From alcohol addiction to social drinking: a taste of Heaven or return to Hell?

…by Kate Benet…

Marc here: Perhaps the one question I get asked most often is whether it’s possible to go back to safe use (of alcohol or other substances) after being addicted. So, after reading Kate’s story, please reserve half a minute to read my comments at the end. It seems crucial to embed the diversity of people’s experiences in a general framework that can make sense of them all.

………..

Now, Kate:

Approaching my 25-year anniversary of sobriety in early September 2019, I had thought for weeks, if not months, about whether I could now drink moderately. I had been sober way more years in my life than I had spent drinking (now 57 years old). More importantly, my life in the past 25 years had changed dramatically for the better. I had worked hard for years to create a stable and rewarding life.

I read a lot on the internet about whether moderate drinking was possible after a long abstinence. I read the posts on this blog with great interest. I talked through my thought process with my husband, a normal drinker, and he was supportive of my wish to be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine or good craft beer now and then. This is what I had missed over the years. Those certain occasions when it is so nice to be able to add alcohol to the experience: a fine dinner or a sunny afternoon relaxing on the porch. He was supportive — whether I had a drink or did not, whether I tried it and continued, or tried it and stopped.

Last Saturday night I took the plunge and had one glass of red wine. Waves of fear washed over me. The experience was surreal. Who was I? What was this thing that I was doing? The wine tasted fantastic. I could feel the effect but, amazingly, I did not like it. This was in stark contrast to how I used to experience alcohol, thinking the taste wasn’t too bad and the effect itself was incredibly nice.

One week after this experience I can say this. The unleashing of craving from this one drink after 25 years of absolute sobriety was beyond belief. It   was like the 25 years had never happened. The portal to a horrible, frightening feeling had been opened. I had the sense of a dual persona hovering at the edges of my life, ready to be activated in full.

In the days that followed that one drink I was gripped with craving and mental obsession about when I could reasonably have another.  When I went to work on Monday, to a challenging job that I enjoyed, in my new “maybe a drinker” mindset, the job felt too hard on many subtle but powerful levels.  My feelings towards my husband and my children shifted ever so slightly. I felt annoyance at first, and then a more ominous sense that I would not be willing or able to navigate the nuanced ups and downs that are human relationships.

No one would be the wiser if I continued along this path. Outwardly it would look the same. I could force my life to keep going. But there was something really wrong with how it felt, to me, internally, at a deep and vivid level — that this would be a disastrous path. The degree of effort and struggle that would be introduced into my life would be dreadful. That became obvious — painfully obvious.

One week later the ripples from throwing that stone in the pond are finally settling down and I know I will never do that again. If there are times in the future that trigger my thoughts about the pleasures of drinking, instead of feeling deprived, I’ll think back on this experiment and I will remember how lucky I am.

Not everyone will have this kind of experience. Some people can drink moderately after a long abstinence. Some will have matured out of the problem. I am just not one of those people. I hope this helps anyone else who is facing the big choice. If you are like me, trying to drink again unleashes a unique sort of hell.

………..

Marc again: When I speak to naive audiences, as I did on Wednesday to a group of college students, I often remark that roughly half of those classed as problem drinkers (those with an “alcohol use disorder” in the current DSM parlance) can return to “social drinking” or “safe” drinking at some point. (There’s plenty of research on this, but perhaps start with James Morris, who specializes in alcohol misuse research and intervention with a harm-reduction focus.) Then, during the Q&A, I often get asked, as I did last week, how to know which side of that 50%-line you (or a loved one) might fall on.

To me, Kate’s tale packs at least two take-home lessons: Lesson 1 is that many people can’t return to controlled/social drinking, so the harm-reduction approach is just wrong for them. And the harm can be insidious. It can start off unconscious and quickly become entrenched. This is of course the nose-dive, we-told-you-so, addiction-doing-push-ups message that AA flaunts unceasingly. And…it just happens to be relevant — for many people. Lesson 2 is that one drink doesn’t usually wreck your life and destroy everything you’ve been working to achieve. In other words, it is possible, and sometimes highly desirable, to examine, to question, and to explore your options — as Kate did. Certainly that is NOT the message we get from AA.

