What came first, the alcohol, or the alcoholic thinking?

February 8, 2018

Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I used to think people other than those directly affected by my drinking to excess were aware of what for me was an absolutely epic effort to give it up.   In my alcohol fueled haze, my mere presence on this earth was of great importance to everybody. I believed that my acquaintances actually took the time out of their lives to give me a second thought. In actuality, they gave about as much thought to me and my drinking habits as I gave to them, and theirs; none. Fortunately, by the time I realized just how unimportant I am to people outside my inner circle I had grown comfortable with myself, my sobriety and my purpose. It has been said that alcoholic thinking involves the grandiose, and I certainly fit that description. I have yet to figure out though, which came first, the alcohol, of the alcoholic thinking. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Now that I know that what really matters when it comes to my sobriety has nothing to do with what others think, and everything to do with how I think, I am able to better navigate the difficult journey I have embarked upon.

It would be easy to continue to drink, continue to think my drinking mattered, and never bother to face the reality that to live my life to the best of my ability I had to do so without chemical enhancement. What is not so easy is taking a more difficult, but clear path without the convoluted luxury that alcohol provides.

I still run into people who have no idea that I chose the path of less resistance; “You don’t drink?” “Nah, gave it up years ago.” “Wow, I didn’t know. Did you have to, or want to?” Now there’s a loaded question if ever there was one. Sometimes we have to do things we do not want to do. Drinking was not one of them; I absolutely wanted to drink. NOT drinking? Well, that was a little more complicated. I desperately wanted to not drink to excess, yet nearly every time I drank, I drank too much. “One is too many and a thousand is not enough.” The reason one is too many is simple for me and people like me; one leads to two, two to three and three into alcohol fueled infinity. The trick, I learned, was teaching myself how to not want that one. For far longer than necessary I willed myself not to have that first one. I felt deprived, left out, less than and abandoned. I did not pass on the drink because I wanted to, I passed because I had to. There was too much to lose and not enough to gain when I chose to have that drink. I was at war with myself over what turned out to be something just not worth fighting for.
I don’t drink. Simple, really. All of the reasons I concocted for the sole reason of delaying the inevitable were ridiculous;

-I deserve it -My friends prefer me intoxicated -I deserve it -I’ll die of boredom without it -I deserve it -My family is far more interesting when I drink -I deserve it -Life is better under the influence, and finally -I deserve it!

Turns out, the number one reason I had for continuing a behavior that did more harm than good was because I had convinced myself that I deserved it. Clear thought has afforded me the luxury of clarity; I deserve nothing more than the opportunity to live an aware life unencumbered by numbness, to feel my best, look my best and think my best. My best is unobtainable when intoxicated, thinking about being intoxicated and regretting being so. Now, I simply do not want to drink! One of the greatest things about sobriety, for me, is the ability I now possess to live in the present. The present truly is a gift, and slowly unwrapping it each and every day, and being sober as it unfolds feels better than any alcoholic libation I can imagine.

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