Monday, March 12, 2012

Just Don't Drink: A Lazy Person's Guide to Alcohol Abstinence

Whereupon one person's solution for the alcohol problem is posted for the world to see. It's not so much a testimonial, as it is like TV's Seinfeld, a show about nothing.

Which suits me fine, just as HAMS, my preferred resource for alcohol abstinence, is (to paraphrase another member) "a support group for people who don't want to be in a support group." Very true, while allowing that both support and groups are wherever one finds them.

More after the NSFW commercial break:

Mother's Day, 2011: That afternoon, I finally got out of bed. My eyes had opened and shut plenty of times, while lying awake. Half of my mind scrambled to recall what I had done last night. And the night before, and the events that led up to... nothing. Incidents that bounced around my skull, shrouded by an impenetrable fog of lost memory. Scientists will diagram the Higgs boson particle sooner than I will remember what happened. The only thing I am sure of is that I didn't leave the apartment. Take that, "yets." My drinking being far from ideal, I always practiced what HAMS had taught me: to keep my drinking safe. This meant no solo drunken ventures through the neighborhood, much less behind the wheel of my vehicle.

The other half of my mind didn't give a fuck. Because here I was, once again, losing another beautiful Sunday... another weekend... to recover from heavy drinking that happened Friday night. Saturday was gone from the history file, a day spent mostly sleeping and drinking water, just enough to buffer and disperse the remaining toxic elements floating around in my system. Leftovers from the 12-pack or so of whatever it was that I drank the night before.

So there it was, again. The past four or so years, I had attempted to drink alcohol at a level that I could negotiate. I was ready to take my fair share of hangovers, as long as I continued to enjoy myself while progressing from my former life in A.A. That was my view, seen as a matter of simple cost and benefit. Only thing is, the past few months had seen little to no benefit whatsoever. There was no fun, unless you count that little jolt of anticipation, often felt on the way home from a day of hard work, of knowing that in a little while I'd be at home drinking beer and getting buzzed.

Photobucket Now, on this sunny Sunday afternoon, I sat in my apartment. That I was depressed is regarded here as a matter of degree, and not of occurrence. And at some point today, I was going to have to call both my maternal units, to wish them a happy Mother's Day, and tell them I was doing fine... all the while feeling my internal meter tapping the hot side of my bullshit detector, swaying in and out of the red zone. The B.S. DetectorTM... it's not only aimed at others anymore.

That was the point I decided I was done drinking. I called my parents and wished them well, while avoiding any pronouncements of quitting (i.e. taking their Mother's Day, and making it about me and my own realizations). I did this while nursing the last four beers in the fridge. Drinking these did not set me off on an alcoholic binge, or cause me to lose my resolve to quit. I was secure in my knowledge then, as I am ten months later, that I was done.

I am done. Is it as simple as that? Five years ago, I had lunch with a friend and former sponsor, who wanted to know how I was doing since giving up A.A., just months prior. I told him about meetings of S.O.S. (Secular Organized Sobriety), whose main motto is Just Don't Drink. "That's it??" my friend replied to this. "I don't buy it... you know how alcoholics are! We need something to keep us busy, at least for the first year. 'Just don't drink?' I don't know if that cuts it."

Listening to this, I wondered if he had a point. Sitting around the crib all day never amounted to much gain in my life. Even while engaged in purposefully introverted activities like writing or music composition, I have found that to nourish my creativity, I have to get out sometimes, and actually do something, lest the finished product result in a tale of talking heads who regard all external voices as "mixed company." Sounds scarily familiar.

"For some, 'just not drinking' is enough." Raise your hand if you've never heard this in an A.A. meeting. I will not argue the intentions of any individual user, except to say that this narrative can be stated supportively ("There's no shame in taking extra measures around my drinking problem"), or with intent to manipulate ("It is only those few strong individuals who, with the combined might of Superman, Athena, and R. Lee Ermey, are able to just put the bottle down and go about their life").

Assuming that "just not drinking" includes things like eating, going to work, mingling with other humans, shopping, making music, reading, railing over politics on the internet, binging on favorite TV episodes with my roommate, and being wary of drivers whose attention is focused squarely on a handful of LED characters, versus that semi up ahead... then yeah, I'm just not drinking. But in a program where I have admitted that my life was unmanageable (and right off the bat, no less), "just not drinking" becomes a vilified state of dry-drunkenness, one that only some super-persons can accomplish. That is, if they really want to dismiss the benefits of this program...

Today, just not drinking is my default. It is no longer a daily goal, a gift from an external power, or even a side-benefit of (metaphorically) clean living. It is a given. There are no promises of an enlightened outlook, heightened connection with the world, or increasing mental stability. All these are out there, for any of us to find, on our own, or with others. My freedom from alcohol can be far less burdensome when positives such as these are manifesting.

Even in the most extreme state of sloth or dark doldrums, I still take time to get up, go to the kitchen, and take vitamins with my broccoli-and-cheese omelet. And it is during these doldrums that I am most aware and protective of my abstinence from alcohol; that for me, to drink while depressed would lead me back to a cycle of all-hat-and-no-horse drinking, offering the barest of benefits while incurring a heavy physical, financial, and psychological cost.

If it is fellowship that I want, I call a good friend, or someone in my family. "Going it alone," as they say.

If I have issues of depression, isolation, or low self-esteem, I ride it out as best as a person without insurance can do. The way I deal with this is through my own formula of nutrition, St. John's Wort, and (again) contact with friends, be it incidental or heart-to-heart.

"Just not drinking" has ceased to be an inflated fetish in my life that I must address on a daily basis. It's become a real no-brainer. Good advice to follow, not too hard to decipher, like "just not leaping in front of a bus"... a real appropriate concept, when considering Bill Wilson's simile of the jaywalker as a strawman created to be so ridiculous that it invites psychological projection from problem drinkers, those who have no problem saying "yeah, my thinking could be as crazy as that guy's, when I drank."

For some, not drinking is part of a package deal of spirituality, being restored to sanity, and service to others (i.e. alcoholics). To me, just not drinking is like remembering to breathe. I can always come up with activities that will better oxidize blood cells, but in the end, all I really need to do is breathe.


Anonymous said...

This was an interesting read and pretty much sums up my drinking and how I'm intending to deal with it. Fuck throwing away another weekend and feeling like shit until Wednesday only to do the same thing the following weekend.

B.S. Mechanic said...

Thank you for your comment and for your interest. The overdrinking experience that you describe matches the routine I used to engage in. My leaving this behind required nothing more than some introspection and cost/benefit analysis (ie "how is this routine working for me?"), without the unnecessary complication of analyzing character defects, or depending on a higher power. I wish you the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.I have been in AA 5 years and I currently have 72 days. A guy in the program does have a slogan: JDFD = Just Don't Fucking Drink.We were think of creating a plastic wristband similar to the WWJD ones!