To Drink or Not to Drink

smashed 12Now that we are half way into January most of us are clearer on the effort that goes into making a change. For me, change comes down to two choices: elimination or moderation. In most all cases I have gone for moderation first. After all, why totally remove something that may be working.

Elimination connotes defeat. Defeat, an ugly word in a world that prizes winning as supreme, even superior. So we hover. We suggest to self that we didn’t really want it after all. I wasn’t really trying anyway. It’s not the big of a problem. Quitting is more stressful than not quitting. Studies say stress is bad for the heart. Blah. Blah. Blah.

So we suck up to our failure. We persuade self that it’s what we wanted all along. For me, the list has been long. My addiction to alcohol was sandwiched between all my other human flaws. The only difference between alcohol and manipulation/men/spending/sugar was that I didn’t stumble, babble, black out, or put the world in jeopardy whilst driving intoxicated. Eliminating alcohol didn’t give me auto-self-love. It just removed the dirt so I could start to see there was actually a person inside me that was screaming to come out.

I was literally dying to live.

Lee Davy, founder of Needy Helper (UK), recently wrote a piece that triggered me. The Great ‘Drinkers Live Longer’ Hoax. The image prompted a memory of my dad’s pin board (for the youngsters, it’s what we did before Pinterest). My dad had a full section devoted to newspaper articles headlined: ‘Drinkers Are the Thinkers of the World’, ‘Drinkers Are Doers’, ‘Achievers Drink’. Wow, could that be true? I want to be an achiever, a doer. Geez, my dad must be a world leader because he drinks a lot.

Was it true? No
Is it true? No
Did he want to believe it to be true so he wouldn’t have to change? Yes

Here are the real questions I ask myself today. (And the answer isn’t essay, it’s yes or no.)

Did I try, incredibly hard, to make drinking work for me? Yes
Did it work? No
Am I willing to see that my desire to protect my right to drink (aka not change) is the need to change in disguise? Yes

I don’t try to convince people not to drink. No one could have convinced me. It is truly a battle we face alone in our head. It’s self with self. There is no other person there. There never was. There never will be. Anyone who is drinking normally, socially, and/or acceptably isn’t posting about it— anywhere. They are simply having a cocktail and ignoring all of us alcoholics. Social media conversations about alcohol are about ignorance and arrogance.

Many alcoholics have come to terms with the issue of drinking. Many have not. But if you are an active drinker engaged in persuading others that drinking is good or even beneficial you are deluding not only fellow drinkers, but young minds. Either way, it reeks of harm.

If I started the year to moderate and I can’t … I have my answer. The answer is the answer. It is not contingent upon my approval.

Normal drinkers aren’t reading posts on blogs about sobriety wondering if they are alcoholic. Sorry.

One final question: To think or not to think?

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Lisa Neumann is a Life Skills Coach and author of Sober identity: Tools for Reprogramming the Addictive Mind.

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Purchase a signed copy of Sober Identity direct from author. Discounted for 2 days only $15 USD Total (includes express shipping US only).

26 Responses to “To Drink or Not to Drink

  • Dying to live…such a paradox yet lived daily to those of us who suffer from alcoholism. I must admit when I first started to read this and you mentioned to eliminate or to moderate, I had a freak out. I thought, “No, Lisa, No! I’ve been reading and following your blog. Please don’t hit that path.” I am so glad I kept reading. For me, moderation is never going to work. But I have to laugh when a close friend who does not suffer from this disease said to me, “So what if you have one? It doesn’t mean anything. You aren’t a failure because you had one.”
    She is such a friend who does not take online quizzes to determine if she has an issue with alcohol; to her, alcohol is no different that toothpaste: it’s merely something taking up space in this universe that man has created.
    And, if I am to take your dad’s clippings to heart, I ought to be President. 🙂
    Thanks for this post. It triggered the “right” thoughts I want in my head for the day.
    Linda

    • I had that “oh no” moment when I thought,you thought that I was “ok” with moderation. Whew! Glad we cleared that up.

      “President,” now that’s just plan funny. Thanks for the love and the laughter . xox

  • “Dying to live” for me too hit a spot, it defines anyone with any addiction. We want so much to live fully yet live under a comatose spell, under the constant influence… and moderation for me too would never work, the instant I allow it and it’s a trigger-substance there’s no stopping me from over-indulging.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us out there 🙂

    • It’s so interesting these addictive ways we speak of (share). I loved your comment to me on your blog yesterday. It’s really hitting home … the degree of change I have the “opportunity” to make. Your friendship and encouragement are invaluable, to both my body and my spirit. The road of sobriety is again narrowing. I will continue to awaken. To practice the “principles in all my affairs.” 🙂

