IF I STARTED DRINKING AGAIN I WOULDN’T…

I love lists. To-do lists are my favorite. I’ve been known to make to-do lists that basically list other kinds of lists I need to make. For example MAKE GROCERY LIST, MAKE LIST OF BOOKS YOU WANT TO READ, etc. And when I’m making to-do lists, I’ll often write down a list item that I’ve already recently completed and then cross it off just so it makes it on the list and there is evidence that I finished the item. It might seem pointless, but having that initial checked off task motivates me to keep going. I’ll do something and think SHIT. THAT WASN’T ON MY TO-DO LIST and then add it to the to-do list and scribble it out. Whatever makes us feel OKAY, right?

I recently read a post in The Booze Free Brigade that suggested making a list of the things I wouldn’t be able to do if I were to start drinking alcoholically again. And by “drinking alcoholically” I just mean “drinking” because there is no other way I am able to drink.

So. If I were to start drinking again…

  • I wouldn’t be able to write- I wouldn’t be able to write these blogs. If I were writing blogs, they would most likely be nonsensical tirades about stupid shit. I wouldn’t be able to effectively write my plays. I could barely write out a rent check, for Christ’s sake. The booze built up and caused a massive hairball clog in my creativity pipe. I did manage to churn out a few plays in the midst of my heavy drinking. I relied on tricks, tropes, and recycling of old ideas and wound up with material that I’m just not proud of. I can only imagine how much I could have gotten done in those six years of misery.
  • I wouldn’t be able to effectively grocery shop- I’m still working on this one and getting better at it. When I was drinking, going to the grocery store would mortify me. I would be overwhelmed by the options and would never end up with anything healthy in my cart because the idea of having to go home and cook and construct something was absolutely terrifying to me. On the rare occasions that I would make something for dinner, I would have to find a recipe well before I went to the store and have a very clear plan of action. Get in, get the items, and get out. These days I’m able to go in and walk around and pick up things and process in real time what it is I’m going to be cooking and on what day. I don’t just grab a box of macaroni and cheese and a beer and run out the door flailing my arms like a terrified Muppet. This is one of those things that probably would make no sense to a normal person, but this was a real source of anxiety for me.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor- I just wouldn’t. I just couldn’t. I was so petrified that I would walk into his office and he would point and scream ALCOHOLIC! and then throw his stethoscope at me. I was terrified that if I did go he would find something really wrong. I was worried that my liver had turned into soup. I was worried that I had cancer in my body somewhere. I was worried that I was dying. So what was my solution? Just don’t go to the doctor and drink some more. INSANITY. The one time in six years that I did go, I lied through my teeth about my drinking and then never returned his call when he wanted to go over my lab results. I just disappeared. Now that I’m sober I CAN go to the doctor. I still don’t LIKE IT but I know that I can get through it and that facing my health issues head on is the fastest route to recovery and wellbeing.
  • I wouldn’t be able to meet a friend for coffee- Meet you for WHAT?! Coffee?? Wouldn’t you rather meet for gallons of vodka? I mean this one quite literally. I literally COULDN’T meet a friend for coffee. I wouldn’t. I had socially shut down completely. The idea of going somewhere with another human being one on one terrified me. Even if it meant meeting them at a bar, I was still freaked the fuck out and would have to pregame somehow and sneak a drink or two before meeting them. But meet a person in broad daylight for COFFEE? Not happening. I made sure not to accept those types of invites. If I ever did have to meet someone outside of a bar for something , it was almost always after having had a beer or two or three or four. I’m certain now that people could smell it and those kinds of thoughts make me shut down so I try not to dwell on them. But now I CAN GO DRINK COFFEE WITH A FRIEND! There is still minor apprehension and anxiety that comes along with it, but I’m able to make myself go do it and after maybe a few minutes of my brain thinking THIS IS WEIRD! WHERE IS MY BOOZE?! I settle in and I’m able to be there. Sober. Authentic. Me.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go clothing shopping- I’m sure I was a big embarrassment to my boyfriend in the later years of my drinking. I wore the same things all the time. I had gained weight. I had a phobia of going to the store and trying things on because it would reveal to me just how many sizes I’d gone up. If a pair of pants ripped or something happened where I absolutely had to get something new, I’d always insist on going alone and I’d have a nervous breakdown. I’m not exaggerating here. I would sit in dressing rooms and sob. I would shake. I would feel like I was going to die. And I would go to a bar and drink some beers to calm myself down. I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I still HATE going to try on clothes. I still hate my body but I’m working on it. But now I’m able to do hard shit and I’ve learned how to keep the anxiety down just enough to get the job done. There is no more crying or shaking or running to bars. There are moments of self-deprecation and frustration and anger. But I tell myself that I’m working on it and that this is where I’m at right now and that everything will be okay. And then it is okay.