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Sobriety, Year 15

Without Christ, giving up alcohol left me thirsty

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

Last March 18 I forgot it was the 14th anniversary of my sobriety. I usually talk about it and mention it on my blog. But I didn't think about it until two months later. I never imagined I'd ever overlook such an important date.

For over a decade, I consumed alcohol in large quantities whenever I could, and alcohol ended up consuming me. I lived a quarter of my life in search of the mind-altering liquid, trying to drown out God knows what. I wish I could say becoming a Christian sobered me up, but I stopped drinking before I was saved. I became a Christian in part because sobriety had left me just as empty as alcoholism.

A month before my 18th birthday, right after my senior prom, I took the first drink. And I blacked out. Fortunately, I was with people who cared about me, because I lost hours. I remember taking the first few sips and feeling that first buzz. Afterward, I don't remember leaving the car or going into the club. I remember snippets of dancing. Everything else was a blank. I drank so much the first time I imbibed that I experienced alcohol-related amnesia. Why didn't I heed the warning? The pleasures of drinking-not the pain-were my obsession.

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For the next decade, I drank as often as possible. Yet, I never felt that "first buzz" again. Drinking to excess wasn't as pleasurable anymore. My relationships suffered. But I didn't stop. I thought I'd die if I stopped. I exaggerate only a little. I thought life wouldn't be worth living, that I'd see the world in drab colors or boring black and white. So I kept drinking. I hid how much I drank, but people knew. Depressed, defensive, and embarrassed, I continued the vicious cycle.

In early 1997, approaching my 30th birthday, I read a memoir called Drinking: A Love Story, by the late Caroline Knapp. She said her love of alcohol ruined her relationships. Alcohol became the great love of her life. Through Knapp's story, I saw a way out of the chaos I'd created. She'd survived without alcohol and had laid herself bare to help others.

Shortly afterward, I decided I no longer wanted to be a drunk. On March 18, 1997, I gave it up. I didn't attend Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn't ask people to pray for me. I didn't plead with God for help. I wasn't a Christian. I just flipped the "off" button. I drank herbal tea-lots of it-to satisfy the urge to drink. Sobriety didn't live up to the hype. Figuratively speaking, I was still thirsty, and I needed Christ to quench the thirst. Two years later, I became a Christian.

For years I was proud to tell people I wasn't tempted to go back to drinking. I missed chilled wine and cold beer and vodka martinis, but not enough to drink them. However, I've thought about alcohol more often in recent months. The situations in which I think about drinking usually are related to work. Freelancing is inherently unstable, and losing big clients means losing big money. A major client recently ended our professional relationship. Under federal investigation and accused of mishandling donor funds, the client cut me loose.

Oddly enough, I can sit inches from someone knocking back the booze and not be tempted. But when things are not going well professionally, I just want to forget my troubles ... for a while. And that's dangerous.

For me, drinking is moving backward, and for the sake of my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, it's not worth the risk. So I endure the discomfort and uncertainty, pray, and keep busy. Writing something, even if it doesn't sell, almost always helps.

As I reflect on this March 18, the 15th anniversary of the day I gave up a sad and destructive habit, I pray for those still caught in the web.

-The author writes a well-read blog, La Shawn Barber's Corner and writes a weekly column for

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications


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