One of the most consistent questions I get from clients, friends, random people is… but FOREVER? Like FOREVER EVER? And then they make big eyes and usually say… I could never.
Here’s my answer, FOR ME.
PS I gave this answer in a recovery group meeting almost two years ago and was basically chewed out and the look of shock on everyones faces completely freaked me out.
PPS I never went back to that group.
PPPS My answer does not have to be your answer.
When someone tells me “You can’t…” “You don’t get to….” “The rule is…”, My first impulse is to make awkward eye contact and creepy whisper: Watch me. (flash forward to me at every parent teacher conference….”I think they get it from their dad…) So when I hear…. You never can have alcohol again. No, not when you are 80. No, don’t even think about it. Never ever ever ever not matter what. I feel incredibly claustrophobic and powerless. When I hear…You are an adult. You can do whatever you want. This is a choice you are making. That makes me feel calm and in control. Because the truth is, I am an adult (surprise!) and I can walk into any store at any time and buy any bottle of alcohol I feel like. And no one can stop me but me. BUT as an adult, I know that there is a consequence for every choice. I know if I choose alcohol, I will ruin everything I have spent the last 2 +years building. Because I didn’t just stop drinking, I created a different life.
I don’t want this to be misinterpreted as an advocation of going to back to something destructive or white knuckling life to hold out for someday I will be healthy enough to do xyz. I guess what I am really trying to say, is that right now today, if you can’t say forever. That’s okay. Right now today for me, I can say I will not drink while I have my kids at home. This is not me holding out hope for the day after my youngest leaves for college so I can finally drink again, this is me knowing the life I need and so deeply want is to be completely present for every heartache, every smile, every argument, every annoyance, every sleepless night, every family dinner, every beautiful perfectly imperfect moment.
I can’t imagine ever drinking again because I have no desire to lose anything I have gained and truthfully, my eyes have been opened too wide to be able to pretend I don’t know what alcohol is. But even in all of that, there is still a tiny piece of me that says, but FOREVER? So I accept that piece and work with it.
Again, as I said in my PPPS this is what works for ME. I also understand the finality and comfort that forever brings. We all get to recover in our own ways.
I am sharing this because as I was thinking about dry January ending, I know there are so many people that are sick of the drinking hamster wheel they are on but saying “forever” is completely overwhelming, so as a default they will continue with a behavior they actually resent. It doesn’t have to sound realistic right now. No one expects someone that has been jogging for a month to commit to running 10 marathons a year for the rest of their lives. Baby steps are still steps.
PPPPS (Are this many PS allowed?!) A great place to start is This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. I personally think everyone should read it whether or not you want to quit drinking. It is an easy read that really explains how integrated alcohol is in our culture and why.