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go see a play correctly- In order for me to feel okay enough to leave the house to go see a play on Broadway or elsewhere, I would absolutely have to drink before. Either at home or at a bar. And a lot of theatres now serve extremely overpriced drinks at the venue that you can take to your seat. It was not uncommon for me to purchase a double vodka soda at a Broadway theatre for $36 dollars. Yes, you read that right. They price gouge. It’s obscene. But I would do it. And I would typically HATE everything I saw. I would say it was boring or badly done and I’d leave at intermission. Really, I was just desperate for more drinks and to get home so I could continue drinking properly. I remember very little about the shows I saw over the past six years. Now I’m able to go to theatre and appreciate what I’m watching. There is still a lot of bad theatre being made out there but I’m present for it and it shapes my taste.
  • I wouldn’t be able to watch a movie or remember it- I can’t even tell you how many movies I’ve SEEN but not seen. There are movies that I remember snippets from. There are movies that my boyfriend tells me I’ve seen that I don’t remember having seen at all. It was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to rent a movie and get through it when I was drinking. It would quickly devolve into me talking and annoying everyone around me or me getting into some kind of argument with my boyfriend or me passing out early. Now I can watch a movie from start to finish. Someone throw me a parade to celebrate. NOW I CAN REMEMBER HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK!
  • I wouldn’t be able to garden- Why the fuck would I want to? This goes back to the fact that everything was monumentally difficult. Just doing the dishes was paralyzing unless I was drunk. But go all the way to a nursery and spend alcohol money on plants and dirt and then take those plants and dirt home and plant them and water them? WHY??! NO!!! And even if by some miracle I was able to get the garden planted, it would surely die. I wouldn’t remember to water. I was in some weird time warp. For example, I’d look at my fingernails and they would be really long and I would freak out because I could have sworn I just cut them a few days ago. Days would melt into weeks and months and years. Those plants wouldn’t stand a chance. No more. Now I have a lovely place to sit and relax. I take pride in keeping the garden healthy and view it as a perfect metaphor for my sobriety and recovery.
  • I wouldn’t be able to be a good puppy daddy- I got my puppy dog in January of this year while I was still actively drinking. I didn’t get sober until April. During those three months I was extremely inattentive to the little guy and feel terrible about it. Luckily, my boyfriend was there to pick up the slack. Now that I’m sober I absolutely CRAVE being with him and playing ball and going for walks and snuggling and cuddling. And he seems so much happier and looks at me with bright, shining eyes. He never used to look at me like that. Or if he did, I was too fucked up to see it. SHAME. Ugh. I feel such shame. But like other relationships, I’m working on this one.
  • I wouldn’t be able to manage my job performance and see through the bullshit- When I was drinking my job was FUCKING HARD. I was starting to make tons of mistakes and would slack off constantly and only do the minimum to make it look like I was still working. Additionally, I took my job so seriously in the sense that I thought it was really fucking important. Now, I do a much better job at it but at the same time I’ve come to realize that it obviously isn’t what I want to do so it doesn’t deserve the pleasure of stressing me the fuck out and making me anxious. This isn’t to say that I won’t perform to the best of my ability and give 110%. But I refuse to allow it to work me into a tizzy like it used to. This is not my career. This is my job. For now.
  • I wouldn’t be able to go to a park- I go to parks now. I go lots of places now. And I like them! If you asked me to go to a park while I was drinking I would have either said a.) Fuck you, silly goose! or b.) Let’s stop for bottles of wine first. Did you know parks have things you can look at that relax you like trees blowing in the wind? It’s pretty cool.
  • I wouldn’t be able to comfortably go on a vacation that involves a lot of driving- After getting back from my recent trip to Cape Cod I realized how absolutely BONKERS I would have gone had I still been actively drinking on this trip. We had to drive EVERYWHERE. Up and down the cape over and over again. We had to stop and do things like miniature golf and go to candy stores. We went out to dinner and then had to drive 20 miles to go somewhere else. THANK GOD I wasn’t drinking because if I were still in the midst of my active disease, I would have lost my mind. I probably would have driven drunk. Or made my boyfriend drive the whole time while I consumed freely which I’m sure would not have made him happy. But now I can go places and drive around and do things without having the stress of wondering where my next drink is going to come from.
