This will be my 25th sober New Year’s Eve. My wife and I will take our kids over to our friends’ house as we’ve done all but one or two of the last fifteen years. Our kids are friendly with their kids and they’ll stay the night. Pete and Rebecca are sober-friendly, there usually isn’t any drinking done at the house. We will have dinner together, we’ll play some games and we will celebrate the changing of the year. We may even have a glass of sparkling grape juice…
For me, that sparkling grape juice may be a glass of neon green Mountain Dew. Whether or not I partake in the sparkling grape juice will be entirely a “game time decision”. Sometimes that grape juice tastes just a little too much like alcohol and I’m better off letting someone else have mine. I can tell you right now, I’ve never had more than two Mountain Dew’s in succession and those sodas never set off a craving for alcohol….
See, this isn’t my first rodeo. Our friend Rebecca is a “normal person”. She likes the occasional glass of wine. She gets a little buzz and she doesn’t like how it feels. I’m different. With just one drop passing my lips, I come alive. Then, after that first drop, “one is too many and fifteen isn’t enough”. Katie bar the door.
As long as I don’t allow a drop to cross my lips (even 25 years later), I’ll be okay. I’ve learned how to adapt so that I know what will trigger the craving to let a drop pass the gates. I am utterly powerless against that craving and if one drop passes the lips, not even God will know when I’ll stop. God does know, it’ll get ugly. Fast. So do I, so it’s best to avoid the situation altogether.
The downfall starts as an argument in my head. If I have a good reason to be in the presence of alcohol, am on solid footing spiritually and program-wise, and have a quick exit route, I’m reasonably assured of successfully navigating an evening without succumbing to the temptations of John Barleycorn. If, on the other hand, I can’t satisfy all of those requirements, I don’t belong in that situation at all because I will be susceptible to losing the argument. All it takes is a little splinter in my mind. If I run with that splinter, I’m done for.
Success requires honesty and an immense helping of fear. In recovering circles we like to say that our misery is refundable, all we have to do is take a drink. I remember what it’s like to live in misery and I don’t want any of that back. I don’t want anything messing with my happiness – and I’ve worked damn hard for mine… I don’t need any practice cleaning up wreckage either.
So, because I know what I have to do and have the willingness to stick to a plan I know works, I have a chance of making it through another New Year’s party sober.
By the way, what does it look like if I feel that temptation to drink creeping in? Well, it just so happens I have a plan for just that reality – even if I’ve never had to implement it… First, I call my sponsor and try to talk it out. If that doesn’t work, I’m out. There’s a sober dance going on within 20 miles and I can go hang out with some friends who will talk me back from the ledge and help me stay on the path. Better to leave and live to fight another day than (stupidly) try to stick around and end up drunk. And I do mean stupid… Remember that honesty part? Yep, that’s honesty.
Oh, and one more thing to remember: New Year’s Eve is amateur night. We always head home shortly after midnight before the amateur drunk drivers head home.