Recently, a friend asked me this extraordinary question.
‘Do you think you’ll ever drink again? Like, just in a different way this time? In moderation?’
Once I picked my jaw off the floor that she’d even asked me that, given she knows every-damn-thing about the suicidal plans and the shaking hands and the mouthwash-drinking, I garbled an answer along the lines of:
‘The plan is to never, ever drink again, because even though it’s hard to believe, I tried to moderate for many, many years.’
‘You were trying to moderate?!’ was her bewildered response.
The thing is, my delightful friend has no idea what addicted drinking is like, because she’s never been there. I think she’s sceptical it even exists, because she can’t imagine it herself, and now that I seem so sorted and healthy, surely I should be able to drink again.
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. Another friend said, ‘So, now you’re all happy and not depressed any more, couldn’t you just drink a little bit? Because now you’re happy. So you won’t over-drink.’
No, no, no. The #1 absolute 100% hands-down reason I am now happy and mentally healthy is because I do not drink, ever. They think that the depression was the reason I drank; but the drinking created the depression. The thought of checking out of the world has never, ever even half-occurred to me in sobriety. Yet, in the last six months of my drinking, those dark thoughts were practically daily. Because alcohol is a depressant, and if you drink fuckloads of it…. well. I rest my case. It’s depressing.
My wonderful friends also have no idea that I attempted moderation constantly. And failed, constantly. All they saw was me drunk, every time I drank. So, they think that was my intention: to get drunk. Because they don’t get drunk when they don’t want to get drunk. Or if they do, it’s very rare. A once-a-year type occasion.
I decided to write them a letter, to explain what I couldn’t find the words for, when they asked me.
Firstly, you are lovely. Thank you for sticking around even though I was a fricking nightmare for so many years. I love you.
But, I need to explain something to you, that I can’t quite adequately do through speaking, because I am a better writer than I am a speaker.
Imagine this. Every time you have one coffee, you find that you have four or five coffees. In a row. Within a few hours. You just can’t seem to stop, once you’ve started. Until you’ve had so much caffeine that your body just shuts down and you generally pass out.
You try everything you can think of to just have one or two coffees, because you feel like you can’t live without coffee. Everyone drinks coffee! Coffee is fun! Must keep coffee. You try exercising before coffee, only buying espresso coffees, not keeping spare coffee in the house, creating rules around what days you can drink coffee. Nothing works. You try to control the mysterious coffee-hunger for two decades, and you always, always fail.
Then it gets to the point that you don’t want to live anymore, because the coffee is making you feel so wretched. You have destroyed relationships over coffee, you have woken up in a jail cell after a coffee binge, you can’t remember huge chunks of your life because of coffee, you keep entrusting your life to total strangers after too much coffee, you keep spending all of your money on coffee.
You finally, finally manage to stop drinking coffee. You find that, if you don’t drink the first coffee, the coffee-hunger lies dormant. The residual cravings gnaw at you at first, but eventually the hunger fades to a faint tug, and eventually disappears completely. You learn to ignore it when your still-addicted brain is suggesting coffee. You can resist the thought, rather than act on it. Who knew?!
You grow really, super, mega happy without coffee in your life. You realise coffee was the root of all your problems; not the solution, as you once believed. Everything starts to get better; your friendships heal, you clear your debts, you get a great new job, you look better, you feel incredible. You have literally never felt this good.
Would you ever risk drinking coffee again? And chance re-awakening that awful, all-consuming hunger?
So, no, lovely friend, I will never be trying to moderate ever, ever again. I tried for 20 years, and never cracked it. And that is not something to feel sad about. It’s actually a life-changing, heart-awakening relief. I have finally stopped failing at moderation, and started winning at being happy.