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.
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.