Progress, not perfection

Last Wednesday night I wanted to drink. Bad. Really bad.  I didn’t do it, thank God, but for a brief amount of time, I really wanted to.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how well things were going, and how that gave me anxiety.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop…and drop it did. My husband lost his job on Wednesday; the very job that allowed us to move into a nicer, bigger place and get out of our run-down apartment.  This happened 5 days after we moved in.  Five days!  Needless to say, the news on Wednesday put a huge damper on the happiness and fun of organizing and decorating our new home.   The first thing that struck me when he walked in the door when he should’ve been in class teaching was shock.  I didn’t know what to say or do or how to act, my mind was spinning and was full of racing thoughts.  What were we going to do?  How can we afford this house?  Are we going to have to break our lease and move somewhere cheap enough for my salary to afford?  Will it be worse than the last place we lived?  What did my husband do or say at work that changed things from the day before when all was well?  Why is everything falling apart after things have been going so well?  Where is God in all of this?  Why am I being punished?

The thoughts and questions filled my mind….and then, there it was….the thought that I hadn’t had in so long…

I want to drink to make all of this go away.  It worked in the past…it could work again.  The thought both intrigued and scared the hell out of me.

My husband had done a really smart thing.  On his way home from being canned, he called my sponsor.  She got to my house about five minutes before my husband and said something about being in the neighborhood.  I am so glad that she was there when he broke the news to me.  Not because I was really going to drink, I don’t think I was, but because she was there to help me remember all of the reasons that I don’t drink anymore.  Her very presence helped me, as they say in AA, play the tape through to the end. She didn’t have to say anything about it, I was already considering the consequences.  I could toss my two plus years of sobriety down the tubes and go get shit faced, but what would that accomplish?  The job loss would still be there when if I sobered up.  Knowing myself, it would likely end with jail or death, and even if it didn’t that night, I know that those things are just around the corner, because once I start drinking, I can’t stop.  Once the first taste of alcohol hits my lips, I lose the ability to choose what happens next.  It’s a crapshoot, and when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to take the chance.  Even though I knew that I wasn’t going to go buy booze, the fact that in a crisis that was my first thought, was terrifying.  I actively work my program, I talk to my sponsor often, I read and write about recovery, and here I was feeling like I might be back at square one.

As I have thought about it these last few days, though, I’ve realized a couple of things.  First of all, I am not back at square one.  The fact is, I didn’t drink.  I was in a moment of crisis, and I took the time to consider what would happen if I did.  That, clearly, is not square one.  Square one is me avoiding, denying, shutting down, and drowning out my feelings (or at least trying to) with gallons of booze.  Square one is me not caring about anything except changing the way I feel, by any means necessary.  No, this was not square one.  This is an alcoholic, recovery and all, having alcoholic thoughts.  There’s a saying in AA that goes like this:  Birds fly, fish swim, and alcoholics drink.  It’s so true!  And that was my second realization, no matter how far I get from my last drink, I will always be an alcoholic.  I may make progress – I have – and I may be firmly planted in the recovery community, but I will always be an alcoholic.  This is why they say that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful…it waits…for a weak moment, for a lapse in judgement, for your husband to lose a job.   It will always be there, so I must always be diligent.

I don’t know if you can tell by my little rant, but I was really upset and scared about my reaction to the situation.  I’ve calmed down now though, and the crisis has been downgraded to an inconvenience.  Within 24 hours of losing his job, my husband secured another one.  The pay isn’t quite as good, but it’s somewhere that he worked before and was loved and appreciated, and he is happy to go back.  He doesn’t start for a few weeks, but we’ll muddle through, and things will be alright.  In the last couple of days, we have returned to our normal, mostly happy, somewhat silly selves and have enjoyed working on setting up and unpacking our new house.  My thoughts have shifted from despair to hope, and from fear to taking action.  We are both amazed at our resiliency and how quickly we have recovered from this setback, in the past I would’ve been a big blubbery mess for a long time.   I have a renewed sense of dedication to the program of AA.  It works for me.  It gives me the life I have today.  I am rededicating myself to the program.  And why wouldn’t I?  It not only saved me two and a half years ago, it saved me again last week.


5 thoughts on “Progress, not perfection

  1. what great post!
    thank you for writing will help many.
    it is so frustrating, those thoughts…i don’t know why we think we shouldn’t have them…alcohol was our solution for so long! I will get a craving when something big and emotional happens…I can handle crisis, but emotions are harder for me. I call my sponsor, call someone…get to a meeting, meditate, whatever, and it passes quickly. But in a way I am grateful for those stupid, passing thoughts because of the reminder. And the reminder usually stays with me for a while before I forget again, get into a groove of just living…..
    thanks so much for sharing the process, and what a great husband, calling your sponsor…that is awesome support!

  2. Love this post. I do worry about what longer sobriety looks and feels like. This was beautifully written. You responded like I would in a crisis and I’m so happy to read how you worked through the emotions. Thoughts about drinking do not equal square one.

  3. Yay, You. What an inspiring post! I’m only 8 months in, so I was especially interested in what two years might look like. I suspect it will look pretty much like 8 months. I try, oh so hard, to stay in the third person when thoughts of a drink come. And they do. Sometimes just on sunny days when it occurs to me I could even enjoy them more “if” … I try to step away from the thought and watch it pass. “Oh, here comes one of THOSE thoughts again. I will wait. It will pass.” I can only pray I can maintain that perspective over the long term. Your post is a reminder of how necessary support is and how dire the situation can become without it. Thank you.

  4. Dear SoberGrace,
    So glad your hubby found another job.
    So glad you are showing me how to stay sober!
    Day 235 today!

  5. Terrific post. You have come through so well in my opinion. I’m nearly 11 years sober and I can still say when I feel overwhelmed and powerless drink can and does enter my head… It will I’m an alcoholic it is a chronic condition that I have to manage daily.
    Thanks for the inspiration

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