I remember going out for a meal in a local restaurant a month or two after I stopped drinking. I was concentrating hard on being sober and ignoring all urges and little voices in my head telling me to go for it and to start again the next day.
After a while, I started to relax and stopped thinking about drinking (this is what happens, folks – after a bit of hard work, the event or evening becomes easier and you even end up enjoying yourself and smiling to yourself a lot the next morning because you did it and you feel great!) But, back to the meal…
I became mesmerised by a young woman who was sitting a couple of tables away from us and facing me. I was mesmerised by her relationship with her wine glass. It was a large glass, half-full, and she almost completely ignored it. It looked like she was with her parents and she seemed relaxed and happy. Occasionally she reached for the glass and took a small sip, but this one glass lasted her all night and, by the time we got up and left, she still had some in there.
One of the reasons I was so transfixed by this behaviour was that I couldn’t relate to it at all. It was alien to me. For someone to be focused on the conversation, the company and the food and for wine to be a peripheral event was almost impossible to comprehend. I found myself willing her to start gulping it down and ordering more so that my own drinking behaviour would seem more normal. But she didn’t.
Another reason I was transfixed was because I was jealous. Why couldn’t I just have one drink and let that be enough for the evening? Why couldn’t I have a lovely night out and enjoy a little bit of alcohol to add a glow to the evening? Why couldn’t I ignore my wine instead of thinking about it and my next sip or my next glass all evening?
I really started thinking about this. I had tried to moderate my drinking with no success. Once I started drinking, I simply had no off-button. I became consumed by alcohol. I loved getting drunk. I loved the feeling of abandon and confidence it gave me and I wanted to feel pissed.
Why could some people drink without it becoming a problem and why not me?
For a while that evening, I felt quietly sorry for myself. I felt like choice had been taken away from me. It wasn’t fair that I couldn’t drink without becoming embarrassingly inarticulate at best and a pissed arsehole at worst. Then I realised of course I had choices. There were consequences to me of choosing to drink and consequences to me of choosing not to drink. I just had to decide which consequences I wanted more. And, although it seemed like this young woman had a healthy relationship with alcohol, that didn’t mean to say that she might not be making poor choices elsewhere in her life. Who was I to judge whose lot was the happiest one?
It was unhelpful to make comparisons with other people. Understandable maybe, but unhelpful.
The best way to stay on track when it gets tough is to focus on yourself. Forget other people. Look at where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to go and give that your attention and energy.
I’ve realised how much strength I’ve gained from stopping drinking and letting go of my “crutch”. It has been tough at times, but this has enabled me to grow and learn so much more than I might have done had I not had this problem. I look back now and can see that, although things felt unfair when I first started not drinking, everything that has happened in my life has been a gift and has happened for a reason and has given me strength, understanding and purpose.
Now I'm secure in my sober lifestyle, I can look back and see that I am the lucky one. Because I have had to work the “problem”, I have gained so much more.
So, if you find yourself asking “Why me?” you might not know the answer yet, but you can be sure there is one and it’s one that will empower you.
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