Why Do I Keep Choosing To Drink When I Want To Be Sober?
January 16, 2018Alcohol
People often ask me why they keep choosing to drink when they genuinely want to be sober.
I asked myself that same question many times for many years. My diets and periods of abstinence ended in binges, time and time again.
Already, after a couple of weeks, there are many people who have tried to have a dry January but have failed. They have openly admitted this.
These people don’t necessarily drink a lot in total but they do tend to rely on a glass of wine emotionally in an evening to help them relax and switch off.
They see themselves as sensible drinkers. They use mood-altering substances and processes to help them deal with the stresses and strains of their lives. That seems rational enough to them. It may work for them in their lives. And it did in mine for many years.
Nowadays I make different choices. I move away from unrewarding relationships. I change my work if it no longer gives me the pleasure it once did. I stop doing things that I find damaging. And I continue to do things that are self-enhancing.
For example, I loved being a doctor but I haven’t worked as a doctor for the last nine years. Regulations and restrictions took away all opportunity to innovate. I want to be my sort of doctor, doing work that I value, not being merely a unit of production in someone else’s Grand Design. So I work nowadays as a counsellor. I am not able to prescribe drugs and I don’t want to do so. I like personal contact with human beings, not zombies.
And, for similar reasons, I no longer want to run an in-patient rehab. I did that for 23 years and loved every minute. But the imposed administrative and financial burdens have taken away all the creative stimulus. Today I enjoy working on an out-patient basis on my own. And my patients benefit from receiving my undivided attention.
My life belongs to me. I do what I choose to do with it. I no longer choose to drink – or use any mood-altering substance – because I’ve learned that I don’t have the gift for doing so without damaging myself and the people close to me.
There are still various external stressors in my family life and professional life. Of course there are. But stress would be the internal reaction in how I react to those stressors. I choose to accept them as they are if they are generated by other people. I can’t change them. But I can change myself and I do.
I’m not the same person I was last year, let alone a decade or more ago. I learn new things and I incorporate them into my understanding. Then I make decisions on whether or not I want to change my actions and reactions.
I doubt I shall choose to go back to drinking alcohol. I would risk losing my marriage, my work, my friendships and social activities. That would be a huge amount of loss in exchange for minimal – if any – benefit. Reflecting on that prospect, it strikes me that surrendering my abstinence – and all that goes with it – would not be a rational or positive choice.
But I’m an addict. I have an addictive nature. That’s my natural state in the same way that I’m short-sighted, allergic to bee-stings and have osteoporosis. I can’t change any of those things. I have to learn to live with them and minimise their potential to cause me damage.
I follow exactly that principle with my addictive nature. I acknowledge it. I don’t say I have ‘a bad habit’ or ‘a bit of a problem’. I’m an addict. I can say dammit, if I want to do so, but that won’t change anything. I have to change my behaviour.
I do that by remaining abstinent and by working the Twelve Step programme every day. My addictive nature is still there. I know that. But it has no effect on me nowadays precisely because I do accept it. Far from using determination and willpower to keep it at bay, I simply acknowledge it, work the Steps, and get on with my life.
The end result is that I’m reliable – to myself and to other people. That saves an enormous amount of hassle and grief and gives me choice. I do the things I want. I never find myself in the position of doing things I don’t want to do. I have a simple, straightforward, loving and lovely life.