A free drink

cancunI tentatively side-stroke toward the Paradisus pool bar in Cancun. It’s packed with spring-breakers eager for their cocktails. It’s all inclusive. Translation: It’s already paid for. I can drink for free.

I can do this. I will get my diet soda and glide away. Easy breezy.

There—six inches from my nose—hangs a shot of tequila-something. For one brief moment I am not a recovered alcoholic. I’m just another partying vacationer at the pool bar…


Wait, I don’t drink anymore. Thank you, but no thank you. No, really I’ll pass. Yes, yes, it would be fun to party with you, but not now, maybe later, (maybe in my next life). Yes, you are having fun. Yes, I know how to have fun. No, I’m not scared. As tempting as this is I will pass. Enjoy. 

Intellectually, I have made the correct choice. Emotionally, I am wishing it was different. For a fleeting moment I wanted that shot. I wanted to feel that uninhibitedness—that complete abandon to another Lisa that lives within me. I coveted this sensation every time I took the first drink. I chased this sensation every night of my life for years—that first drink euphoria.

I am now ten years sober and humbled to even admit the path my mind so easily wandered. I am reminded that I must remain vigilant to the truth of my reaction to alcohol. I tried to moderate for years. It didn’t work. Sober works for me. Why would I want to undo something that has worked? Undo it for a moment of pleasure, a moment of escape?

Whatever it is, it is destruction. Keeping the devastation of Lisa, and all that she loves, at the forefront of my brain is paramount.

For the next few moments I am clear on how people with ‘a little time’ make the choice to drink again. It is truly effortless to believe I’m immune from what once crippled me. It’s been a decade. Certainly I can drink now that I’ve done so well. Surely it can’t still be a problem. I am so spiritually grounded. I will be able to control it. Yes, I am stronger now, I am different now. I will react differently.

How many times have I heard these words spoken? Have I ever considered that this could one day be me? After all, I wasn’t one of you. I was never planning on being sober ten years. I was planning on a little drinking hiatus to get my act together. And yet here I am sober and it works for me—being sober—and I think to give it up for a moment of escape.

I push off with my soda in hand. I have a newfound appreciation for my sobriety. More precious as time passed; still fragile without my continued acceptance of my true nature.

Alcohol and I are a terrible mix. I do not need to experience this again—ever—to remember it.

Yes, sobriety is precious! There is no such thing: a free drink.




24 Responses to “A free drink

  • It is nice to know that I am normal. I am 4 months sober and have those same feelings still. I was wondering if they ever went away, if I will always have a bit of drinkers envy, and you answered it with this wonderful post.
    I will always have to be vigilant, but it can be done.
    Thanks for this, I needed it. It was my question of the week at AA, and they really had no answers for me, you covered it perfectly. 🙂

    • First, and foremost, thank you for posting a comment. It takes so much courage to come to a blog and weigh in personal thoughts at the public level. It’s a gift to self as well as the readers. I love that you pose questions at your meetings. One of my tools in recovery is to ‘never-stop-asking-questions’. I have found great joy in seeking and learning and then seeking more. All the best as you navigate life. My love, Lisa
      ps. love your blog name too

  • People who have started drinking again after a long period of abstinence have said to me “I thought I would be alright to have one”. As with any addiction, it is never one.

    • Amen. How is it that we so conveniently forget this. I almost did. I am so grateful for my friendships in recovery. You all help me stay sober today, so thank you.

  • These were my exact thoughts last night until I reminded myself how much I disliked the drunken me. It’s good to remind ourselves how easily we could slip back into old habits and how much we love the lives we’re leading now. Thanks for sharing that. It makes me feel less alone.

    • Thank you for the sharing your thoughts. It can be hard to admit our true feelings, yet when we do it is so empowering. Even with a little time sober I still get to feeling “No you can’t say that in the blog.” Guess what I’ve learned, “yes I can say that and I better say that so I can continue to remain sober.” Honesty and integrity are the gateway to me remaining sober. I feel less alone too after reading your words.

  • I have been around drinks, have looked at drinks and, thankfully, have not coveted or craved one. I am, though, wonderfully intellectual (aren’t we all, of course) and for quite some time, I wondered about the “only one drink” gig. I thought it was a legitimate possibility, especially with all my new-found knowledge to protect me.

