I’ll start by saying that I didn’t drink today. While I know this is a victory it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Today, for the first time since I stopped drinking, I had a such a strong urge to drink that I had to physically flee. My company was having its monthly open bar party and the temptation was so strong to go (and of course going most certainly wouldn’t have led to having drinks) that I literally had to get the Hell out of Dodge.
I felt so angry about this. This feeling wasn’t just a “wow, I wish I could have a beer right now,” or a “what a shame that I can’t join my friends at the bar tonight” type of feeling; it was an angry and irrational “how has your life become so out of balance that you literally cannot step foot in a room with alcohol” type of feeling. It didn’t help that in the hours leading up to the party I had four people come by my office to ask when I was headed over. Each time I awkwardly–even sheepishly–said I wasn’t going. The thing is, I got the feeling that no one believed me. “Not going drinking? That’s not like Dag!” I felt so weak. To make it worse, throughout the evening I kept getting texts: “Where are you?” “When are you coming?” “Up for [random bar] afterward?” The onslaught was vicious and didn’t stop for hours.
I’m the champion of pushing feelings deep down. I’m the guy who seemingly takes it all in stride. I’m the guy who people think never gets angry. I’m affable, though often aloof. I’m the guy who cracks the joke to ease tension. I can’t remember the last time I cried. And here I was driving home from work, tears in my eyes, because I couldn’t drink.
But it was deeper than that. I was also angry at the fact that I found it so hard to stay away from the party, so hard to say no. I think for the first time since I stopped drinking I’ve realized that I really am an alcoholic. Like, for real. People that have a normal relationship with alcohol don’t cry tears of anger if they can’t get it. Up until today part of me thought that maybe I was just playing at this whole bit. In the back of my mind I kept thinking “maybe I’m not really an alcoholic, maybe I just need to slow down.” Well, tonight killed that notion. The fact that I was so irrationally angry that I started to cry made me realize that I’m not just playing at alcoholism; I am an alcoholic. Any thought I have on the matter that tells me otherwise is a lie.
I’m still angry, but less so than before. A little bit of rationality has returned to my mind. Tonight was a kick in the pants that reminds me that this journey is going to be a lot of work. I know, though, that tomorrow’s going to be easier. And I know that at some point joy will return to the journey. For the time being though I have one tangible grace that I can hold onto–the grace of knowing that for the sixth night in a row I’m going to bed sober.
Art: The Polar Sea, 1824, by Caspar David Friedrich