1) Social gatherings are challenging.
Apart from the “friends” who you may lose through the act of becoming a teetotaller, the friends that you keep have to be interacted with very differently than before. It simply is no longer possible to interact in the same way. By being the only one, or small minority, in a group you are set apart. Although many people who have not had a problem with alcohol may insist that “you can just drink lemonade and still have fun” or words to that effect, the fact is that this is not the case. It is a torturous mine field for the ex drinker, and continues to be. Not drinking in a social group is a continual and enormous challenge, especially when it is such a polar departure to ones previous social role.
2) Alcoholism deludes you.
Many people “post-addiction” find it remarkably easy to spot other people with even the most subtle hints of dependency. But when you are in the shipwreck of addiction yourself it is impossible to find these traits within oneself. Essentially, the evil trick of the disease is that it tells you that YOU have not got the problem! Also, you are probably the only one who cannot see this. As is the insipid nature of addiction as you spiral into certain insanity.
This process also comes back in fits and starts during sobriety. The “go on, one won’t hurt” mentality, still comes on strong, but as time goes by ones defences become better supported and further reinforced.
3) A hobby helps.
The colossal void that sobriety provides (or should I say, that the absence of drink provides) is real, it is present and it will rear its ugly head if you let it. A hobby, or a collection of hobbies fills that void. And at the start of the journey any hobby, within reason, will do. A long sober gentleman and good friend of mine once said to me, “Just fill your time! As long as it’s not going to do you any more damage than you already have, just fill your time!”.
Another word in replacement of “hobby” could easily be “focus”. The detoxing mind (and I’m talking serious, dangerous, dangerous detox here, not fruit and veg smoothies for those privileged with time and money) is not good at “focus”. Start with a hobby and then move towards focus.
4) Alcohol is systemic in society. It is everywhere.
Alcohol is embedded in our culture. It is endemic, it is vastly prevalent and saturates almost every aspect of society. Almost every bill board has an advertisement for alcohol, every super market and every advert. The recently dry man will likely pick up on this far more than the rest of the public. Great marketing!
Over time these do diminish into the general fabric of society that we all see, but this is part of society that we are no longer part of. That is just the way it is.
5) “One day at a time.”
I have a relationship with Alcoholics Anonymous, similar to the one I have with the Catholic Church (I am not going to enter into the debate that either one or both of them are a “cult” or interchangeable phenomena). I come and I go. When I attend either, it is as refreshing as a spa break. When I do not, I know that I can go back at any time. One thing I do believe, is that a lot of the one liners in AA, or “slogans” as they are recognised in the rooms, have a lot of truth in them and “one day at a time” is no exception. In fact it is the fundamental commandment. It is the one line that makes the journey realistic and bearable, achievable and purposeful. Most of all, that slogan makes the journey human. Alcoholics Anonymous, along with any other organisation with the same purpose, is primarily human.
“One day at a time”, “Just for today”, “Keep it simple”, “Powerless not helpless”, “This too shall pass”, “Easy does it, but do it”, “Poor me, poor me….pour me another drink” and “Pass it on” can become the weaponry that every person on a sober journey can use to reflect, contemplate and inform their decision making.
With that in mind, I wish every one of my comrades in sobriety the strongest of hearts and minds in the coming fall and Christmas and hope you find joy and peace in the journey of sobriety. To all my friends and comrades who are still in the horrors of their own personal war, I pray that you find the hope for a brighter day and that you too walk in the light.
“The sooner you see life as a journey and not a struggle, you’re able to have a say in the destination.”