To guide your thinking further on the social issues, psychological issues, and available help associated with Harm Reduction for alcohol, I encourage you to check out HAMS (Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support), founded by Kenneth Anderson, now co-led by April Wilson Smith. Also check out their recent book, a collection of  intimate memoirs introduced with a brief but comprehensive overview: BETTER IS BETTER! Stories of Alcohol Harm Reduction. A guest-post by April is coming up soon.

 

 

 

42 thoughts on “From alcohol addiction to social drinking: a taste of Heaven or return to Hell?

  1. April November 17, 2019 at 1:58 am #

    Great post Kate! I think your story perfectly illustrates the power of choice: you had a drink, didn’t like the effects on your mental health and life, so you quit, and very quickly. There were no jails, institutions or death, just a decision based on what’s right for you.

    You’re fortunate that you were able to make the decision so easily. I think it’s often hard for people who have been steeped in treatment and AA but who have never really bought into the idea of “sobriety” all the way to make such a clear decision. If you actually want to be a moderate drinker, but you’re exposed to constant scare tactics about how one drink will kill you because you’re a strange genetically altered mutant called an “alcoholic” and never will be otherwise, you end up very conflicted. I’ve read studies that the biggest determiner of if you end up drinking moderately or abstaining all together is not severity of alcohol use or length of time, but exposure to treatment and AA. In my experience, AA reinforces the obsession with alcohol. Anything you talk about all the time will grow bigger and bigger in your mind… how could it not?

    I wish I had never been exposed to AA or any sort of treatment. The layers of shame piled upon what had previously been the identity of a strong, successful woman from the time I was like twelve didn’t stop me from drinking for all that long, and didn’t help me address the serious issues that caused PTSD so bad that I couldn’t get treatment that I could afford until a Robin Hood group took me on for free.

    I totally support your choice to remain alcohol free. For many of us, that is the best decision, much like avoiding desserts is a good choice for some who have battled their weight, even after they’ve achieved their goals. I don’t talk about my personal choices in public, any more than I announce my weight or bra size. It’s nobody’s business, in my opinion. But I will say that I make my decisions based on my own health, both mental and physical, not on some ideal of “sobriety.” I’ve played recovery supergirl (see upcoming post!) and it did not go well.

    I’ve gone from, “I’m April and I’m an alcoholic,” to “I’m April and if that’s a problem for you, I suggest you enjoy your day elsewhere. Nice to meet you.”

    • F.A.K. Nasser November 17, 2019 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks Marc and all readers and contributors on sharing their thoughts.
      I have studied chemistry and basic medical sciences at Wayne state university decades ago. My focus was on alcohol and rest of drugs of abuse!
      I have concluded that it is about “ connections” if one want to summarize the whole thing in one single word. Connections with yourself , within you, with your parents , with your immediate social mini environment your friends, your outward world ! Draw circle around you! You are in the center then draw another circle think who is in this first circle is it your girl friend or your brother mother father etc then move on to next circle!!! The very first point is you yourself ! Your life is your purpose your goal ! You must define the beginning. Exercise long walk and drink only water if you are thirsty do not drink anything else other than hot tea or coffee beside water.
      good sleep , daily shower. Walk and walk in nature this is part one!

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 4:39 am #

      Hi April,

      I agree with your assessment of how militant AA can be, but I want to say also that AA’s place in my path to a better life was invaluable. I attended for years and now have not attended for years, but my life would not be as good as it is today if not for what I learned in AA, and I continue to practice much of what I learned there. Over time I developed my own understanding of what did and did not work for me, even though some in AA would not condone my decisions.

  2. Mark November 17, 2019 at 6:00 am #

    Marc, my understanding of the brain is that it evolved to enable us to move through the environment that makes up daily world. And still continues to. One of the things I’m curious about is how seldom VENUE is ever considered in addiction studies or many neuroscience studies in general. My brain feels like a much different energy and information processor in a safe, social setting, for example, than it does in say, an fMRI scanner.

    Might venue / environment also be a critical variable for addiction studies as well?

    • Nicolas Ruf November 17, 2019 at 8:55 am #

      State-dependent learning and dissociation.