    Then I saw the Bill W. movie in which somebody explained the real truth. The me who is pretty sure he can have one drink is one guy. But once that first one is in me, I am no longer the same guy, I am no longer the same me and the person I’ve become after that one drink will not refuse a second or third. I think of this reality often and it helps me stay level.

    • Thank you so much for weighing in. I love how you wrote your sentiment. I had to read this comment twice to have it resonate. I, too, am no longer the same girl. Great thoughts for me to ponder, thank you.

  • I feel I am learning day by day to NEVER experience drinking again. I feel I went from not wanting to drink to knowing I can NOT drink. I know it will never go away. I just have to remember how precious my life is without booze.

    • This is an incredible awareness. I believe I thought it would fully go away—at least at some point. Maybe it does for some people; I only know my experience and that has not been it. It is wonderful to see your name in my comments box. I will be catching up with my friends’ blogs today to see what all of you are up to.

  • I knonw exactly what you mean…every once in a while I get smacked upside the head with one of those thoughts and it freaks me out every time. How…after all this time…could I even consider throwing it all away for that first sip of wine. That feeling of “ahhhhh” that used to come as the warmth spread down my throat.

    Because I am an alcoholic and that’s how we think and because I know what comes with the second sip and it ain’t pretty.

    Great post Lisa! Thank you.


    • Sherry,
      You always manage to make me feel ‘normally-recovered’ and I absolutely love it. Thank you.
      xox Lisa

  • Your vulnerability and honesty will no doubt help someone else say no to that “free” drink. I’m trying hard to be as brave as you! I lost 10 years of sobriety once with just “one” drink at a Christmas party. Never in a million years did I ever think that could happen to me. I loved my life, I loved being sober and I loved all the things that my life was without booze. I’m grateful everyday that my seat was still waiting for me. Unmerited gift x2.

    • I just have to boldly say that you are the woman who saved my life. Even though I do not know you (personally) I know you. Had it not been for that woman who stood in the meeting, sharing about giving up 10 years I would never have believed it was possible to still think about a drink after so much sober time. Nor could I have imagined the gift I was about to receive. You made my day when I read this. This is my ‘thank you’ to you. You are brave. I don’t think I’d have the courage to go back. I absolutely love your honesty. A million thanks for commenting. Lisa

  • So true, Lisa. I am always a little bit surprised at just how quickly my thinking can slip back into old patterns. Thank God that vigilance and new thinking has kept me sober for 16 months, but I know that my alcoholism is still lurking. It’s good for me to hear that one can never get complacent, even after ten years.

    • 16 months. Seems like you were just the new girl on the grid. Your blog has always been inspiring. It doesn’t surprise me to see you doing so well. You have an incredibly open mind and a loving perspective on humanity. Thanks for the continued support. xox Lisa

  • Ha – was just on a cruise that offered drinks up at every turn. People strolling about all over the place, drinks and bottles in hand, as if they were carrying their cell phones – with ease and comfort. I knew that I could never be like that again. Was I aware of all these people? Sure I was. I didn’t necessarily covet what they had (like you, I know alcohol and I aren’t compatible <—-understatement of a lifetime), but I was aware of a way of being that I no longer could be again, that I had lost the priviledge of having. In the game of life, I have used up all my drink tickets.

    And so I understand what you say, Lisa. That mental what if, that deep down bone crushing (albeit temporary) thought that yeah, I am *over* all that stuff. I am *good* now. I have it all *together*. Well, yeah, I am starting to get it all together, as together as I can get it, because of my sobriety, of my recovery. I wouldn't have been in that place of soaking up the sun with my family if I were still drinking. I had to remember where I had come from, and my new life, like yours, no longer involves alcohol. no matter how much time I have and how much understanding I may have about alcoholism, it's a done deal now.

    I acquainted myself with a married couple who each had 4 and 6 months of sobriety. I marvelled at how they could be on a cruise, surrounded by booze. I couldn't have done that at such early sobriety. Perhaps having each other helped. But we were able to meet almost nightly and talk about that kind of stuff. It helped me as well…helped us all. Even the guys with 15, 30 and 35 years of sobriety that we met with too. What a gift…to have each other and to lean on one another. As we all have you here, Lisa.

