I was a drinker for over 30 years. I could quit anytime. For real, I could. And I did. Lots of times. I would give it a break, a rest. I would quit for a month. I would quit for the length of an entire pregnancy. I did that twice. I would quit to drop a few pounds. Sometimes I would quit until Friday. In the end, of course, even that was tough.
If I’m honest, and I’m trying to be, those quits were not easy. I hung on, though. I hung on despite the cravings, the temptations and the boredom. Good lord, the boredom was excruciating. That was always the worst part. I did it, though. I quit.
Staying quit was the problem. I would feel so good after my hiatus. I would think, wow, look at me. I quit. I’m good. I did it. So I guess there’s no problem after all. I would celebrate my success —with a nice meal and fine wine. Something expensive. A real civilized celebration. Nothing crazy. I was, after all, celebrating the realization that I have no drinking problem. And then, for some time thereafter, I would keep a watchful eye and control my consumption. And then… well, you know the drill.
One Last Quit.
This last time, in 2007, I knew I had to do things differently. I knew I didn’t have a lot of quits left in me. I was afraid there might be just one left. I knew I had to make this a good one. I knew I had to make this quit last. And I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I can’t explain it; I just knew.
So I sought help. This was before smartphones. We had the Internet, but it was dial-up, slow and frustrating. So I opened up the phone book. Old-school. I sought the help of people who had already done what I was trying to do. People who had quit. I knew that I needed help, and to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about becoming sober. I didn’t dive in with joy and enthusiasm. I crawled in, sort of. Full of sadness and fear.
I was sad because I thought the good times were over. No more girls’ night out. No more tailgate parties. I was sad because I thought the rest of my life would play out like a crummy black-and-white movie. I pictured Styrofoam cups filled with bad coffee and powdered creamer. I pictured hanging around a bunch of self-loathing old guys in cheap suits. This was to be my new life and it made me sad.
I was afraid because I thought it would be excruciating. I thought I would hang on, one day at a time, for the rest of my life, wanting to drink but willing myself not to. I thought it would suck. Mostly, I was afraid I might not be able to do it.
People Just Like Me.
Despite all this, I was committed. I knew it was time. The truth is, in the beginning, it was excruciating. I did hang on, one day at a time, willing myself not to drink. It did suck. Thankfully, though, I had people to lean on. Old guys, yeah, but they were cool. Young people, too. And plenty of women. All kinds. All ages. They were just regular people. People who had enjoyed drinking until there was no enjoyment left. People just like me.
They told me the beginning wouldn’t last forever. They told me it would get easier. They told me it would be okay. More than okay, they told me that life would be better than I could ever imagine. “Beyond your wildest dreams,” they said. They told me it would not be boring!
So I hung on past the beginning, until I wasn’t even hanging on anymore. I was just living. Just living and enjoying life without the booze. They were right: It’s a life better than I ever could have imagined. And yet it’s just life. Life without the booze.