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 4:45 am #

      Hi Mark,

      When I had my one glass of wine, I was in as safe a setting as could have been possible (relaxing on our porch with my husband), but the torrent of mental obsession and struggle that followed that one drink certainly belied that reality. I’ve come to the conclusion that ,for me, I think the danger is baked in my DNA, and it is just not worth playing with that.

  3. Annette November 17, 2019 at 7:12 am #

    Thanks for your raw honesty Kate and the myriad feelings you got after having that one drink. I was a career drinker 45 years and ended up with really poor mental health – almost psychotic.

    I quit at 62. I’ve tried the occasional small drink: 300 ml of cider or lager (wine was my poison), after 2 years sober. They taste of the chemicals they’re made from, and I felt very ‘whoo whoo’ after drinking – a familiar state in the decade before I finally turned off the tap. Dissociated from my body and soul is what it really felt like.

    Nowadays, my mental health is the most precious commodity I have and I treasure the feelings of peace and connection I now enjoy. I took 6 decades to get here (early childhood trauma) and I’m not relinquishing it – ever!

  4. Paul November 17, 2019 at 9:03 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story Kate.

    Your words resonate with me because in August I decided to have my first drink in 15 years to help me bounce back from some employment challenges. It was a risk for me to do this because one drink could have led to two, three, four and more, and consequently a return to the destructive behaviours that made me abstain in the first place. However, I only ended up having one pint of Guinness on that afternoon in August because I didn’t enjoy it, so it made me realise that the taste of alcohol belongs to my past and not to my present or future.

    Whilst reflecting on the experience later on in the evening I also realised that my first drink in 15 years was more evidence of how I’ve changed, grown and developed in that time, so this reinforced to me that destructive behaviours belong to my past and not to my present or future.

    This experience also taught me that I can now consider having a more relaxed outlook to alcohol in that I don’t have to keep striving to achieve another year of abstaining to prove that I’ve changed. Paradoxically though, this means I’m also prepared for the possibility that there could be another challenge in the future that includes me handling it by having one drink again to help me move forward, but as things stand I’m pleased and relieved that alcohol is not on my radar.

    Wishing you peace and positivity with your journey.

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 4:52 am #

      Hi Paul,

      Ultimately I decided that it just isn’t worth the hassle of trying to figure out if alcohol can peacefully exist in my life. I also used to have eating issues, which I worked for years to resolve and I now have a completely peaceful relationship with food. I liken how alcohol should exist in my life to how I now relate to ice cream: I love it, sometimes eat it often, and sometimes forget about it altogether. My experience with that one drink was nothing like that. I felt a bit sad that adding alcohol back into my life was not going to work for me that same way but also knew, after weighing the pros and cons of resuming drinking, that my decision to stop again was a no brainer.

      • Paul November 19, 2019 at 9:13 am #

        Thanks Kate.

        I’m pleased that I’ve now also got the skills to reflect on and evaluate my decision-making so I’m aware of what does and what doesn’t contribute to my sense of peace, contentment and fulfilment.

        Abstaining from alcohol in 2004 led to my interest in reading psychology literature to try and understand my brain and behaviour, so Marc’s superb blog and books certainly help with this ongoing mission!

  5. William Abbott November 17, 2019 at 9:04 am #

    This is a very unusual and sadly extreme story of those who do try to return to social drinking after a period of abstinence. The best data on this comes from Bill White and suggests that about 30 % can- as indicated by drinking but no longer meeting criteria of AUD”.

    The point is we are all different but the bottom line is if once you had a problem you are more likely to have it again. and the only way to find out is to try it.

    I got curious after year 3 and tried it and learned I’m not one of the 30percent.

    So now, when often asked about it, I say it’s your choice but if things are ok-good now why? and why risk change them?

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 4:53 am #

      Hi William,

      I could not agree more, and that was ultimately my decision as well.

    • Jaime Robles November 20, 2019 at 8:33 am #

      William,

      Can you provide a citation to the data that comes from Bill White? Thanks.