    Thanks for this, and reminding me what this whole thing is about, and that I am not alone in thinking what I think.

    Love and light,

    • I love that you found your people on vacation. I felt rather outnumbered, but I had what I needed. That ‘daily reprieve contingent on my spiritual condition’. It’s nice to know I’ve kept it in shape ;).
      I have been so busy, I hardly have time for blog reading (or posting for that matter). I will, however, get over to your site and see what you’ve been up to. You always brighten my blog and my day. xox Lisa

  • Hi Lisa,

    This post saddens me and I am afraid I am going to have to go against the grain so to speak. I hope you appreciate my honesty, as I appreciate yours for writing as you have done. Hopefully, my response can also provoke some healthy debate.

    The reason I get so upset reading this – and the comments that are affixed – is the willingness to accept a sense of powerlessness over the control alcohol has over you and your readers.

    From what I can gather people still feel a need to drink and they are suppressing this need. To me, this is no different than trying to go on a diet when all you want to do is eat ice cream and french fries because they taste delicious.

    Doesn’t this cause pain? Doesn’t this cause stress? Doesn’t this fill precious space inside people’s minds by constantly having to be ‘on guard’ against this evil superpower?

    I don’t know you that well. But I’m a gambling man. I doubt if you had a drink after 10-years of sobriety you would return to the way you was. I would put money on that. You would have matured and learned so much about your addiction in those 10-years. I remember when I drank again after two and a half years. If I am being honest I was more concerned as to what other people thought of me rather than fearing that I would return to the bad old days.

    I haven’t had a drop in over three years and even despite that minor relapse I have never craved a drink of alcohol. I could me immersed in the stuff and it wouldn’t interest me. It is a powerful poison that destroys lives so why would I want to put it into my body? It makes no sense to me. There are no pleasurable thoughts I can affix to alcohol any longer. Those that did exist belong in a past I no longer give much thought to. All I see now is pain.

    It’s this decision to continually focus ‘pain’ on alcohol and not ‘pleasure’ that had done the job for me. If there is no benefit involved with the consumption of a poison then why would I crave it? If you still have a ‘benefit’ attached to the thought of drinking then I would say there is some more work that needs to be done even after 10-years of sobriety and for everyone else who has made a comment.

    You shouldn’t have to live in fear of alcohol.

    There are so many people who don’t.

    Come and join the club.

    It’s great.


    • Lee, As always, I love the comment. I think for me (and some of my readers) there isn’t total pain associated with drinking. Just 99% pain. The thing that catches me off guard is the 1% of the time my subconscious thinks it’s a good idea, when I know consciously it’s a totally stupid and unmerited idea. I have a healthy fear of ingesting alcohol, just like I have a healthy fear of a dark alley. If I find I am getting near to it I need to move away. Thankfully, I have learned this over the years, rather than deluding myself that I am “healed.” Another point I believes that warrants comment is my ‘alcoholic-bottom’ (so to speak). For many of us who quit drinking with a high bottom, we are left to only imagine the horrors that await us if we choose to drink again. I like to think that writing about my feelings and connecting with others helps me and it also helps them. I’m trying to live in the real world with my current condition (alcohol free). It was my go-to for many years. It doesn’t surprise me that it still crosses my mind.Lisa

      • Hi Lisa,

        I understand what you are saying and it makes me feel warm that it’s only 1% of the time.

        I also respect your fear of ever returning to whence you once came, and I would never suggest that you should drink, I was merely intimating that you would have learned from your decade of sobriety.

        Keep being real.


  • I am booze free 61 days. Longest ever for me. My wife and I are each other’s sponsor. She is my higher power. Hope to kick forever. I feel my mind clearing. Quit or die of a bad liver. See Lou Reed’s death. That’s what is gonna happen if you partake. Look at Joe Walsh for inspiration.

  • I really liked this post Lisa, I can relate as I got sober while living in Cancun. Not many of us sober folks around down here! I’ve experienced those emotions you describe so very well on several occasions. Alcohol and I are a terrible mix too and I never want to go back to how I was while drinking to remind myself, even just for one drink. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for commenting. I was just looking at photos of the trip and was shocked to notice ALL the alcohol swirling around the pool, beach, volleyball court, etc. Yuck. Makes me grateful I got sober in the states. Keep up the good work … as will I. xox Lisa

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