An Unwelcome Stranger - When Alcohol Comes Knocking.
I’ve gone without a drink for nearly five years now. I’m happy with my choice. I’m healthier, more functional and I’m present to witness my life as it unfolds.
For me, sobriety has been a good choice.
I don’t think about drinking very often but occasionally there’s a knock on my door.
When life happens, stress, bills, hormones, illness and many other miserable side effects of modern life, the booze moons align, and a deep-rooted need arises in me. A yearning, that normally sits dormant under my shiny sober skin, pops up in the back of my throat, like sour vomit.
It used to be shock when it happened, a bolt out of the blue, like when an old acquaintance taps you on the shoulder after a long absence.
‘Hello! Remember me?’
You recognise the face, the voice, yet something has changed, an uncertainty lingers because too much has happened since meeting last. You want to hug them, allow them in, yet you’re unable to greet the stranger with tenderness.
I liked that visitor once, he excited me. Like the feeling before a big night out, the knowing I didn’t have to confront reality for a few hours. The thought of him lifted my mood. We were mates, reliable buddies that were inseparable. There were good times, but now, knee deep in the after party called sobriety… his looming presence makes me feel uneasy.
My relationship with the stranger, with alcohol, is temperamental. Even though I hate him and know the damage he did to me – a small empathetic part of me still offers him forgiveness.
I still have short-lived moments in which I would accept his apology.
And that scares me. Everytime he visited I was angry with myself, I felt like I had let myself down my aching for him even though our relationship was over. I used to long for the day the stranger sopped knocking. I lived in hope, not realising I was the one that had sent the invite.
I was the one allowing the thoughts to perpetuate.
Drinking reminders, cravings and wants seemed sudden, and so nearby. In early sobriety I felt like deep holes would open up beneath me and I would step in, fall into the abyss just for a moment… but each time I did a little part of me broke and I found myself worse off than before, embarrassed that I had tripped up and frightened because I didn’t know when the hole was going to open up and swallow me again.
The drinking me used to visit me unpredictably like that unknown friend lurking in my past. They reminded me of who I once was and how easy it would be to be her again. All it would take is one bad decision, one false move and I would be turning my back on life and leaving the latch off the front gate allowing the shadowy figure back in.
But somehow, once the therapy was done and I managed to heave back, push my shoulder against the door until the handle stops jiggling and ghost of drinks gone by… disappeared.
I chose to never let him darken my doorstep ever again.
Learning how to rid yourself from wanting to drink takes time, effort and lots of practice. Breaking up with your reliable old friend takes work. For many years I tried to stunt cravings with distraction, go for a walk or turn the kettle on. I would sidestep them, avoid them, balance precariously on the edge of them. It was a perilous way to live. Too close.
Now, after years of trying to fend them off…when I feel booze creep up behind me….
I invite it in. I allow it to envelop me. I breathe in all it has to give. I feel it and let it pass through every pore of me until its nothing but a memory. I stare it down and it walks off with its head bowed.
I have enough tools in place to know it can’t win.
When I got sober, one thing I had to do was take responsibility for my actions. I knew blaming others was futile and that no one else was forcing alcohol on me. It had always been me filling up the glass or dragging a mate to another night club. It’s the same with cravings. I had to take responsibility for them – understand it was me creating them, me perpetuating them, me creating an exit when times got tough. Sobriety has taught me that it was never about fighting off this toxic substance – it was always about learning to love myself enough to say no.
Understanding that craving are a controllable thought, a contemplation left over from a former behaviour, helped me allow them to pass.
My decision to expect and accept that drinking urges are part of sobriety makes me less scared of them. If they do occasionally come for a surprise visit I know it’s up to me to deal with them. I’ve created boundaries around that old friend now, which means - if he does pop by unexpectedly….
I know it’s my choice if I open the door.