    • Marc November 20, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

      I’m sure it’s around 50%, Bill. And most of the data originates with NESARC.. As per Jaime’s question….I’ve reported on this stuff in several places and don’t have time to look it up now. Pretty easy to find, though. White is a motive force.

      Or every imaginable data source is linked here: https://findings.org.uk/

  6. Colin Brewer November 17, 2019 at 9:13 am #

    Kate’s story reminds me of a lapsed Catholic who had an abortion soon after they became legal in Britain c 1967 after a lot of very public opposition from organised religion, especially the Catholic variety. As she came round from the anaesthetic, she suddenly leapt out of bed and ran round the ward screaming that the devil was pursuing her with a red hot poker. No need for profound Freudian pseudo-insights there. If people have been brainwashed to believe that moderate drinking is impossible once you’ve had any sort of drink problem, it’s not surprising if many of them behave accordingly. What I used to say to patients who asked if they could ever drink moderately was: ask me again when you’ve been dry for at least a year and sorted out any significant problems. If they had been on Antabuse for that year, then I would want them to stay dry without it for at least another six months. By that time, many were not so interested in the idea but if they still wanted to try, then I suggested they made a plan with their spouse/partner or a good friend who would agree to let me know if it didn’t stay moderate. (‘Moderate’ was carefully defined.) I never encouraged the experiment and always reminded them that the failure rate was not negligible; and that if they failed, they should take the hint. I published a follow-up of a patient who successfully combined spouse-supervised Antabuse during the first 2-3 days of the week with unproblematic social drinking at weekends (when it had never been a problem). He worked out that combination by himself and he had kept it up for 14 years when I wrote the article. Controlled drinking as a primary treatment aim in people whose drink problems are not at the severe end of the spectrum is no big deal on this side of the Atlantic.

    • April November 17, 2019 at 10:08 am #

      That’s very sensible, and I agree that involving a trusted loved one is way better than drinking in secret. However, I think it’s important to watch out for the relationship you’re in with that “trusted person.” If it’s a power relationship where the person “supervising” has power or can guilt the person trying to moderate, things are way too complicated. I don’t like the term “spouse-supervised.” Spouses should not be supervisors, in my opinion. In my organization, Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support, we encourage people to make their own decisions. If that includes having a spouse help them stay accountable, great. However, in the group of almost 1000 women that I moderate, many husbands use a woman’s drinking as a weapon against her – everything is her fault because she drinks. Their attempts to control their wives/girlfriends tend to drive more drinking, not less. It’s tricky.

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 5:00 am #

      Hi Colin,

      Personally, I could not imagine putting that level of effort, including taking Antabuse, just to be able to drink. The idea for me was being able to have alcohol take up a low maintenance and pleasant place in my life. Probably many people would not have viewed my relationship to alcohol as problematic before I got sober. But I knew the desperate truth of how it affected me internally, whether or not my outward life showed any measurable signs of decline.

      Fast forward 25 years to my experiment of a couple months ago, and I would not say my decision was because I have been brainwashed into believing I cannot drink moderately. I made a personal choice that the effort of trying to be a social drinker was just not worth it to me.

  7. Nicolas Ruf November 17, 2019 at 9:16 am #

    ‘Moderation Management’ redux? People who can control their drinking or other drug use do so and mature out of their ‘problem’. People who can’t control their use want to, try to, plan to, promise to, but alas. . . . Ever drink or use in spite of yourself? Better quit.
    Best wishes.

    • April November 17, 2019 at 10:10 am #

      Do people who try to control their eating to lose weight ever eat cheesecake in spite of themselves? Sure. Do we insist that they go on a strict calorie restricted diet and never eat another sweet for the rest of their lives on account of it? No. 66% of the US population is overweight or obese, with huge health consequences. Food is an addiction, just as much as alcohol. But no one takes the all or nothing approach to food..

      Though I did give up bagels for a year. I guess I’m a bagel-a-holic.

  8. Denise November 17, 2019 at 9:30 am #

    Thank you, Kate, for your thought-provoking essay. What struck me in particular was that the story didn’t end after you loved the taste but didn’t like the effect. At that point, reading it, I thought, well, that’s that. But then you say you started having intense cravings for alcohol, despite not liking its effect. This suggests to me that the craving is directly related to a physical connection your body/brain has to the substance. Why else would you crave something you didn’t like? In my experience, trying substances after long periods of abstinence has resulted in saying, god, how could I ever have liked that, and then leaving it alone. Given the mind/body split, in which the body has the power to win over the mind, the message to Stay Away is loud and clear!