  • I wouldn’t be able to read a book- I used to have to do this thing when I was drunk where I’d close one eye in order to read something or to stop from seeing two televisions instead of one. And even if the double vision hadn’t kicked in yet, I just didn’t give a fuck about books. I was too busy doing other important things like commenting like a moron on Facebook posts or watching YouTube videos of people jumping out and scaring their cats or something. No more! Books are amazing! They have all of these words in them that mean something important.
  • I wouldn’t be able to drink a cup of coffee- My old love of coffee was completely murdered during my active drinking. It would make me deathly ill. Being in a constant state of hangover made even the smell of coffee absolutely revolting. Even as I type this I am able to recreate the physical sensation of pure disgust at the thought of swallowing coffee. Now I love it again. It’s a beautiful thing.
  • I wouldn’t be able to pay bills on time- I was always late on bills or finding myself in one kind of financial dilemma or another. And a lot of the times it wasn’t even because I didn’t have the money. It was just because I didn’t DO ANYTHING. Opening bills was paralyzing. Writing checks was paralyzing. Trying to remember online logins was paralyzing. It was all just soooooooo. Paralyzing. Now I’m in good standing with most everything and am steadily chipping away at debt.
  • I wouldn’t be able to make healthy eating choices- Some people lose weight when they are hardcore alcoholics because food becomes irrelevant. Not me. I gain weight. And I eat whatever I want. My filter and better judgment are completely obliterated when I drink. And I get trapped in the awful cycle of waking up feeling fat and bloated and then drinking to drown the shame. Now I can eat salads. I still want the pizza and cake but saying no isn’t impossible.
  • I wouldn’t be able to call my mother- I love my mom to death. She is everything to me. But when I’m drinking I completely pull away from her and rarely call. I say I will and then make up an excuse as to why I can’t. I’m too busy with X, Y, Z. Part of this is due to shame and a feeling that I’ve let her down. But it’s also very difficult to set aside any amount of time for ANYTHING when all you want to do is drink. And she’d want to talk for over an hour at a time. That would seriously cramp my style. On the occasions that I would call her, I’d be watching the clock like a hawk because I really wanted a drink. Sometimes I would start drinking halfway through the phone call and be very careful not to allow the alteration of my mood to come across in my voice. There were a few instances where I think I got too happy and maybe she could tell. I don’t know. I can call mom now and talk like a normal human being. I still need to get better at calling her more often but she isn’t secondary to alcohol when I have her on the phone.
  • I wouldn’t be able to get a haircut in a timely manner- Like the fingernails seeming to grow overnight, so would my hair. I already established that going to do something, anything, was nearly impossible. But add to that the social awkwardness of having to try to talk to a person that was fondling the stuff that grows out of your head? NIGHTMARE. Again, I think that this is something that a non-addict would just not understand but the most mundane of things such as a haircut became utterly terrifying. And so I would only go once every 3-4 months and look absolutely terrible in between. I actually enjoy getting a haircut often now. I take pride in how I look and enjoy the conversations I have with my 60-something year old Mexican hairdresser, Estella. She’s a peach.
  • I wouldn’t be able to be a good host- Ohhhh, how many times I threw parties and then went upstairs and passed out in my bedroom 2 hours into it. The shame. The embarrassment. Social anxiety would prompt me to start drinking heavily before anyone showed up. By the time everyone was settling in, I was already shitty and wanting everyone to leave. Now I can have a few friends over and calmly enjoy their company. Still haven’t tried a large get together yet. Not quite ready for that one.
  • I wouldn’t be able to do my laundry- It would sit for weeks on end. As disgusting as this is to admit, I would wear shirts or pants over and over. I wouldn’t wear them if they were actually visibly dirty. But I was so goddamned dead inside that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Until I HAD to do it. It would take everything I had to walk down the street to the Laundromat. As it washed, I’d go across the street to the bar for a Bloody Mary. Then back to the Laundromat to put it in the dryer and then back to the bar for some beers or whisky shots. Or both. Or I would buy some beers and sit in the Laundromat and drink them stealthily. Now my laundry gets done every week. Instead of me going and sitting to wait for it to wash and dry, I drop it off and pay $15-20 to have someone else wash it and then I pick it up later in the evening. Call me lazy but I choose to avoid that triggery activity. Too many bad memories and too much shame wrapped up in it. I figure I’m saving so much money by not drinking. Surely I can afford some help with my laundry.

