We had a very special Christmas dinner with my in-laws. Steaks, salad, garlic smashed potatoes, fruit… It was beautiful. For the occasion I picked up a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice – the no-alcohol answer to a sparkly drink in lieu of champagne on New Years Eve. We even took the stemware out of the China hutch.
The steak was done a perfect medium, the potatoes were amazing, the green bean casserole was stellar – everything on the table was absolutely picture perfect – I was a content man…until I raised that glass to my lips and took a small swig. My taste buds danced with joy on my tongue, my cheeks puckered ever so slightly… Oh did that taste good. By the time dinner was done though, the taste had me missing the real stuff. Instead of opting for water, I poured another glass and sipped it – a thought crept into the gray matter about what I’d been missing all these years…
Thank God for small miracles, is all I can say. I went from grown man, master of my little universe, to raging drunk without ever taking an actual drop of alcohol – it was all in my head. Therein lies the problem though. I’ve had sparkling grape juice dozens of times since I sobered up and never had a problem with it – never had this kind of reaction. All too often I see people dabble with these silly no-alcohol containing beverages only to relapse to the real thing and there I was last night, more than 20 years of sobriety under my belt, and I was all out of sorts…
So what was the difference? Who knows. Sitting here the next morning trying to look at every little aspect of the dinner last night I can’t put my finger on any one thing. Perhaps my spiritual program is lacking a little bit lately, perhaps it’s something less problematic. The trick is, while the details of “why” matter, what’s more important is the fact that I did have a struggle with something that I shouldn’t have – and this is a good thing.
How often do we have a problem and look at it as a bad thing, thinking “I shouldn’t have slipped like that” or “I shouldn’t have missed that workout” or “I shouldn’t have this problem”? When looking at this in terms of weight and fitness, how often do we fall into that little trap where we have a morsel that triggers a binge? Do we berate ourselves, further slipping into depravity or do we right the ship?
These are the daily struggles we battle. Losing them leads me to a loser’s existence, literally, when we’re talking about alcohol.
The reality, when it comes to that sparkling grape juice, is that something wasn’t right – something isn’t right and I have to find out what it is and fix it but this isn’t a bad thing. I was given the opportunity to fix a flaw within myself before I did something drastically stupid simply because I was paying attention. If that’s anything, that’s good.
In terms of fitness and weight, translated, what I went through is no different from having a tough time pushing myself away from the table after I’ve eaten my fill only to find that I still want more. It’s no different from taking another day off the bike or from running because I don’t feel like putting in the effort. I still do have those days and I handle them the same way – there is something else flawed within me that causes those thoughts or problems. I have to identify and rectify that flaw or I will relapse…whether than be pigging out, being lazy or drinking.
Now, here’s the really twisted reality: If I wasn’t a recovering drunk – if I hadn’t gotten in all of that trouble back when I was just a young lad – none of this, the knowledge that something was off and that it must be dealt with, even the ability to identify that something is off in the first place, would be possible. In fact, I doubt I’d be able to enjoy such a happy life.
If that don’t beat all.
* For clarity, “no-alcohol” should not be confused with “non-alcoholic”. Sparkling grape juice contains no alcohol while “non-alcoholic” beverages often contain trace amounts of alcohol. Take “near-beer” for example. Near-beer contains alcohol – less than 1% by volume, but it’s in there nonetheless. I dabbled in near-beer one time in my 20+ years of sobriety (about 20-1/2 years ago actually) and I can tell you without a doubt – I had serious problems with it. My body remembered the alcohol. That little bit permeated every cell in my body. I could feel it and it was not good. For that reason I’ve completely stayed away from anything that isn’t 100% alcohol free since.