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 5:05 am #

      Hi Denise,

      I could not agree more. I have a lot of respect for the freight train that was awoken in my body and was not going to stand in front of that!

  9. Steve K November 17, 2019 at 9:43 am #

    There are different reasons, or interacting factors that can lead to addiction and we’re not all the same in this respect. We each have are own pre-determining factors and life experiences and circumstances, and it’s not one size fits all regarding treatment modality and recovery experience. However, I think choosing to drink again after experiencing long- term, well established and serious addiction is very risky and the odds don’t favour success in my opinion. Many in AA have had very serious problems with addiction and are very lucky to be alive, so rightly they are advised against taking such a life- threatening risk. There are also many in the general population with less serious and engrained histories of addiction where such a risk is more reasonable and more likely to be successful, and so it’s for each individual to decide based upon their experiences and intuition. I know where I fall upon the spectrum of risk and it’s not one I’m willing to take, nor do I have any inclination to do so either!

    I think that the addiction researcher and recovery historian, William L White’s well informed view in relation to a closely connected issues is wise, balanced and worth listening to…

    “People often note my reference to resolution of alcohol and other drug problems without professional treatment or recovery mutual aid involvement, but they often fail to mention (because it doesn’t support their argument) the tandem conclusion that the probability of this sharply declines as problem severity, complexity, and chronicity increases—this is the major difference between follow-up studies of community samples and follow-up studies of clinical samples.”

    Bill White. November 6th 2015.

    While the above quote isn’t referring to the particular issue of returning to drinking again after a long period of abstinence, I think that the principle is the same… those with serious and complex histories of addiction are much less like to be successful in a return to drinking or substance use.

    See my blog article on the ‘Multiple Pathways to Addiction and Recovery’…
    https://12stepphilosophy.org/2018/09/25/the-multiple-pathways-to-addiction-and-recovery/

  10. Richard Henry November 17, 2019 at 10:04 am #

    I was an alcoholic and drug addict for 25 years. (Substance use disorder) For me, substance abuse was driven by and used to escape my reality at the time. All the underlying issues in my life became so overwhelming I felt the need to relax those feelings.
    After substantial sobriety, education and most of all dealing with and bringing closure to all those issues did I realize that using was not the problem.
    Today I can and do have a drink on occasion along with other pleasures.
    My past does flare up thoughts of escaping and I have said “I’m going to get drunk” to myself and every time tried to overdo it without success.
    It just doesn’t have the same effect as in the past. I don’t drink to cover up or hide my underlying issues or problems in life and always bring closure to any issues in my life as they come forth.
    I am a Smart Recovery Facilitator, Educator and Author and just published my 3rd book, my first children’s book called A Visit to Papas’ where “Too Much” is not always good. at lulu.com
    I believe balance, equilibrium and/or homeostasis to be the goal for everything in life.
    Thanks for sharing Kate and Much Love Marc

    • Marc November 18, 2019 at 4:02 am #

      Good to hear from you, Richard, and to know that you’re still out there, sane and stable and dare I say happy? — and still connected to this blog. I wish you the very best!

  11. Helen November 17, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Closing in on 35 years sober…. State dependent learning, yes.
    A conscious choice, sobriety… At this point, there would be no point is taking that first drink. For what, because I can. No thanks.

  12. Eric Nada November 17, 2019 at 12:05 pm #

    Kate, Thank you for sharing your experience. Whether a return to moderate alcohol use worked out for you or not, I congratulate you for entering the grey area for a minute to explore it. And as observed, you were able to have a drink, experience the emotional results, and learn about yourself from the reaction you had. You were then able to make a decision based on what you learned. Although I didn’t feel the intense craving following my own return to alcohol use after 20 years, I certainly had very strong emotional and mental reactions. 20 years of what I call a traditional relationship to recovery did a number on my ability to experience the effects of alcohol spontaneously. It has literally taken a couple of years to start feeling normal about my new relationship to alcohol. But when it has come to nicotine, I totally relate. I have a profound craving reaction to my occasional use. I still use it as an opportunity to explore my relationship to craving (and because I like it, of course), but I don’t think I would have done so if I felt this way after using alcohol for the first time. Kudos, keep learning.

