to mix a gin and sink into oblivion.” It’s a phrase from one of my favorite songs from the band, Cold War Kids. The lyrics tell the story of an alcoholic man who is recalling the damage caused by his alcoholism–how he has missed his children’s important events, how he has caused some kind of an accident, and how he’s let down his family.
Simultaneously, he rationalizes his behavior and notes that he still has a job, he donates to charities, and that attending “meetings” left him feeling alone.
I had this exact lyric jamming in my brain just the other day, like a broken record. The details of how I had arrived at this desperate point are truly irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I was feeling too much–anger, hostility, frustration, impatience, and guilt. And maybe a few more for extra measure.
I imagined how all of my tension and emotion would be quieted and suppressed after taking that first gulp of a drink that had once provided me that lovely, reassuring feeling of “aaaahhhhh…” How could I get it? Where could I go to drink it? Do we have any limes in the house?
I picked up my water bottle and chugged it, pretending it was my refreshing friends Bombay Sapphire, Canada Dry, and Just-a-Squeeze. Next, I said out loud to my husband and kids, “I really want a drink.”
I didn’t want to say out loud what was spinning in my brain and teasing my taste buds, but I had to.
My husband’s response was something to the effect of, “No you don’t. It’s going to be okay.” I’m not exactly sure because, again, part of my brain was coaxing me back to the dark side, and the other part of my brain was fighting to regain control. Freaking Star Wars going on in head.
I then started to recite the Serenity Prayer to myself over and over again:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
For the first five prayers, I didn’t mean a word of what I was saying, but I knew that I had to counter the old thinking and temptation with something. (I used to do this exact action in my first few months of sobriety–praying and smoking one cigarette after another.)
Around the sixth time, my mind started to relax the teensiest bit. I began to say each word with just a bit more thought and meaning.
Next, my brain shifted into “playing the tape forward” (what would happen if I did have just one drink? Would that be enough?). If you have kids, then you might have read or heard the book, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie. Basically, for me, one drink sets off a chain of events that, unlike the sweet, innocent mouse book, inevitably leads to very, very bad things happening. Like marathon drinking sessions, drunk driving, passing out in the backyard, and eventually eviscerating the lives of those I love dearly.
I played that tape all the way to the end. Then I looked at the ending-scene and let my mind process the reality of the damage–how my choice had led me to that exact point.
I took five really deep breaths and kept my eyes closed for the remainder of the car ride. I knew that in a few minutes I would be with another sober friend, and I could tell her what happened. I knew she wouldn’t judge me, lecture me, or make me feel guilty. When I finally saw her and spilled my guts, I got the “look.” Not the “what the hell is wrong with you–can’t you control yourself–weak-minded idiot” look, but the “I know–it’s hard and it sucks sometimes–but I’m here, and you are okay” look.
Gratitude swelled in my heart. If I hadn’t hit rock bottom as a result of my drinking, then I wouldn’t have had the joy and blessing of sharing my pain, struggle, and feeling of reassurance from my friend.
My brokenness caused cracks in my spirit that let some sunshine in. And the light has transformed me and given me solutions rather than problems. I hold myself and only myself accountable for my choices. Negative thoughts come and go, but I cannot let them hang around. I acknowledge their presence, then let them fly away.
At the end of the Cold War Kids’ song, the narrator says, “this will all blow over in time.” He means the mess he’s caused.
To me, it means that my feelings are not facts; I now have a few tools in my spiritual toolkit to get me through (not around or over, but through) my pain and discomfort.
P.S. TYViolet 🙂