Alcoholic Tendencies

A friend of mine wrote (re. my post Partying Sober):

Until this post I thought Steve had given up alcohol, too. Sometimes I find it a little hard not to have a glass of wine when others are partaking. I tend not to put myself in situations anymore where others will be drinking.

You are not far off in thinking that about Steve. But to answer not only your comment, but a couple of questions from others, here is some clarification:

After I quit drinking in July 2010, Steve quit drinking on work nights. It was always my choice to stop at the store (and sometimes make a second run later) for vodka and beer. When that changed for me, it changed for him. He didn’t bother going on his own.

Fridays and Saturdays, though, were for drinking and dual-TV gaming with our best friend at the time, Matt, or spinning records with other friends. Either way, the key element was having other people around. He could enjoy and get drunk and I didn’t have to be sitting there sober with him by myself. The few times that happened (like at the end of a night when I was trying to get food in him or get us to bed) SUCKED. I would get nearly enraged with his silliness, lethargy, incoherence, or all of the above. SUCKED. I also spent a year of weekend mornings on my own, shopping, running errands, etc., because he was never awake before lunchtime.

Yet I never told him to stop drinking. Because I knew he wasn’t an alcoholic – at least not like me. He has alcoholic tendencies. He liked to indulge in drinking, as he does with all the things he finds pleasurable. And he was a heavy drinker for years because it was always fun for him. But there’s a difference between his behavior and mine.

A little over a year into my sobriety, we moved back to Texas. That’s when it all changed for good. He had no one to drink with anymore and therefore didn’t see the point. So he quit. He quit drinking and smoking like it was nothing at all – something I could never do. He’s had alcohol three times since October 2011, and they’ve all been during special social occasions with others. And that’s where the main difference lies.

The other night when we were at that club and he had that shot with our friends was a singular moment. He said it tasted great, felt good, it was cool to share a drink with friends. But he never even got a second one. We danced, had a fun night, and that was that.

Now here’s what would have happened if it had been me. I would have had that drink… and then a half hour later wanted another one. And another two or three before the night was over. I would have forced us to go across the street to buy cigarettes. I probably wouldn’t have shut up about it until I had one in my mouth.

The next night I would have stopped at one of the liquor stores near our house and got a small bottle of vodka. I can hear myself now:

“Just for one night. Because last night it felt so cool. It won’t turn into an everyday thing, no way. No way.”

A month later, I would be horrified to realize I’d been drunk every day for weeks on end. Probably smoking. Overeating. Not running.

You know, the funny thing is, until I thought out my response to this comment in detail, I don’t think I even realized how much that addict behavior would still surface in me if given the chance. But it would. I don’t doubt it. There are hundreds of stories about people who have been sober for years and then one drink later… everything is lost. I am not so full of myself to believe I am going to be the first one to beat those odds. And I won’t take the risk to find out.

Anyway. Back to the subject at hand. That is the Steve drinking-not drinking story. These days, we are both living a peaceful, active, sober life – a life we both value for all it’s worth, especially given how things used to be. And I know alcoholics who dealt with far worse trying to get sober with a partner or spouse – typically an alcoholic themselves – still drinking. I consider myself pretty lucky.

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