  13. Kent Hoskinson November 17, 2019 at 4:29 pm #

    Very interesting stuff. I struggled with substance abuse for 35 years, the only time I wasnt a daily drunk were the 5 years I was completely strung out on heroin, those were the only days I did not need a drink.With the help of Suboxone I quit everything for 6 years, and built a fantastic life, I trul;y found happiness at 53 yrs of age, after a lifetime convinced I was doomed to misery. I can now have a drink if I want, or eat the occasional cannibis edible, and have absolutely no desire to get wasted. For me the key was building a life where I dont need to blot out reality any more. I enjoy being sober,

    • Janet November 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm #

      You got off the elevator and found your floor. And you got to know yourself. Thank you for affirming this. Powerful.

    • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 5:14 am #

      Hi Kent,

      For me, it is only alcohol that seems to trigger craving. I take prescription lorazepam, a benzodiazepine, occasionally as a sleep aid and for anxiety, but never have a desire to take more than I need. I appreciate its place in my life, am grateful for it, but then forget about it when I don’t need it. Even only having that one drink set off a series of thoughts, feelings and craving that is nothing like what I have experienced with anything else in my life, ever.

  14. Donnie Mac November 17, 2019 at 5:31 pm #

    This conversation had been going on for decades , this from page 31 of the Big Book of AA .
    ” If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right- about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people!”

    I’m thinking it wouldn’t be of issue , if it was not an issue at the time .

    I want to say the Fritz Perl said it best ” I am my lab “

    • Marc November 18, 2019 at 4:00 am #

      Great comment, Donnie! Thanks for reminding us of both these portals of sagacity. I had no idea about page 31. I’ll try to keep it in mind. And the Perls comment: brilliant connection.

      • Kate Benet November 18, 2019 at 5:09 am #

        Hi Donnie,

        It’s funny you bring up that part from the Big Book because I thought about it as I prepared to take that one drink. I resisted the idea of it and did not want it to be true in my life. But it was. I don’t understand it, and I’m only speaking for myself, but I just do not have the same reaction to alcohol that many others have who can drink peacefully.

      • Donnie Mac November 18, 2019 at 3:39 pm #

        I am running out to get a tattoo that reads “Sagacious as F@ck” , Yeah Fritz eh , I think the smokes took him down , god love him .

    • Kent Hoskinson November 18, 2019 at 6:58 am #

      I did AA for about 5 years, I gained some good insight but overall, I had to move away. I am on the board of our states Harm Reduction Coalition and thru life experience think quite the opposite of what the book says. I believe if you can quit drinking just by attending meetings and finding a higher power, it must not be that bad. To me, I needed medication.Trust me, I was as hopeless as it gets, for decades.If there was such a thing as a “real” addict, it was me.I failed at AA and I also hate how AA would blame ME for that, implying I didnt work the steps right or something. But hey, ultimately I cheer on whatever works for different people. We can all agree that problematic substance use is hell itself.

  15. Kellie OConnor November 17, 2019 at 5:39 pm #

    Thanks Kate and Marc great post and comments. How would we learn anything if we don’t test and experiment. I see how making a quick describe based on the new evidence is important here. We don’t have to go too far down the hole before we make a correction.

  16. matt November 18, 2019 at 5:52 am #

    The causes and conditions that underlie any once harmful habit behavior are multifactorial.The decision to re-engage is fraught. The last time I made it, it was a childish pissy impulse because I was having a bad day in an unfamiliar place. I was exhausted. I believe you were there, Marc. The most positive thing about it? It was an opportunity to revisit my motivation for abstaining in the first place. I didn’t like the way it made me feel anymore. It reinforced my conviction. If I had been mulling around the idea for weeks before, however, that would have been a really bad sign– for me. It’s important to recognize when impulses for a once self-destructive behavior re-emerge and ask yourself: “How important is it?”