      • It always does narrow at times but widens too, it’s just the fluctuations of life. We have to be patient in the harder times and if we stick through, the victory at the end is all the more sweeter!
        Don’t give up! When I indulge in trying times as I’ve done lately, my life just spirals out of control & I need to mobilize so much more energy to find the inspiration to get back on track.
        All that energy could have been directed toward creativity, serenity & bliss, but I am aware it’s building me further so I’m not complaining, I’m learning (you have a part in that 🙂 ) to separate my food-behavior & my soul, the more I’ll practice that the easier it’ll get.
        So, the very best of luck to you, never give up, it might seem easier at first but it surely isn’t in the long run 🙂

  • Lisa, this is so right on! I love your honesty and ability to be upfront. Sometimes we just need it spelled out for us. I was reading and thinking about alcoholism long before I admitted I had a problem – but I knew all along I did. Great post!

    • Thank you for the kind words. I remember awhile back talking with a girl (I sponsored her at that time). She had that tendency (we all have in early sobriety) to lie/embellish. At one point I said to her, “Until I met you, I had never met a woman who was a better manipulator or BSer than me. What is it I can help you with because I don’t seem to be able to help you with sobriety?” She called me about an hour later crying. She wanted to finally be sober. I was so floored. I guess sometimes I don’t realize what comes out of my mouth. This post was like that for me this week. Thanks for reading and commenting. It always makes me happy to connect on that authentic level. I know I could be back at the bar in two seconds if I wasn’t diligent on growing spiritually. Thanks for being part of my sobriety.

  • I tried for years upon years to fit drinking into my life, regardless of all the negative outcomes, so as not to live without it. From attempts at controlling volume of consumption and frequency. to changing friends and relationships with family, to locating where I lived and worked I did everything I could to not eliminate alcohol from my life. Not until I came to terms with the fact that I am one lousy drinker was I able to move forward in learning to live my life in sobriety.
    This is a great post to remind me that moderation is a vehicle that I cannot control and frankly need not even try as my life has been one comfortable little slow and steady VW Beetle since leaving the bottle in my rear-view mirror.
    Thank you for this.

  • Thank you Lisa… It’s so easy to slip bak into thoughts of maybe I can try moderation again… Or “forget” how bad things were. I remember a long time. Back someone said mommies don’t take online quizzes or wonder about their drinking habits. Black and white, thank you for writing this, I needed to read this today.

    • This makes me smile. I remember when my kids were toddlers and we’d be at a b-day party for a three year old.with juice boxes and wine glasses. Some of the moms would inquire as to my not-drinking. then they would proceed to interrogate me about not-drinking. My “no thank you” would not satisfy their curiosity. I always left the party saying, “That was me not so long ago.” I’m so glad to be on this side of that fence. Also, thanks for commenting you gave me an idea for a post with this little topic. I just love my sober friends. xox

  • I always cringe when I see people posting pictures of their cocktails on Facebook. Not pictures of themselves with their cocktails but just the drink, as if the glass of wine is smiling for the camera. I just know that when I romanticized my drinking like that, I was trying to convince people (and myself) that I was celebrating life when in actuality I didn’t have much of a life beyond drinking. I was in such deep denial that it never occurred to me that the need to look like a jovial drinker was a sign that I had a problem with drinking. Like you said, non-problem drinkers don’t feel the need to do things like that. Thought provoking post Lisa!

    • Couldn’t agree more. It wasn’t until I read Lee’s post that this even sparked within me. What was I celebrating? My right to trash my body, mind, and soul, to say nothing of disappointing those I love most in the world. Sober AND living is the way to go. Glad to be here and celebrating real living, real feelings with women like you.

  • I just love the way you write Lisa…most times it’s like you’re living in my head. The fact is, I can’t moderate any of those things that don’t have an off switch…wine, chocolate, cigarettes, etc. For me (like most addicts) it’s all or nothing. Thank God I’ve learned to choose nothing.

    I am constantly fascinated by the normal persons brain and how it works. Since I’ve never had one I’ve started asking my husband and friends what it’s like to be in their heads. Just another affirmation that I’m wired differently…and that’s just fine with me.

    Sherry

    • Thank you Sherry for your affirming words. I remember when I wrote my book and my sister (aka best friend) read it. She was shocked. She had no idea the garbage that went through my little brain. That’s one of the reasons sober support is so valuable to me. I continue to put my stuff out there and I continue to grow. You get me and I get you. It’s a beautiful dance. xox

  • I love the line about removing the dirt. And that is what it was. The unmanagability behind it was even more dirt – the feelings of less than, of failure, of not being good enough, etc. But removing that first layer – booze – was the first step in taking a look at was left and finding a path to start dealing with it, rinsing it off, finding that self-love that as you mentioned, doesn’t come automatically. But stopping and staying stopped is certainly a start in the self-love department.

