I have been musing on why people, having fought hard for a few weeks or months of sobriety then lapse and start drinking again. I think I’m hoping if I can understand it, It might be less likely to happen to me. I do know this is nonsense, and that there are so many reasons why people start drinking again I could never ever understand them all.
It’s not about how much people NEED to give up drinking. I have seen people dying from drink stubbornly refuse to take any steps to stop – and others who drink way less than I did decide to pack it in.
Is it about how much people WANT to stop drinking ?
Rock bottom, where traditional alcoholic ‘law’ says you need to be before you can quit, is very different for different people. Most of the sober men and women I have ‘met’ on the internet in the last few months have not hit the traditional ‘rock bottom’ in that they still have jobs, families, houses, partners. Most of them, and I include myself, have just reached a point where they can see what’s coming if they don’t quit. (See The train ) Everyone has tried (endlessly ) to moderate and failed again and again. Many land up with a decision to go AF as a last resort to escape the awful cycle of drinking, shame, hangover, anxiety, drinking.
For many, and again I include myself, it takes a few goes. The first time I really KNEW the only option for me, ultimately, was total abstinence, I was 33. I managed 6 weeks, convinced myself it was ‘not that bad’; I had ‘learned to moderate’ and started drinking again, with predictable results.
Maybe that’s one reason people lapse. Denial and self-delusion.
The second time I stopped drinking I was really desperate. My mental health was shot to pieces, mostly due to home stresses, I knew that alcohol could not be helping me – despite using it as a crutch every single day – so I decided to quit. That withdrawal / detox process was very, very hard, and despite staying almost completely sober, I had my most serious episode of suicidal anxiety and depression that necessitated 6 weeks off work.
Ironically when I recovered I felt so well I started drinking again, almost immediately. On reflection I don’t think I believed that I could be one of the people who succeeded and thus, by believing I would inevitably fail at some point, I set myself up for it.
Maybe self sabotage is another reason people lapse.
I have also considered the understanding of complete sobriety. Last time I stopped I ‘allowed’ myself a drink on Boxing Day when my children were with their father and DP and I were alone. And another (few) when we went away for a weekend in April. I didn’t understand then, what I do now, that this was just one more attempt to fool myself that I could moderate, drink “sometimes” on “special occasions”
On that Boxing Day (2013) I wrote about my experience:
“i did drink a glass of champagne. Within the first mouthful it was as if the previous 50 odd days had never happened, suddenly everything was about alcohol again, how much I could drink – how grey and dull everything was without it, ugh…. I was every bit as consumed with the wish to drink myself senseless as I ever have been. i loved the idea of being ‘out of it’ …desperately wanted to finish that bottle and every other bottle in the vicinity”.
That stuff is powerful. What was blindingly obvious, but I could not see, was that to succeed at being AF you have to BE AF, completely, 100%, ALL THE TIME…
Drinking “sometimes” perpetuates the myth that you can be normal around alcohol, it reawakens the ‘wine witch’; It allows space to that nagging voice what says ” well nothing bad happened on Boxing Day did it” … which just starts the whole damn argument again.
I think that’s not being ready, which is perhaps the biggest reason why people lapse – for whatever reason, with the best will in the world and the strongest motivation, they are just not ready.
This time I AM ready. I am not in denial, I believe – no, I KNOW, I can do this, I will Never drink again in any shape or form, Never. I don’t need it, I am tired of it.
I CHOOSE TO BE SOBER.