Alcoholics and ‘social drinking’.
It is a long time since I wrote anything on the subject of alcoholism.
I have been an alcoholic for most of my adult life, although it only became totally out of control after I took early retirement at the age of 54, when I had little better to do than drink myself under the table every night.
If you flick back to the start of my blog, in July, 2009 you will see just how bad and how out of control I was in those days, and how my mind and daily life was continually poisoned by my excessive alcohol consumption.
At the start of 2010, I became very suicidal and if it hadn’t been for a much valued therapist who took me in hand, I probably wouldn’t be here today to write this blog.
There are also many stories of my alcoholic life in Mobi’s Story and, of course in my novel, A Lust for Life, much of which was drawn from personal experiences.
One of the key hopes and dreams of most – if not all – alcoholics, is that one day they will be able to control their drinking, and become ‘social drinkers’ – just like ‘normal’ people.
In the early days of our alcoholic careers, in the days when we haven’t yet admitted we are alcoholics, we used to tell ourselves that once we had sorted a few problems in our lives – i.e. the personal problems that were making us drink too much – then we would revert to becoming ‘social drinkers’; drinking just enough to be mildly drunk and we would know when to stop.
It is the greatest delusion of us alcoholics, that even when our drinking had been out of control for many years and our life was in self-destruct mode, many of us still clung to the notion that it wasn’t too late to cut back and become ‘social drinkers’.
This feeling was never greater than when we had gone through a period of sobriety – be it a few weeks, a few months, or even years. One day, while we are sober, the idea will spring to our mind that now that we’ve shown the world that we can stop completely, then there will be no problem in starting again, but this time, we will keep it under control.
Surely we can have just a couple of beers at the bar with friends, followed by a glass of wine with our evening meal. What’s the harm in that?
Many alcoholics – both ‘practising’ and ‘recovering’ – will nod a sage smile at this question.
How many times did I tell myself this and how many times did I fail miserably? At first it seems that it is indeed possible to be a ‘social’ drinker’ and many days, or even weeks, may go by before one day you find that you’re back on the old alcoholic treadmill.
Often, something will trigger it – like a fight with the wife or girlfriend, or maybe an argument with a friend, or a set back in business or just a problem with life in general.
Whatever it may be, the plain truth is we have subconsciously been waiting for it – waiting for that excuse to get really drunk – and put an end to this pussy footing around with getting slightly tipsy.
I am now into my 4th year of sobriety, (I completed 3 years on 31 December), and even now, I occasionally get thoughts about whether, after all these years, I could just have the occasional glass of wine with Noo, or with my meal when dining out in a nice restaurant. These thoughts don’t stay with me long, because I know, as an old friend use to say, “It is only that ‘monkey on my shoulder’, trying to tempt me back into alcoholic ways.”
I am writing about this, because two days ago, I ran into an old, alcoholic friend when I was out on my afternoon constitutional.
He is a bar owner and although by no means a close friend, I have known him ever since I have been in Pattaya – some ten years now. He is probably in his early 40’s but has been a very heavy drinker and also a drug user, which through the years has got him into some pretty bad situations.
Just over two years ago he decided to take himself in hand and he joined Alcoholics Anonymous where he became a very active member. After he joined, he went on the wagon. I used to see him occasionally during my walks around the lake and we would occasionally touch base and he would tell me that he was still sober and still active in AA. I confess that every time I saw him, I always feared the worst and was always delighted when he told me that yes, he was still sober.
I hadn’t seen him for quite a while and was starting to wonder what had become of him when two days ago he bumped into me.
‘Are you still sober?’ (my usual greeting).
‘No mate, afraid not.’
‘Oh dear, what happened? When did you start drinking again?’
‘Well I had a big party last November to celebrate two years of abstinence, and then I started again.’
‘At your two years sobriety party?
‘Afraid so. But don’t worry, Mobi, I’m not drinking the same as before, and I’m not taking any drugs.’
‘So how much are you drinking?’
‘Only a few glasses of wine a day. I’ve had couple of glasses at my bar and tonight I will have a couple with my meal. That’s it, strictly social drinking.’
‘What has your lady got to say about it?
(I knew that she was the main reason he had decided to give up the booze. Two years ago, it had become a question of her or the booze, and he had chosen her.)
‘She’s told me its fine as long as I keep it like this – just a few glasses with my meal.’
‘Well, I wish you the very best of luck,’ I told him, as he went on his way.
I do wish him luck, most sincerely. My therapist and others who have conducted research into this have established that it is indeed possible for alcoholics to transform themselves into ‘social drinkers’ but the number who have succeeded are a very, very small number. For all practical purposes, we can consider it to be a hopeless task and that for 99%, it will only end in failure.
So while wishing my friend all the best, I know in my bones what is going to happen. I can only hope there will somebody standing by to pick up the pieces when it all turns to the proverbial.
But maybe he is the exception that proves the rule. We shall see….