    You get down to brass tacks here – no one who is concerned with their drinking is taking quizzes, looking at your blog, checking out meeting listings, etc. They are just having a cocktail or beer with the lads and lasses and going home to move on with life. For us, those cocktails and beers ARE life, and we will move mountains to make sure we get our fix.

    In a society where more is good (hey, one vitamin is good, so why not two?), I found a way to convince myself that my early drinking was good for me. The French Paradox was all a rage, and if one glass of wine is good, why not four? Oh dear. Alcoholic logic at work.

    I love this post because it gets right down to it. I won’t stop unless I get to the point where I need to stop. No studies, no graphic images, no doctor, no loved one, no one is going to get me stop. it has to be me. And that is what happened. We have all been there, and any other cajoling doesn’t suffice.

    I can’t moderate, nor will I even bother trying to learn that lesson again.

    Wonderful post, Lisa. Such power.

    Love and light,
    Paul

    • Must be why I shower so much. I’m hoping to wash away the unresolved issues … LOL

      I have noticed this past year that my writing has (again) changed. I used to be scared to say what I felt, for fear of offending. And lately, I just feel okay saying what I feel inspired to say. I have a notion that my online friends have given me some courage to just put more out there. I feel I draw ever closer to all of you, despite our geographical distance.

  • The fact that I repeatedly over the years was worried about my level of drinking and tried to do something about it from time to time should have been proof enough of the problem. To then get to the point of deciding that I had to stop/cut down and get a point where I could “drink normally again” was again a big enough sign. Then to repeatedly over 13 months or so stop, cut down, change type of drink, change drinking pattern, join harm reduction programmes on the web, lie on harm reduction programmes etc. just were the final nailing of the lid on my drinking coffin.

    If you drink “a bit too much” – simple, stop. Cut back to normal levels. If you are a “normal drinker” it shouldn’t take much effort, surely? You’ll soon be back on the straight path and no more worries? If you try this a few times and find yourself a few days/weeks/months later thinking – “Hang on… it as bad as ever, if not worse now”. Do yourself a favour as someone who had that conversation in his head many, many times over a number of years seek help to find a programme of abstinence that works for you

    • I just love your first paragraph. How is it we are so blinded? I think now of days that there are still things in life blinding me from the truth?
      Whenever I am looking to be “normal” it’s a pretty good sign I have an issue somewhere in there. Always good to get your perspective. 🙂

  • Hi Lisa, This is exactly why we do what we do. To spark something in others that sets a fire burning far and wide.

    Thank you for taking the time to read, comment and share my post I am truly honored.

    I read your part about your Dad’s pin board and thought {really?}. Then I realised most fathers of alcoholics have their pinboard, but it’s often intangible. All my Dad ever wanted from me was to sit next to him in the pub on a Sunday and drink with him. It’s what his Dad did with him and the only way he knew how to be a father.

    I see the way he looks at my son today. He can’t wait to buy him a drink and make him a man. He’s proud of it. It’s a rite of passage. He thinks it’s great. He is a chain smoker who can’t stop coughing. Ask him if he likes cigarettes and he will give you the honest answer – NO.

    Ask him if he likes alcohol and he looks at you stupid.

    It’s not even my Dad’s fault. It’s a long line of Dad’s all following the piper…and do you know what…if they keep on doing it they are all going to drown.

    Great post it had pieces of your heart hanging off certain words.

    Lee

    • The thank yous go to you. I noticed a slight shift in my childhood memories (specific to his office) this past week. He owned his own business. His office was the complete second floor, including a pool table and a full bar. I’m prompted to think I have some additional healing to do in this area. He passed away about 11 years ago and did so with 14 years of sobriety. Rest his beautiful soul. Thanks Lee, I’m looking forward to a new friendship in 2014.

  • Thanks for your blog.. It’s keeping me going on 20 days sober.. Was trying to “moderate” until read ur line about “normal drinkers aren’t reading blogs about sobriety!”

    • I just happened to be at my computer when I read this reply. I’m sorry but I’m laughing (kindly) at your honesty. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing! That moment when we can’t BS self into our “story” any longer. You are a new year’s baby. My new year’s resolution to get sober didn’t take effect until March. Good for you.

      There are many wonderful bloggers. This online community is rich in love and support. Make today an excellent day. See the good in all of it. Even your pain. The letting go of who you were as you welcome who you are becoming. (Sobriety is not for wimps.) My best as you journey. With love, Lisa

  • Lisa, I think every person striving to get sober (or is even considering it) should read this post. It is beautifully written, insightful, and gets right to the point. Well done! I need to learn that moderation is not an option on a few less severe areas of my life, so I shall book mark this post!

  • Great work and i will read some more.

    Thanks
    Living and giving Gratitude every day myself.

    https://twitter.com/martyroddy

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