What about you? What would you not be able to do if you started drinking again??? Hmm??

  • 15 comments

    1. Well first of all I wouldn’t have a job, because I would’ve been fired on the spot…fortunately I chose to get the real help I needed to become sober…a lot ta work went into getting the help. Mainly my admission to having a problem in the first place!! Having said that I wouldn’t be here period! I’d be dead..so close to being gone that I actually prayed for it. I’m sure that’s why we alcoholics appreciate every little thing we do now because we are so grateful just to BE!

    2. I loved this post! I am sick today… 😦 Which after 87 days of sobriety and the feeling of greatness that brings, hit me hard. But I’ll be fine, it’s not a hangover, after all. Just a cold.

      There were several of these “I wouldn’t be able to” that are totally me. Sorry this is a little long.

      My biggest one: I couldn’t be a writer. Not even wouldn’t, just couldn’t. Period. I started my first novel in March and just reached the half way point, which is an awesome feeling. However, when I got sober (May 24th), I decided to take some time off and just be sober. Focus on me, getting healthy, etc. I didn’t write anything creative for over a month. That was hard. I did write daily in my journal but I don’t count that as creative since it was real life and sticky and difficult but healing and necessary. When I returned to my manuscript after 35 days, I couldn’t believe the shit, the absolute crap, I wrote. I realized I had been using half my creative brain for such a long time. With sobriety, my writing has improved dramatically, my creativity is through the roof and the story has become tighter, more vibrant and the characters so much more real. I couldn’t have possibly written anything like it while drinking. It’s one of those gratitude’s I reflect on every so often. I’m so thankful that I got sober so my true talents can reveal themselves.

      The other one, it the job. The one we do, while we pursue our dreams. I, just like you, would let that job control my happiness, my stress level, my mood. After getting sober, I give it 110% as well but I don’t let it control me. I can walk away and live and never feel guilty about it.

      Finally, I totally did that closed eye thing too!! Ha, that was so funny. I used to insist on reading in bed before I went to sleep, regardless of how drunk I was. Sometimes, I’d read the same damn pages three nights in a row. How pathetic. Now, it’s much nicer to read with both eyes open, reading glasses on and REMEMBER what I read the next day.

      Thanks for sharing this. I loved it. I’m going to make some more on my own. They are great reminders of how far we’ve come and just how far we can go!

    3. Feel better Mare! I remember even if I was sick I’d have to drink just so I wouldn’t be going into withdrawal from NOT drinking! How sick is that!???