  17. Gary November 18, 2019 at 7:34 am #

    For “me” knowing what I know about my personality, thought process and the all or nothing attitude going back to drinking would be the biggest mistake I could make. I’ve been sober now since Wednesday Aug.17th, at 2:30 pm 1988. In my drinking career not once did I or could I ever pick up the drink in my head, it was just an illusion. How my mind would caress the thought of drinking, attempting to forecast an evening or daytime drinking event that would be a party of all parties. I would somehow magically turn into this calm, cool and slick persona. The reality was whenever I took a drink I was usually filled with fear knowing that one drink led to a very unpredictable experience. Almost every time I drank I had blackouts bouts of time I can never recall.

    The truth is, “for me”, why in the world would I ever want to drink again? I was never ever a so-called social-drinker I drank for one reason only and that was usually to get drunk. I only wanted to be “out-of-my-mind” and never liked the taste only wanted the high alcohol could provide. However, it came at a price emotionally, socially, with the law, relationships etc.

    My very first time I had gotten drunk I was 11 years old, had fallen off a local pier and it was a good thing it was low-tide because I landed in the mud flats then taken to the hospital due to an injured leg. The embarrassment was such that it seemed like drinking was the only thing to completely remove negative emotions even if in the moment.

    For me, to take a drink, knowing what I know would be nothing less than an act of insanity.

    I may still not know who I am but I do know who I am not and that is a “social-drinker”. “One drink” is all it would take to lead me back to a world of refunded misery.

    It’s important, for me, to look at my truth and the freedom I have had, which, is beyond measure, since I stopped drinking so many years ago.

  18. Dee-Dee Stout November 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

    Thanks for the story Kate and the honesty! I’ve had times in my nearly 35 years of traditional recovery (ie abstinence) when I’ve thought about trying to drink again. Ultimately I decided against it – for now. However the most important piece of that convo with myself was my own voice saying “it’s YOUR decision to drink or not.” And that’s it: MY decision. That to me is a most powerful statement. I’m no longer afraid of alcohol or any other drug. I understand why I used various all those years and gained insight into who I am and what I value. So for now no trials into moderation. But I may decide differently in the future! Btw as to p31 in the Big Book, this is one of the parts of the BB that I discuss in my book “Coming to Harm Reduction Kicking and Screaming” as partial proof of how harm reduction has always been a part of recovery and 12 Step! Cheers everyone! Dee-Dee

  19. Terry John McGrath November 18, 2019 at 10:40 pm #

    Its Russian roulette – many an alcoholic has the exact thought – could i drink again – but who would risk what they have gained unless there was a reason to (want) to drink again – i too have had two lengthy periods of sobriety, or what is called that, of around 7 years in past years and then thought i could drink again and like Kate while i didn’t like it all that much it set me off into loosing everything again in a short period of time so i too am like Kate in being one of those who theoretically could, its now over 20 years this time, but after failing twice it would need to be because my life is completely empty for some reason for me to even think of a drink because in me the probability is very high it would in time all unwind in a very big way – it could not be because i was again interested if i could or not – my learning is such that as a heavy duty alcoholic in the past i cannot see a real reason to have 1 drink socially, my intent was always to get smashed

  20. Matt LaClear November 25, 2019 at 11:28 am #

    This is an excellent post, Marc and Kate. Marc do you feel the same can be said about any addiction, not just alcohol. For instance, can a chronic gambler bet on a race once in a while, or buy lotto tickets on payday? To me, the portal needs to be slammed shut for life and never reopened if demons lie on the other end of it. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

  21. Jane Doe December 1, 2019 at 7:46 pm #

    After 33 years in AA and a boatload of therapy for parental sexual abuse, I have come to think that it is unlikely that I am an alcoholic. I can walk through the supermarket temple of beer without a qualm. But I’m not leaving AA. Living without alcohol and continuing with AA has provided me with a circle of loving friends, a moral compass and an understanding that I could very well be as mistaken about my alcoholism as i have been about any number of other things.

    • Matt LaClear December 2, 2019 at 2:38 pm #

      Well said!

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