“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Making a Sober Choice

Two months ago today, I made a solemn promise to God to quit drinking. I came to recognise that while most other people I knew could easily moderate their drinking, having a glass or two as and when they wanted, I could not. So I decided to bang it on the head while I still could. And having hit the two month mark, it seems like the honest thing to do to share my journey with others. It's not that I'm trying to convert anyone else to a life of sobriety, just explaining why it is right for me.

image: www.designofsignage.com
It took me a long time to recognise that I had a problem with red wine, because I rarely had a proper hangover, and tended to get tipsy rather than drunk, so did not experience the nastier side effects. So I carefully ignored the warning signs - the fact that if I couldn't get my beloved red wine, I'd drink a bit of whatever was around; that I would 'have' to finish the bottle; that I was often drinking at home, even if my other half wasn't; and that every morning I would wake up feeling dried out and under par. But it wasn't affecting my life or my work or my family, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. After all, most of my friends drank wine, and they certainly didn't have a problem, so obviously I didn't.

I first scared myself in March 2012, when, having read an article about alcohol problems in the paper, I sat down and worked out that I was drinking between 2.5 and 5 times the recommended limit per week, and rarely having a day off the booze. But I decided that I could moderate, and drink only at weekends, and see how it went. I was still in denial.

It worked for a while, then I drifted back to my accustomed habit of between half a bottle and a bottle of wine most days. In January 2013, I again tried to moderate - this time I was only going to drink "outside the house." But that didn't work either. I still hadn't realised that moderation only works for people who don't have any kind of emotional dependency.

Then in July 2013, push came to shove. I got pissed in front of people whose good opinion I respected, and the fact that they had been amused by my slurring speech somehow made it worse. After a long talk with my spiritual director, I spent some hours sitting with the shame of it, and faced up to exactly how I felt about continuing to drink - frightened, uneasy and ashamed of my lack of control. During the first week in August, I worked through the process, and made the decision to quit at the beginning of September.

At this point, God got involved, and I decided to make a commitment to Him and to some ministerial friends at our annual conference on 2nd September. Which I did. It was a powerful ceremony. A Bah'ai friend, who gave up drinking over 30 years ago, and who I had gone to for advice, said: "If you've made a promise to God, you can't break it, can you?" The Quaker Advice about "A simple lifestyle, freely chosen, is a source of strength' is also proving very helpful.

And that's all. I have made the choice to stay sober, and intend to stick to it.




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