    4. I used to drink to ‘cure’ colds, flus, etc. I was SURE the alcohol would kill the viruses. Ah well, get better soon MareBear 🙂 If I were to return to drinking, I wouldn’t be able to start my new job next week, as a sober person and create brand new work relationships with no embarrassing past. Fresh starts on solid ground are good.

      1. I’ve done this too. Had a couple of glasses of wine to numb the sickness. How crazy that was. I recovered much quicker the sober way.

    5. Eye contact. If I started drinking again, I would go back to being that person who never held a direct, steady gaze for any length of time. I was convinced everyone could see how hungover and filled with shame I was. I now look forward to going out into the world with eager curiosity and truly connecting with others. It feels AWESOME!

    6. What a great list! It is such a good reminder to appreciate the things large and small I had given away to drinking. You nailed it with every single one on the list.

    7. Wow. This post really resonated with me. They say in some recovery rooms that you’ll eventually hear your story told. That happened for me on occasion there but your story more often than not feels very similar to mine.

      I identified with nearly all of your “I wouldn’t be able to”s but I’ll touch on those that really hit home.

      I wouldn’t be able to meet a friend for coffee: forget it. If it didn’t center on a vat of booze, I wasn’t interested. You have coffee, I’ll have an espresso martini.

      I wouldn’t be able to go clothing shopping: I used to abhor shopping for clothes basically because I never went anywhere that required looking nice so why bother? I dressed like a lesbian and liked it. My living room was my cocktail lounge and comfort was key. Now, I LOVE to buy clothes and play dress up.

      I wouldn’t be able to go see a play correctly: toward the end of my days of wine and roses, I was in a relationship with a theater person. We went to Broadway plays all the time. I paid through the gin blossom for teeny, tiny cocktails, sometimes served in highly collectible plastic vessels, often left at intermission and rarely remembered much of anything that happened on stage. I wasn’t usually wasted but definitely comfortably numb.

      I wouldn’t be able to comfortably go on a vacation that involves a lot of driving: I never drove drunk but driving hungover was probably worse and the anxiety caused by the anticipation of it was unbearable.

      I wouldn’t be able to be a good puppy daddy: My ex and I got my baby girl about eight months before I stopped drinking. Thankfully, there was only one time (that I can remember) where I did something stupid (like taking her to a bar) that could have harmed her. Thankfully, nothing happened, though I still feel guilty about it. She’s been such an amazing source of joy in sobriety. And thankfully, I got to keep her when the ex jumped ship–after I got sober, I might add.

      I wouldn’t be able to call my mother: definitely couldn’t do it without a drink or bottle in hand depending on the length of the conversation. I still struggle with this one so I think it may be more deeply rooted in the fact that I just really don’t like talking on the phone. . . to anyone.

      I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor: I was able to go to the doctor but I would either lie through my teeth or abstain for a week to skew the lab results. So effing stupid–like lab results approaching normal would inhibit liver damage. I did this for YEARS.

      I wouldn’t be able to watch a movie or remember it: when I could manage to sit still to watch a movie, I usually got distracted by anything else, like a fly in the room, and rarely watched until the end. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being told you had already seen a film at the theater or rented a movie previously. oops.

      I wouldn’t be able to be a good host: ugh, there are few things worse than passing out early at your own party.

      I wouldn’t be able to write or even be interested in writing a response to an awesome blog post like this. 🙂

    8. I wouldn’t be able to look at my phone without panic each morning. I would have that feeling of dread, looking at I didn’t remember sending or phone calls shown as up to a half-hour long that I didn’t remember having. Ugh!

      I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my long runs the way I have the last two Sunday mornings. Marathon training with a hangover …..long runs when I smell like Satan’s arm pit …. not good!
      Now I’m full of gratitude to be able to run and see how beautiful the season is. Now if I could just get my own theme song …..

    9. I would walk again, I did a backflip in a lawn chair off a 6 ft deck Sunday, broken ribs and fractured disks. That will keep me very sober for a very very long time

    10. I wouldn’t be able to see the happy smiling faces of my kids, and hear them tell me how proud and happy they are for me. (And that I don’t embarrass them in public anymore)

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