I’ve been sober for 21 years now, and in that time I’ve taken only two drinks, both accidentally. The first time was at a New Year’s Eve party when I was about 10 years sober and I took a gulp from my Diet Pepsi can that tasted really wrong — because it was a can of beer. I had picked up someone else’s drink. Oops. It was an honest mistake and it didn’t really phase me and I was able to put it behind me without it being a threat to my sobriety.
Last night was the second drink and it’s having a little more of an impact. I was out to dinner with some old friends, one of whom got sober about a year behind me. At one point he said he had started drinking again and motioned to the drink in front of him as proof. I didn’t believe him, I thought he was making a bad joke. Beth assured me that he was telling the truth, but I didn’t believe her either, I thought she was in on it. I think someone said “try it” to prove they weren’t kidding, so I did. I hoisted the glass as Beth and my friend both told me again that they weren’t kidding, then I took a sip and swallowed it.
It slingshotted me back twenty-plus years.
The burn of the alcohol going down, that cool hit at the back of the throat as I took a breath after, the delicate numbness around the tongue… All those things were there and instantly familiar, as though it was just yesterday the last time I felt them. Time folded in on itself and then just stopped. For just a moment. And in that moment I was totally alone, just me and the drink going down and my whole being focused on those feelings.
It was a little bit scary, actually. And I got a little bit angry, just for a second. Angry at Beth for not being more convincing about “he’s not kidding,” angry at my friend for letting me take his drink. But I let it go. It wasn’t their fault I took the drink. They tried to tell me, I just didn’t listen. And how stupid was I to pick up a glass everyone was telling me had alcohol in it and drinking it to “prove” they were lying. Only one person fucked up there: me.
Even now, the next day, I can still feel that warm burn going down that I used to love so well. It’s still on my mind, in my head. I’m not going to let it threaten my sobriety — if anything, I’ll use it as a reminder of how easy it is to fall — but it had an impact on me. It brought back some old feelings and urges that I’m going to have to tamp back down again.
My own reactions and issues aside, I’m also worried about my friend. He says he’s okay, that he’s been drinking again for three years now and that he has it under control, that it’s not a problem. He says he quit drinking back in ’89 because of who he was then, what it meant to him then, and that he’s a different person now. Now, he can drink.
Well. I didn’t make a big thing about it because I didn’t want to make for an uncomfortable evening and I wanted to believe him that he’s fine. I hope that he is. But I know he’s going to be reading this, so I’ll say here what I didn’t say last night:
Ultimately, your sobriety is your own and you are the only person who can judge it. If what you say is true, then more power to you. I won’t judge you or look down on you whether you drink or not because you are my friend and I want the best for you, whatever that may be. But you have to know that I’m worried about you.
I don’t think I can say anything that you won’t see coming. It’s all there in the Big Book, you’ve heard it all in the meetings, you’ve probably said it to others yourself. You know.
All I can do it tell you that I’ve had the exact same thoughts as you: I’m older now, I can handle it. I was a stupid kid then, I’m different now. I’m a completely different person now, I have the maturity to drink responsibly. It was a phase, it was being young and stupid, it’ll be different now that I’m an adult. I’ve had the same thoughts, the same doubts, the same questions, the same temptation.
But the answer I keep clinging to for myself is this: If I’m really not an alcoholic, then why am I trying to find a way to drink? I can’t answer that. So I don’t drink.
I wish you the best, my friend. I’m here if and when you need me and I accept you as you are either way. But I’m worried for you.
Comments are closed because I’ve probably said too much already and I’m not interested in hearing what anyone from the peanut gallery might have to say. If you weren’t there then you don’t know.