The obsession to drink and use can become so overwhelming in early recovery, that we give in just to stop the noise of our minds. I recall a desperate time of my addiction when I was in a constant battle with myself. More than anything, I wanted to quit drinking, but my thirsty addict-self was a monster inside me, breathing down my neck in repulsion of my weak sobriety. For me, it took getting into a treatment program to save me from that monster, but many people tackle the beast by simply getting a sponsor and working an honest program, or by recognizing the voice of the addict and not giving in to its desire to use. As a chronic relapser, my monster was well groomed by the end of my drinking. It knew if it became loud enough, I would do whatever it took to get it a drink. This was how the beast grew and overwhelmed me in the end.
In treatment, I spent six months with a mindset that I was never going to have a drink while I was in there. I had no money, no friends or family nearby, and no transportation. Leaving the facility would be a shot in the dark to nurture the beast, so he remained silent, but when I left the program to enter the real world, I would face the greatest challenge of my life. You see, the beast was growing inside of me all of those months, and now I was dealing with a terrorizing bully inside of me. He arose when I was at my weakest, and he caught me off-guard.
It was about seven months after treatment… one year and three months into sobriety, when the bully shadowed everything I learned in recovery. He was not backing down while I was emotionally grieving for the first time since I left the doors of the treatment center. The monster was so loud, it eclipsed my instincts to call a sober friend, or to go to a meeting. I was alone and it had me captive, so there I was face to face with my addict-self, and it was winning, but suddenly I whispered something that saved my life, “God, please help me right now. Please help.” My body was shaking as I thought about buying a pint of vodka, knowing exactly which liquor store I would make the purchase, and as I salivated for that warm buzz. Nothing was about to stop me, but when I whispered those words, I grabbed my backpack and ran; not to the liquor store, but right up the Berkeley Hills where the treatment facility was located. I walked into the sacred place and slid down into a wooden bench in front of the front desk where one of my closest peers just happened to be working that day. I melted into tears and told on myself, “I was just about to drink…”
I spent the remainder of the day inside that facility, joining my peers in groups and telling the woman what it felt like to be defeated by my emotions. I spoke to a couple of counsellors and went home feeling both drained and victorious. I had never overcome a craving of that magnitude, and it was empowering. What I didn’t know was that I was well on my way to defeating that beast inside of me. My cravings are far and few in-between these days, and they certainly don’t last very long when I stay with them and allow them to be part of my experience, without giving in to their greed for my sanity.
I’ve been sober for two years, eleven months and four days. The obsession to drink is far removed, but I’m not going to lie and say that I have won this battle. Just a few months ago I was side-swiped with devastating news and the first thing I wanted to do was buy a bottle of vodka. This came out of nowhere. Sometimes I can go months and deal with many emotional upswings and downswings without thinking about alcohol, but once in a great while, it will overcome me, and usually when it’s least expected. I think of recovery as a practice of NOT DRINKING. Every time I move through a craving without picking up, I’m exercising my sober-self, and my beast is finally backing down.
What keeps me from taking a drink these days is the self-respect I feel, the love I have for myself, and knowing that taking a drink will not solve anything. It will set me back and I do not want to feel like a failure. I have never felt so good about who I am, where I’m going and my sobriety. I’m simply happy and life is so much easier without an addiction to battle.
Although I can’t give you an exact day when the obsession to drink and use will diminish, I can tell you that the more you practice NOT using, the stronger you will become. And it certainly gets easier as time goes on. Think of the cravings as the treacherous road you must travel in order to get to your destination. Allow them to overcome your body once in a while, knowing that this road is temporary on your long term journey. The cravings won’t last more than a few hours, and usually they diminish within an hour. Sometimes we’ve got to walk through the fire to get to the oasis. Don’t let the beast take over your soul. It is your battle to win, and you are strong enough to claim your victory. Discover this for yourself; it is incredibly empowering!