“The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.” – Alcoholics Anonymous – Chapter 3 More about Alcoholism
There are some sweeping statements in that quote. However I do myself continually come across people who will either not address their current drinking either because they believe they are on the road to getting it under control or who persistently have to have another go at controlling it – often with disastrous results.
Let me state here that if you can stop, postpone, cut down etc. etc. and then get to a point that with alcohol you can “drink normally” fantastic for you I applaud you. However it is so fascinating for me from a psychological point of view that many have this obsession as described above. I remember the end of my drinking vividly. I was beaten by the bloody stuff. I’d waged a bizarre inner war for years, and particularly the last 13 months of my drinking to “get it under control”. Every period where I thought I had control was followed by a realisation that it was back out of control. I moved from an every day drinker to a very unpredictable binge drinker. So I rolled up at rehab a few days off the drink and spent the first morning trying to find the “how to drink normally group”. They didn’t run that there – their position was as outlined further on in the chapter I’ve just quoted. Abstinence was the only way.
I remember sat in a group session and asking why did that have to be the solution. The counsellor said something like “If you had developed an allergy to peanuts that would mean they could kill you would you still eat them, only a few less?” I’d never thought like this. I then hear “the first drink does the damage”. “No it doesn’t!” I protested. It was the 7th or 8th… or the 9th or 12th… to my way of thinking. Again someone sighed and patiently said “But if you don’t have the first you’ll never have an issue with the 9th will you?”
Seriously normal drinkers reading this will at this point be frowning, of rolling their eyes or thinking “you have to be kidding me”. But no, trust me it is possible to get into your 40s with a 25 year serious drinking habit and this concept be completely and utterly new to you and shocking in the simplicty of the genius way to address the problem of drinking too much alcohol. That is to simply not drink any at all… doh!
As I say throughout my recovery I continue to meet people who still want to push that envelope and see whether they can drink normally. I have had to smash that thought in my head – drink to me is a poison. My year long battle with it at the then taught me that even after 6 or 7 weeks without any alcohol passing my lips, that if I had one drink one day the inevitable was that another day, maybe not the next or the one after that, but sooner of later, I’d find myself back at the 8th or 9th or 12th and baffled, bewildered and unable to stop again, at least for a few more days.
To look back further after many years going “I was ok until… x happened… or y time etc.” I realised I got right back to my earliest drinking as a teenager and I did not ever drink normally. I drank on my own, more than others around me, got sick, got into trouble, etc. and still I drank day after day after day.
But still I meet those also who know nothing of my battle who are probably themselves able to drink with impunity as they’ll have a few, feel full up with it, stop and not worry until the next celebration or appropriate event. These people seem sometimes to be bamboozled when I say “I don’t drink at all”. I explain it isn’t good for me and they say “But you’ve been sober so long. One surely couldn’t hurt now”… I bet if they offered me certain seafood and I said “Years ago I had one of those. I came up in this huge allergic reaction all red blotches that were really uncomfortable and itchy”. They wouldn’t say “One now surely will do nothing”.
Is this “Drinking Normally” thing then a society imposed condition on us? Increasingly I personally think it is. There is a new advert on the tv that shows all kind of people in all kinds of situations all drinking beer – with the slogan of “there’s a beer for that” showing that if you aren’t a drinking beer in these situations you don’t fit in. I think that ad on it’s own just shows the kind of conditioning that we accept repeatedly again and again.
I’d love to make a new version of this… Pissing your pants as you stagger home from the pub… there’s a beer for that. Throwing up in the street at 4pm after a long lunchtime session … there’s a beer for that. Losing the respect of your family … there’s a beer for that. etc. etc.