In my group meetings and on message boards I consistently hear the same question: “I am a month into my sobriety—does the urge to drink ever go away?”
I can only answer this question from the perspective of someone who is on the brink of 90 days without drinking—but my answer is always “no.” It’s like asking a formerly obese person who lost 100 pounds if the “urge to eat non healthy food goes away?” It simply doesn’t. An alcoholic will find themselves craving booze or a formerly obese person will crave unhealthy food—the difference now is, we know the repercussions of our poor choices—and the extent in which they can negatively impact our life. The alcoholic doesn’t want to black-out, become a different person due to booze, have high blood pressure, have a higher risk of stroke anymore—just like the obese person doesn’t want to suffer a heart attack at a young age. We have come to a cross-roads and it’s either life or death. If you choose life—you choose to manage the impulses using thoughtfulness, dedication and the willingness to do whatever it takes not to consume that drink.
My parents came to visit me in the Bay Area a few weeks ago—which happened to be very early in my sobriety. My mom and dad like to drink—and historically I liked to drink with them…it was part of how we spent time with each-other. We went out to dinner one night—and both of my parents ordered a very large glass of raspberry beer. The beer looked appealing—the glass looked cold, the thin layer of foam at the top looked tasty and each time my parents took a sip I imagined what it tasted like. At one point—I picked up my mothers glass and smelled the beer. I thought to myself: “what if I just took a sip?”
I then looked over at my daughter and nephew—two beautiful young children with the whole world at their finger-tips. They were having so much fun without the presence of alcohol in their system—just happy with life in general. I thought to myself one more time: “can I just take one sip?” The answer is no. As an alcoholic—one sip turns into 15 beers and a jail cell. One beer turns into 8 shots of Wild Turkey and getting fired from your job. One beer can turn into one decision that will negatively change your life forever.
Yes, the urge is there—but once you decide to put down the bottle you can finally begin to deal with problems using your brain and reasoning. Once you put down the bottle you can be more rational—more honest with others and yourself. I want to drink—but can I? If not, why not? I think every alcoholic has a laundry list of reasons why they can’t drink—and that is one of our tools to keep alcohol out of our system, out of our blood-stream. It’s comparable to wanting to slap your boss in the face for issuing another last minute project—or just being a bonehead…you may want to, but there are too many reasons why you can’t.
The toughest time after sobriety, for me so far, has been the first two weeks. Alcoholics are so used to dealing with their issues through alcohol use. “Oh, I am anxious.” Drink. “Oh what a stressful day at work.” Drink. “My girlfriend and I are fighting.” Drink. It is hard to adjust to dealing with emotions and feelings without alcohol at first—but I’ll tell you what—us alcoholics were missing out on something wonderful. The beauty of suppressed feelings and emotions becoming free—the ability to love yourself and have healthy relationships all begin to become a real possibility. My perspective is changing in so many great ways—and good things start to happen on a daily basis.
To the alcoholic still suffering, just remember, you aren’t alone.