The weight of this thing has been getting heavier and heavier for months, which is not how I thought it was going to be.
This thing is my sobriety and lately, I’ve often thought about throwing it away.
Maybe this will paint a clearer picture: I seriously considered getting drunk Saturday night, one year to the day since I last had a sip of alcohol.
I was in a comedy club, where adult beverages are as ubiquitous as jokes and laughter. I had no driving restrictions. It’s doubtful anybody in the place knew that I’m a recovering alcoholic and I could have had a bunch of drinks without any of my friends or family knowing.
As I made small talk with the nice couple at my table, one of the servers brought the guy a perfectly poured pint of beer that looked so delicious, so inviting and so intoxicating that I stared at the glass probably a little too long.
My fixation on his hoppy libation was broken when the server asked me if I wanted anything.
Boy, did I.
I badly wanted to chug the guy’s beer, buy three more for the table and add a shot of brown liquor because brown liquor is awful and if I was gonna fall off the wagon, by god, I wanted to hit the ground drunk and hating myself.
After one more glance at the beer list — Look at all those IPAs! I loved drinking IPAs! — I calmly sat it down and upon getting the server’s confirmation that there was a nonalcoholic beer option, I ordered that.
My first sober birthday was coming up and I wasn’t willing to throw 365 days of sobriety away for one night of drinking, but damn if the temptation doesn’t sometimes seem as strong or maybe even a little stronger than my willpower.
In those moments, I draw strength from people and things I cherish and trust, including three quotes that have meant more to me than I could have imagined when I first heard them.
At the 2016 Cape Fear Comedy Festival, I was still drinking every night, more often than not to the point of blacking out.
That week in Wilmington, N.C., was no different, but when I attended a taping of Shane Mauss’ “Here We Are” podcast, I heard Kate Nooner, a psychology professor at UNC Wilmington, say two phrases that broke through the fog created by my many years of alcohol and drug abuse.
These quotes may not mean anything to you, and that’s fine, but here’s how much they meant, and mean, to me: The day I returned home from the festival, I wrote them down with a silver Sharpie, and that piece of paper has been magneted on my refrigerator ever since. I look at Nooner’s quotes at least once a day.
“There are really no side effects. Just effects.”
“Catharsis is kind of a myth.”
On June 3, 2016, a couple of weeks after hearing those simple yet, to me at least, profound words, I drank 20 beers and didn’t feel drunk at all. I haven’t touched alcohol since that night.
Penning the professor’s quotes in permanent ink brought to mind another nugget of wisdom that has thankfully stuck with me since my first day as a sober person.
In a 2015 interview, I asked stand-up comedian Jesse Joyce, who headlined the 2017 Cape Fear festival and whose 12th sober birthday is today, about getting sober and how much that helped him be a better comedian and writer.
Part of Joyce’s response detailed the things people say when they start entertaining the idea of breaking an addiction cycle, and when he shared a question that had been posed to him, I knew I’d never forget it.
“Why don’t you try quitting drinking and see if your life gets better?”
Joyce went on to say that that “was concrete evidence” for him, and with a sober year now under my belt, I wholeheartedly concur.
While life is undeniably better for me as a sober man, I still struggle, and as I noted at the beginning of this piece, the temptation to drink became more frequent in recent weeks.
Without attending any Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or visiting any therapists, I confidently, perhaps defiantly, stopped drinking cold turkey and I wore that independently earned sober badge of honor proudly, telling people when they asked that I just decided I didn’t want to drink anymore, so I stopped. Simple as that.
I wondered during those first few months if it was indeed going to be that easy, and for the most part, it has been, because my mind and body had had enough. I quit because I was ready to quit and I wanted to quit.
So it was hard to ignore the irony when cravings stronger than any I’d had in the weeks that immediately followed June 3, 2016, started creeping into my head in the weeks leading up to June 4, 2017. My mind and body are stronger than they’ve been in decades, and it’s mainly because I stopped poisoning them with excessive amounts of alcohol, but I sometimes want a beer more now than I did soon after I quit.
I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for this, but I think I’m gonna be OK without delving too deep into the subject right now because keeping it simple is what works most often when I feel the urge to give in to my addiction.
Here’s how simple I keep it: I don’t want to drink today.
The weight of tomorrow can wait.