The Gap Between Drinking and Not Drinking

swing sober identity

If your new year resolution was to get sober, one of two things has happened. I am hopeful, for you, that it was success—statistics suggest otherwise.

If you find yourself in the “I’ve relapsed” category there is still good news. Failure provides us with an accurate gauge for our capacity to actually remain sober. For many of us, it’s haunting to realize that even when we try to commit to alcohol-free we pour that cocktail anyway—that night (or morning, whichever the case may be).

We simply do not understand how this can be. Where is our resolve for a better life? A better relationship with spouse, children, self? What’s happening? We can’t even tell you why. We can’t tell you why because we don’t understand either.

We start to get hopeless. How are we supposed to change something that we don’t feel we have control over? Everyone is telling us to stop, we want to stop (maybe, sort of), or at least moderate, yet we find our self back in the same predicament.

The story is so old it pains us to even talk about it anymore, to make promises anymore, to count days anymore.

The key, for me, was to use my failures as the guideline, use it to my benefit, not as a step down, but as a moment of clarity. I chose to see it as more information I was learning about me and what I was or was not capable of accomplishing on my own.

I first thought of getting sober (seriously getting sober) in April 2003. My daughter was born in January and by February 2003 I was back to drinking my pre-pregnancy quantities of wine. It took me less than 30 days to regain my tolerance for alcohol. I was as shocked as anyone. How could this be? I have a new born and I drink a bottle of wine each night.

I managed to live with my disgusted self until I got sober in March 2004. It was a long hard year of hearing the demons awaken. That first true realization that I might actually be an alcoholic somehow ushered in all my fears, all the voices. It seemed the more I tried to control them the more they controlled me. Alcohol became the obvious solution to all my alcohol problems. Yes, a puzzle of sorts.

My last, and clearest, failure was February 2004. I needed some vodka in my coffee mug as my husband had announced he would be going to the park with me and the kids. My bottled anger couldn’t cope with his presence. I had long since preferred his lack of attendance at any family function. (Apparently I found me and my demons more compatible, but that’s another story.)

This is the day my daughter hurt her leg on the slide. I wasn’t paying attention and she got hurt! Period.

Was I wasted?
Was I a little drunk?
Did I leave her unattended?
Had I snuck away from her to drink?

But I only had a shot or two of vodka. She can’t be hurt. I was holding her. She’s screaming. What the *** is going on? Why is this happening? I’ll take her home and give her medicine and she’ll be fine when she wakes up. I’ll be fine. I need a nap too.

But she wasn’t fine. She was a one year old girl who had learned to walk who was now crawling again, like a crab, because she couldn’t put weight on her leg. After a doctor visit (the following day, no vodka breath) she was diagnosed with torn tissue. I went home and cried and cried and cried.

She tried to stand 300 times and 300 times she fell. Devastation. Nothing but devastation. I had hurt my daughter.

And then I made my decision—
I drank.
First a glass of wine and then the bottle.
All was going to be okay—
Until the next morning.

When, once again, nothing was okay. What was I going to do with the latest of failures?

The only word that came to mind—help!

Were they failures? To this day I do not know. These days were the defining moments between my commitment to drinking and my commitment to sobriety. For me, looking back they are the win, not the loss.

I’ve never given up hope in what my failures can teach me about me—I seem to learn a little each day, and that’s okay.

There is always someone there to help. I just need to be willing to learn.

And the statistics, well they say that I will have a better chance of staying sober at year three than I will at year 16. I’m only in year 11, but I think it best to remain vigilant with my sobriety practices and principles.

I prefer smaller gaps now of days.


Lisa Neumann is a life skills and recovery coach in California. She coaches worldwide.

22 Responses to “The Gap Between Drinking and Not Drinking

  • catlinwellness
    9 years ago

    Lisa, I totally relate to how failures can be our best teachers if we let them. I thank God that I have a program to turn to after I make a major (or minor) F-Up…it’s easy to beat myself up and hate on me, but that takes me to dark places where I am not safe… The program always guides me back to safer ground, to connection, to humor, to center. I appreciate your thoughtful posts~

    • Kathy, Thank you for the kind words. I have recently found so much peace in step 11. I have to find that quiet place, but I cannot find it until I acknowledge the dark. I am so thankful for that which others teach me. That includes you! My love, lisa

  • I hear you. My definitive moment came when I ripped my left big toenail off when I was loaded. Had to have it surgically removed. 2 syringes of marcaine could not numb the pain as the orthopedic surgeon did his thing. That was 327 days ago. I am still having pain in that toe, but I have not had any alcohol. A grim reminder that constantly bothers me.

