I remember watching John Cusack’s movie 2012 a few years ago. I don’t exactly remember the plot, but I do remember at some point, a giant tidal wave is about to engulf a cruise ship. The captain of the ship, a man depicted to have some length of sobriety, takes a drink in the last moments of his life. I thought a lot about that drink over the course of the day. Later that night, I went to a meeting and questioned my sobriety: if death were an absolute certainty, would I drink? In response, two of my dearest friends told me it was time to join the “No Matter What” club. No matter what happens today, I will not drink. No matter what. There is no caveat if something happens to a parent or a loved one. If the man leaves. If the job is lost. If the tidal wave bears down.
I think in early sobriety, we can sidestep the idea of being sober forever. Although we sometimes minimize it by saying just, “Put the plug in the jug,” setting aside a drink for a day or two or eight is extremely difficult.Thinking about never having the crutch of alcohol ever again was, for me, really and incredibly terrifying. As a person who drank every day, I had zero conception how not to drink. I needed the option to drink again. I needed the freedom to say, “If I want to drink tomorrow, I will drink tomorrow, but I will stay sober today.” For the first two years of my sobriety, every morning in the shower I would say, “Today, I am not going to drink,” like a mantra. Some days, I sat on the floor of my shower and cried. Some days I screamed in rage at God. But every day, I said, “My name is Ann and I am an alcoholic. And today, I am not going to drink.” And it worked.
But at some point, when the boot of alcohol what removed from my throat, my life just became more life-ish. Small and large events happened that made me want to disappear for a little bit, a few hours. I craved a little escape, a break, a time out. And that is when the not drinking actually became harder.
When AAs talk about the first year as a gift, that is what they are talking about. It’s one thing not to drink when the chips are down and I’m facing an eviction and I have zero friends and no job. It’s another thing to not drink when I’m all alone at night and there’s every reason in the world to drink and no one to stop me. It’s been in those dark hours that I’ve held on to my sobriety with both hands and the idea of “No Matter What.”
I’ve come to the realization over the years that the conscience decision to not drink regardless of any situation is the great determinant between those that stay sober for the duration and those who do not. I think at some point in our sobriety, we have to look in the mirror, look ourselves in the eye, and make the resolution to not drink, no matter what.