and there will never be.

Anyway, I think my drinking had slowed somewhat after that, but before too long (I wasn't keeping stats, but lets say within 3 months anyway) I was back to bingeing on the weekends and drinking what I could get away with on weeknights. I also had quit my job, lost my apartment, moved back in with my ex (who was still my ex), and had begun the long, depressing, horrible Lost Years of my life, where I was depressed, anxious, drank too much, did not hold down jobs, was suicidal, ultimately homeless, and only barely came back around to "myself".

If I hadn't started drinking again, would any of that have happened? I certainly would have made different choices. Depression and anxiety would have been there, sure, but I would have handled them better. Who knows where I would be now?

Obviously there's no answer to that, but I need to remember my own history as a cautionary tale. At 11 months sober I believed that I could handle alcohol in my life, and that was a mistake. It took me almost a decade to recover from that mistake, and I don't feel like I can just go around and waste another decade because I wanted to get drunk.

So, here's hoping that I have now had my LAST last drink. Because I will never be drunk enough: it's harmful to even try.

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