I beat my drinking demon to a pulp today.
My illness and I fought — good and hard on the wrestling mat — and against all odds, I won. It was a terrifying match. I finished bloody, messy and exhausted…but I won.
In the middle of an otherwise ordinary workday, after months of sobriety, I suffered a very acute and sudden craving to drink; to sit in a bar and just…drink.
This is what I call a “deep craving episode.” They are powerful and real, and hard as hell to get through. Today, one almost took me down.
Suddenly I wanted to drink. Hard. I ached for the hit of alcohol sliding down my throat. I yearned for the rays of sunlight traveling through my veins. Slave to this thought, I sat at my desk and started to crawl out of my skin. I was craving with the deep desire of an addict – violent, unexpected and very real.
A frozen shot of vodka – A tall glass of Stella – The thick lovemaking sip of red wine. Relief – Lust – Beauty – Darkness. Something. Everything. Just a sip. Just two. Just a thousand. Please. I need to drink.
The craving, which started as a whisper, quickly became a storm. My mouth watered, my brain screamed, and my lungs ached.
A voice that sounded like mine whispered that today a drink would feel amazing. A drink would make me feel whole and perfect. I would be able to breathe deeply, and fit “right” inside of my skin. My problems would evaporate, seeming weightless and unimportant. Life would feel wonderful.
So. Fucking. Wonderful.
It would probably ruin and break me into little pieces again. It might throw me into another cycle of relapse. Yes, BUT…it would be so worth it.
It’s only been a few months of sobriety, it’s really no big deal if you drink today… You know the way out. You can do it again. My body started to tingle.
The voice wanted to give me permission to drink. It was out to convince me that I needed and deserved a drink.
This voice is not mine. I have enough years in this process to know this voice is not mine. The illness is a separate being. It lives in me – but it is not me.
After five years sober, it convinced me to pick up a drink, and caused a two year relapse. Two – horrible – years of emotional, spiritual and physical devastation — from which I barely crawled out from alive.
Drink. Just one. Just today.
I closed my eyes as I snowballed into insanity. I was prey to this force, and could not do anything but ride the wave. Like The Hulk, I was both victim and villain; virtually unfolding from myself as the voice continued to scream.
It’s lunchtime. Leave your desk and go drink.
My body shuddered; her words bigger, better, and bolder. My throat started to pulse with desire. My heart skipped a beat. Fuck. It was on. The wrestling continued.
God, please get this asshole off my chest. God, please.
A wave of strength took over me and I pushed her off unexpectedly, freeing myself.
I jumped out of my chair, grabbed my keys and fled. I cried as I ran down the parking lot. I needed to drive somewhere. Anywhere.
To your favorite steakhouse… Wouldn’t a steak salad hit the spot? Maybe paired with a nice thick French Cabernet in a beautiful, fat wineglass?
Tears trickled from my eyes as I turned the ignition. I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. Think through the drink – a crazy old slogan in my head.
That won’t work, Bitch. Playing the tape doesn’t work. Every consequence I pulled from my mind resulting from my drinking seemed minuscule and manageable – and worth it.
God, please don’t let me drink. I looked up through hot tears.
You might become a better recovery advocate if you drink. You will help others better if you go back to the drinking battleground. You can do this just one more time. For others. They deserve it. You deserve it.
Fuck you. To the illness – to the voice – to me.
I shook violently as I pulled into the parking lot of the steakhouse.
I had no idea how I got there. The entrance looked inviting, dark and sexy. I couldn’t feel my fingertips or toes. I was having a panic attack of the worse kind. I couldn’t breathe. There was no air.
What do I do, what do I do? Breathe, breathe. I want to drink. Please let me drink. Oh God, please do NOT let me drink. I looked at the door of the restaurant. Drink. I turned off the ignition. I was terrified of what might happen next. God, I don’t want to do this. My phone. Yes. Where is my phone?
I dialed, and got my sponsor’s voicemail. Shit. I dialed another sober sister. I needed a human on the other end of the line. Another miss. Fuck. My hands were shaking, and I was sobbing. I’m not getting enough oxygen to survive. I am going to die. I am going to die!!
Drink. I dial again, third try. Four rings. “Hello?” Oh, thank you, Jesus. “I want to drink and I need you to talk me off the ledge.” I blurted with desperation. My friend paused for a beat, told me to breathe, and that everything was okay.
I will be okay. I will be okay. I will be okay.
My friend took me back through my relapses, and reminded me how hard it was for me to find my way back. He reminded me how much I hate myself when I drink; how difficult it is to get back on track once I pick up again. He reminded me that the biggest consequence is the complete disconnect from the light when I drink.
Sure, I might get temporary relief and comfort from red wine, but my spiritual self is walking to the outlet on the wall and unplugging from everything that is positive and real. Everything that I have worked so hard to get. The lights go out with the first glass. I disconnect the minute that wine hits my throat. From myself. From God. From everything.
I closed my eyes and my breathing slowed.
We shared some silence, and I stopped crying. My friend reminded me it was Friday, that I had gotten divorced the day before, and my body and spirit were beyond exhausted. He asked me if I had been running on self-will and had taken on the stress of managing everything on my own… if I had worked on letting go.
My friend asked if I had eaten; if I’d slept enough lately. Had I exercised? Gone to a meeting? Talked to my sponsor? Helped another alcoholic? Taken time to pause? He asked if I had taken care of myself and not just others. No. No. Nope. Not much, no. No. I had not.
The air returned to the car, and I took a deep, shaky breath. I felt serenity spread from my center on out. His voice faded into the background, as I visualized a plug on a wall. The wall was made of light, and that plug, firmly attached, represented my recovery. It represented many days of connection, and all the beautiful work needed to get there.
I cannot unplug from that light. I just fucking CAN’T.
“Go eat now,” said my friend, snapping me back to reality. “Cry a little. Pray, breathe, and go eat.” Wise advice.
I thanked my friend, hung up, and drove to my favorite Mexican restaurant.
This may happen sometimes, if you are an alcoholic. This is the dance. Sometimes its easy, sometimes it’s not.
Sobriety can get a little fucked up, and sometimes it hurts like hell, but we never quit. We ask for help. We pray. We connect. We fight. For a lifetime, every day… one day at a time.
Today I am grateful for such a different experience. I am grateful for the battle, the knowledge, and the terror. Mostly, I am grateful for the grace of another sober day.
A version of this post first appeared on Pamela’s blog Sober Mami, and was edited for this audience. Follow Pamela on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and You Tube!
Pamela started her Recovery journey from alcohol addiction in 2009. After five years of being sober, she drank. It took two years of chronic relapse to find her path back to sobriety. Those two years turned out to be pivotal in her approach to recovery.
Today, Pamela is an advocate for recovering out loud, putting a face to alcoholism and life beyond addiction. She is a Certified Professional Recovery & Life Coach and has developed the platform SoberMami, an online resource for those seeking hope and recovery support.
Pamela is a studio executive producer and lives in Dallas with her son Stefan.