I Made a Choice to Not Drink

“I can blame alcoholism for craving a drink,

but I cannot blame the disease for the physical 

effort required to take a drink.

If a bottle of bourbon ever manages 

to jump off the shelf, race across town,

break into my home and pour itself down my throat;

it’s no longer a disease, 

it’s a f#@*ing poltergeist.”

From We Are Not Saints by David M.

Every day that I went into work I begged myself to not drink. As was usual, the previous night had ended in a blackout; the morning spent retracing my steps through the trail of carnage I had left in my drunken wake from car to bedroom. Clothing, fast food wrappers, cans of chewing tobacco all strewn willy nilly, flotsam and jetsam ejected from the drunk boat rocking violently on seas of vodka. Vodka, the clear liquid that leaves no legs on a glass; vodka, the alcohol that my coworkers and few friends that I had knew I was addicted to and whispered about in disappointment, disgust, awe; vodka, the drug that I put above everything else in my life as I truly felt I could not, would not operate without it.

Every day that I went into work I wanted so badly not to drink but surrounding myself with a seemingly endless supply of liquor by working at a bar certainly did not aid in abstinence. Monkeys don’t sell bananas. My hands would shake, my vision would be blurred, my head no longer hurt because hurting was the state I was used to. Instead it was a dull, dense, heavy confusion; a complete lack of clarity, a distance, numbness. No matter how unwell I felt without enough water, without good, whole food which if I had eaten my body was incapable of processing having been devastated by an almost ceaseless diet of liquor, without rest because I did not sleep, I always passed out, without exercise, without positive thoughts, I would ultimately still wind up skulking to my stash of vodka.

That first sip burned as I swallowed it followed by a willful effort to not vomit as my stomach asked for one day of reprieve. Instead I always kept the vodka down, burning my belly and immediately feeling a searing sensation wash over my brain like a slow, hot venom. Before long I knew that another shot would make me feel better followed by another to improve my game followed by another to stop from stumbling over my words followed by another to find my rhythm…

Every night, every night that I worked I put myself into a position to kill someone by not only drinking myself into oblivion but by regularly overserving the guests, most of who were driving as I worked in an establishment that was a destination business and not in a walking community. Every night I drove; somehow making it home, somehow surviving, somehow not killing. Somehow not killing.

No one forced me to drink. No one forced me to run roughshod over my life and the lives of others. No one forced me to destroy my poor mother who just wanted her son to be well. No one forced me to risk the welfare, the lives of strangers by getting behind the wheel every night. No one forced me to demolish any sense of self-worth, to hide from my fears, to run to alcohol and drink freely of its wanton destruction. I literally chose to do these things to myself. I actually made the effort to put the bottle to my lips, swallow and force myself to not regurgitate. I chose that. Finally, in a story for another post, I chose to change.

In order to stop drinking I had to first remove myself from the people, places and things that I associated with the drug. This is an incredibly easy series of words to type but the enactment of their meaning was far more difficult. There are many people for whom the act of turning their will and lives over to the care of a higher power granted them great strength to do what had previously seemed impossible, to stop drinking. The strength necessary for me to accomplish this same task was found within myself. I went dry on straight will but found sobriety much later through listening, learning, reflecting, asking, implementing and failing but failing forward. I found strength in communicating with other alcoholics, in being transparent, in being vulnerable, in being honest. I reflected upon my life and took (and still take) daily inventories, recognizing fear, accepting responsibility, being a stand-up guy who found meaning in life by being meaningful to others. I found strength in gratitude, in forgiveness, in serenity.

It started with a choice.

This post is meandering and labored but I really needed to mash out something to keep active in my sobriety. Thank you for taking the time to read this and please check out a read I have just begun that helped me to get off my duff and punch out this post, What Happened That Day by Michelle S. who also blogs at http://risingwoman.wordpress.com/

Thank you to Michelle for inspiring me to write regardless of how rough this post is.


12 thoughts on “I Made a Choice to Not Drink

  1. This is a tough one, Glenn. This is where you and I may agree to disagree on the choosing to drink (I agree on the choosing to stop and staying stopped, though). I wrIote something about this not too long ago (http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/you-choo-choo-choose-me/) – forgive me plugging in a post URL – I rarely do that on someone else’s blg, but in this case I would end up retyping my entire thoughts here…lol. Don’t want to waste that much of your space 🙂

    Anyway, understand the sentiment that whisky doesn’t grab my by the throat and forces its way down. I put it in there. At the same time, in the midst of our addiction (and you describe it so well, by the way) there is part of our brain that neurologically thinks that we *need* vodka (which was my baby too) to live. Serious stuff. The fact that you and I both went through that ugly phase of literally forcing the stuff down our throats at the rebellion of our bodies means that it’s more than a choice – it’s something stronger than compulsion…

    Regardless, it’s always a good discussion.

    Thanks for this – and thanks for the promo for Michelle’s book. That’s great – I am reading it now!


    1. Thank you for commenting Paul.

      Right off the bat I feel like I owe an apology to any reader who may take the title of this post as being my opinion for their addiction and/or sobriety. With full disclosure I admit that I chose that title to be eye-catching in a vain effort to grab eyeballs that could possibly feel encouraged by my words. That was irresponsible.
      I can only account for me and my experiences, not casting expansive, possibly arrogant claims to net readership. It is with that in mind that I will change the title of this post.
      Sobriety has been a tricky thing; one that I have navigated in a way that I don’t think fits a “traditional” recovery. Again, I can only account for myself and should not impose upon anyone what has worked for me.
      Thank you for taking the time to leave thoughtful feedback Paul and I look forward to seeing more of you on the interwebs!

      With respect,

  2. I got a little behind in posts and other things, but caught up within the last day or so. I have too many thoughts bouncing around to leave any kind of truly useful comment. I just wanted to say, I’m reading, I’m captivated, and your posts give me hope on a few levels. Thank you for writing…

    1. Thank you for commenting deedee! Time is always escaping me and I feel like there is too much crazy in my head to get out with any sort of efficacy. I appreciate you keeping in touch and I hope that I can provide some sort of good crazy for you!

  3. Hey Glenn- I respect how you’ve chosen to lay everything out there… I think you must inspire a lot of people who are dealing with the same issues. You’re honest and open… I like that in a blog.

    Doug and I share a lot, but not about all aspects of our life and past. I’m glad you’re putting this out there for those who need it to find.

    1. It’s a trip John.
      I was so deceitful, hid so much, lied about my substance abuse for so long that it is kind of liberating borderline cathartic to be transparent about it now. Maybe, just maybe if,earlier in my life, I connected with someone who had chosen this same transparency I may have come out of the hole a little sooner.
      Who knows?

  4. “Every night I drove; somehow making it home, somehow surviving, somehow not killing. Somehow not killing.”

    I used to let those thoughts haunt me. Now I just count my blessings; despite the odds being completely against me (and others on the road) I somehow didn’t end up killing.

    1. If I dwell, and sometimes I do, those thoughts do still haunt me but I no longer allow them to frame how I view myself as a person now.
      I am happy to know that you seem to feel the same. Thank you for stopping in and sharing!

  5. Thank you very much for this heartfelt, honest account of how it feels to be an alcoholic. Most of my friends are alcoholic and I have a weakness in that area. I need to be extra vigilant to avoid the temptation to drink. ~ Dennis

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