    • Yes, the grim reminders, but they are also blessings. 327 days … beautiful! When is your year anniversary? Wishing you many moments of continued clarity as you deal with your pain. For me, my recovery is always better with you all here. Thank you for supporting this blog. Lisa

  • Thank you Lisa……you remain an inspiration to me x

    • As you do me. We do this together. If ever I want to be alone for too long (isolate) I am reminded that one of my principles is to remain connected to those on a similar journey. Thank you for being one of those people I journey with. XO Lisa

  • Lisa, I like this post a lot. For me, I know all my failures were brutal when they happened, but as they slowly accumulated, I was able to see how many drinking didn’t work for me, and that was the beginning of my seeing that quitting drinking might be a solution. And what a great solution it’s turned out to be! Thanks for being here, helping guide me along the way as you find your own way along. xo

    • The thanks go to you as well. I really believe I wouldn’t be sober today without this incredible support system in place. I like your perspective on your failures. Your are seeing the pain of how you behaved, but you are using the pain to drive you forward. Love it. Happy to journey with you. Lots of love, Me

  • Enjoyed this story, yes, using failures as a guidline- key. 🙂

    • Thank you for the read and the comment. I shall jump over to your blog and join your sober journey. xo Lisa

  • Lisa
    Wonderful and so true! The mysteries of the disease! Hope you have had a good weekend!

    • Bob, How are you? I have been happily busy with work and family, and am rarely on the internet. Hope this message finds you well and thriving. All my love, Lisa

  • Every time I think to myself, “time to buy a plane ticket to hunt Lisa down,” I am relieved to find a post waiting to be read in my inbox. Whew!

    This is fantastic, Lisa. I am firmly of the opinion that the “failures,” or missteps, are building blocks to eventual success… if you have the right attitude. This has an interesting tie-in to the meeting I attended this morning, which I am about to sit down and write about. Cliffhanger! Now you’re going to have to head over to my blog…

    Glad, as always, to see your smiling face 🙂

    • I’m here. I’m always here. I know I’ll stay sober because I’m only not drinking, today. Last I checked it was today. 🙂 I’ll head over to the blog. You are my favorite. I just don’t have near as much time to read as I used to, which is both good and not so good. Either way, thanks for the lovely comment. And If memory serves me you have an anniversary around here somewhere. Hope I didn’t miss it. I guess I better get over to MIRACLES asap and see what’s up. Love you dearly.

  • This is so beautiful, touching and poignant. I could FEEL what you were feeling. I remember…yep – I still remember.

    But I don’t believe in mistakes or coincidences and I know that God is purposeful. He knew that you were going to need something major to get you sober. Kids…they’re major.

    While you’ll never forget that time (gratefully) your little girl will never remember. All she’ll ever know is a sober mommy. That is beautiful.


    • Sherry, Thanks for reminding me I’m a sober mom. I often get stuck in the ways I could be different and the truth remains that I am doing my best to grow, heal, and teach. “Kids are major” … thank goodness for them. They were a great jump start for my sobriety. Love you dearly.

  • Good grief… I read those dates and was like! Holy Cow! 7th April 2003 – that was the first day I resolved to do something about my drinking. The next year was a rollercoaster of total madness. Stopping, reducing, changing what I drank, keeping diaries, lying in them, re-avowing to have another attempt. 8th April 2004 I found myself back signing up to the same drink awareness online campaign I’d started with. I gave that up the next day. I gave up giving up because it simply wasn’t happening, I accepted I had to live with alcohol. But I no longer could. 14th May 2004 therefore was the final bender when I found myself at the bottom of the pit and finally looked at all these attempts and said to myself “This has me totally beat. I really need some proper help here”. Luckily from then to now thanks to a terrific nurse, a great rehab, AA and all the supportive friends I made there and in this sober blogverse thing here I’ve not had to have a drink. Remarkable.

    • Remarkable indeed. I love your timeline. We were connected in gaining sobriety before we connected on the internet. Love it. Glad for both of us that we found what works to remain sober. I don’t believe I’d be sober without all of you here to support me. So thank you, I am grateful to journey together.

  • Wow. I wish I had found this post at the beginning of my day, not at the end. I’ve spent all day beating myself up for getting drunk last night. Day 1 for me, 2nd attempt. My husband was right, I am learning. Thank you.

    • I am almost 11 years sober and I am still learning about so much in life. The fact that you continue to try and figure this sober thing out is nothing short of admirable. Of everything I have faced in life, getting sober was the most difficult. Something only another addict could understand. Keep up the good work. You will succeed. All my love, Lisa

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