It can be challenging in sobriety to experience rituals you used to drink around. These can be office parties, weddings, 5 o’clock, or the super bowl. Luckily it wasn’t difficult for me not to drink on Sunday. It did provide some insight to explore memories of the past few super bowls and my behavior around drinking in general.
The last few years the Super Bowl has been my big drunk of the year. I would start drinking an hour before the game started and do so nonstop. I realized that every football game could be like this and started wanting to watch more games with people to have more excuses to drink until I couldn’t feel anything – not in my heart, not in my mind, and not in my body. I would just get numb. Somehow I thought this was great.
This year I spent the Super Bowl at an AA meeting. I got there early and stayed there late. I couldn’t help but think throughout the meeting that here I was circling up with people around a shared experience much like I would gather around a television somewhere with pitchers of beer covering the table. This was better. When I drove home I wasn’t at risk to kill someone.
The last year of my drinking I had learned to lie to people, even to myself, about drinking and driving. I was convinced if I had coffee the last 10-20 minutes of the night that I was sober and I could drive. I would start pulling it together just enough to convince people that I wasn’t completely out of it. Then I’d get in the car and head home. Somehow in my mind I really thought drinking for 3+ hours was all wiped out by a couple of cups of coffee. I’m lucky. I never killed anyone, crashed my car, or even got a DUI. I also think my ability to avoid these consequences made it difficult for me to own my alcoholism.
I was not a daily drinker. I could go out and have just a beer or a margarita over dinner. I often met people for drinks and had iced tea. I didn’t seem like an alcoholic. It was just that occasionally I would drink and be UNABLE to stop. I would rationalize that I so rarely drank it didn’t matter and hey, everyone deserves to cut loose right? So my one drink would turn into 10, sometimes more. In the end, my final drunk, I had 16 vodka Collins in less than two hours. It’s a wonder I didn’t get alcohol poisoning.
My sponsor has cautioned me that never really hitting a bottom could put me at risk for relapse. At the same time he acknowledges that my firm grasp on spiritual development helped me come to the program earlier than some and gives me some advantage in being able to work the program. I don’t dismiss his caution. There are still times I tell myself I am not alcoholic. Then I realize people who aren’t addicts do not have to argue with themselves about whether they are.
I never had a big bottom, but I never really built a life worth losing either. I skated by. I stayed in a miserable marriage, I never finished a degree or started a career, and I never managed any kind of financial stability or real independence. The only thing I had to lose was my daughter and while I didn’t lose her, I also didn’t have the kind of relationship with her that I do now. I never started a life.
I’ve had friends ask if I really won’t drink again. I don’t know, but I sure hope not. I’m an addict. I spent years trading one addiction for another. I wasted my twenties just skating by rather than pursuing my dreams. I don’t ever want to go back to that. So today, I choose not to drink. Sunday I chose to go to a meeting rather than a sports bar. For me, it was a lifesaving choice. It was only a matter of time before one of those binge drinking nights led me to kill myself or someone else. I am so grateful I was able to wake up and get help before something like that happened. I thank God every day that I’m sober. To paraphrase Anne Lamott, I believe everything I have to offer anyone depends on my sobriety. For those who do not know, Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies directly led to my decision to get help and get sober. Thanks Anne.