Updated: Nov 19, 2020
A while back, after posting one of my Easy Sobriety blogs, I had a conversation with someone who disagreed with my ideas and beliefs about easy sobriety. His experience had been much different than mine, and he did not want to accept the idea someone could have an easier experience with sobriety than he did. That, in and of itself, did not bother me. What bothered me from the conversation was when we ventured into the idea of recovery vs. recovered. My belief, as many of you know, suggests a person can recover from addiction. His belief suggested addicts will always be addicts and in recovery. He said, "If you are recovered, that means you get to drink like normal people, like normal drinkers, and I cannot do that." With that frame of reference, yes, I agree. Are you able to identify in his sentence what prevents him from recovering fully from his addiction? Let me give you a little hint, it does not involve the word drinking.
I remember his statement affected me greatly. It caused me to pause and step back from the conversation for a bit. I thought about what he said for quite some time before I responded. In my reflection, I had a minor epiphany, and it further propelled my desire to articulate my belief someone can achieve easy sobriety. There were two words in his statement that sum up my belief about the potential for full recovery from addiction. The first was the word, "get" and the second was the word, "normal." Let me explain why these two words were so powerful to me in our discussion about sobriety, recovery, and addiction.
Get to drink
"If you are recovered, that means you 'get' to drink..." By definition, the word get means to acquire, to obtain, and to come by. Taken a step further it means to enjoy the use of... It means you worked at getting something pleasurable, and then you succeeded. If ever there was a misappropriation of words, the use of "get" in terms of alcohol use after recovery is the epitome of the exact wrong sentiment. When this occurred to me, I thought to myself, that's it. That's one of the problems. If we believe "getting" to drink alcohol is pleasurable and enjoyable, but we are not allowed to imbibe because of our predisposed "problem" with alcohol, then we are living the definition of FOMO (fear of missing out). It would mean every time we saw alcohol, someone drinking alcohol, or advertisements for alcohol we would feel sad, disappointed, and discouraged because we do not "get" to drink it. That, my friends, is the perfect set up for a lifelong, self-perpetuating label of recovery and addiction.
Here is what I think about getting to drink. I "got" to drink for the better part of my entire life. Do you know what I "got" as a result of this wonderful gift to imbibe alcohol? Thirty plus years of forgotten memories, guilt, lost friendships, bad decisions, regret, and absolute sadness at the amount of time I wasted in my life. That's what I "got." Do you want to know what I realized about the gift of having the ability to drink alcohol? It's not a gift, it's a curse. It's a curse passed on to us by our families, friends, coworkers, and society. It's not something you get to do, it's something you are taught and expected to do until you realize the truth. The truth being, alcohol is a lie, and until you realize it, you'll believe it to be your savior. The moment I quit drinking and began seeking and finding the answer to my why's was the moment I realized my freedom. I was free because I no longer believed "getting" to drink to be a privilege. Instead, I learned to believe having the right to not "want" to drink is the truer privilege. I am not recovered because I now "get" to drink again. I am recovered because I no longer "want" to drink again. The difference is life-changing.
"If you are recovered that means you get to drink like 'normal' people, like 'normal' drinkers." What exactly does it mean to be "normal?" Dictionary.com defines normal as conforming to a standard. Whoa! Did anyone else's mind just explode? So, normal drinkers are drinkers who are conforming to a standard of drinking alcohol? What standard? How much is the standard? How often is the standard? From what I can tell, the normal standard of drinking is pretty fucking often and pretty fucking much. Maybe it was just the circles I ran in that disproportionately skewed my view of what normal drinking looks like. Okay, well, let's look at the normal standards for drinking today.
"In a study of more than 34,000 adults, researchers found that 40 percent of American adults consume excessive amounts of alcohol and continue to do so, despite the high risk of suffering health consequences." Newsweek
If this is accurate, and the article references a growing trend, then the normal drinker is, in fact, a heavy drinker, a binge drinker, or an alcoholic for all intents and purposes. The article went on to say, of the people who did not drink excessively in the first study, they admitted to engaging in risky drinking behaviors in the second study. This supports something I have mentioned repeatedly in my blogs about the tendency of people who drink. Annie Grace, in her book This Naked Mind, suggested people never drink less over time. Normal drinking is looking more and more like a road to nowhere.
Referring back to my realization about "getting" to drink, not only do I not "want" to drink, I certainly do not want to drink like "normal" drinkers, either. Unfortunately, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine has made matters even worse. There is a steady rise in excessive and binge drinking, and it is becoming an even bigger concern than in years past. Regardless of what we have told ourselves or what others have told us, "getting" to drink is not a prize. It is not a gift. It is not something to aspire to. Finding the courage and desire to realize choosing not to drink because we do not want it is the real gift. It can easily be argued as the best gift you can ever give yourself.
I am recovered because I do not "want" to drink like "normal" people.