My sober penpal Lilly asked me a good question about our crazy brains.

Her question was about amnesia, how we forget the feeling of being hungover. and why do we continue to drink (or to crave drinking) when we know it’s not good for us.  It’s like we forget all the bad parts as time goes on.

first, i must give my standard disclaimer. I am not a counsellor 🙂 I know nothing about nothing.  I am only 8.75 months sober.  I know nothing.  There are lot of people out there a lot smarter that I am, with a lot more experience.

but my first gut reflex is that drinking is like being in a toxic relationship (with a man, in my case, but you can insert your own appropriate gender!).  Yes, there are good days when you’re dating a bad guy. there are promises of improvement that don’t materialize. there are moments when you realize with certain clarity that you have to leave. and then later, you believe his stories. because you want to believe. because you’re not ready to leave yet. Because you think you’re broken and he’s probably the best you can get. and he really does have his good points.  He has such nice hair, and he can sing in tune (!).

we stay in toxic relationships because it’s not easy to see what needs to be done when you’re in it. Which is why the sober blogs are so damn helpful, as I can rely on the genius of others who’ve been there to see right through my lame rationalizations.

we stay in unhealthy relationships because we have low-self esteem  on some level, probably not consciously, we don’t think we deserve better.  clearly, if we deserved better, we’d be out there ensuring that ‘better’ happens to us.  instead we hide.  we pull the tent flaps down around us, and we say ridiculous things like “next time…” Next time I’ll make sure I eat something first.  Next time I’ll have a glass of water every second drink.  Next time I’ll stop when everyone else stops.

we stay in abusive relationships because our vision of reality becomes warped and we can’t really see what is right and what is wrong. we have moments of clarity, hungover desperate moments, and then once the sun is shining and he’s cleaned up for you, and he’s smiling that smile, you say “oh it wasn’t that bad.”

and while I got all jiggy on the blog earlier this week about me NOT being superhuman, one thing I think I DID do, that perhaps other people don’t do, is I decided to improve my situation BEFORE it got bad.  I got sober early. I didn’t wait till the last minute, I didn’t try to find ten hundred different ways to continue drinking. I figured that getting out was probably worth trying, and once I was out, I realized how much better I felt, and how much stronger. yes, I do deserve more. yes, I was previously hiding in a tent (yes, someone who owns a company or two can still be hiding in a tent, not really facing all the glorious things the world has to offer).  I decided that it was better to be ‘single’ (sober) than to be in a ‘bad relationship’ (spending every evening with a bottle of red wine).

and everything else we believe about booze, when we know better, are just excuses. because we don’t think we deserve more.

and really, really, you do.  deserve more. tons and heaps more.

we may not even realize it, but in trying to quit, it’s like we’ve already raised our hands and said: “Me! Me! Hey, look at me! I want something else.  I don’t even know what it is yet, but this thing I’ve been doing ain’t working. I know I need something better/different. I know that something better is out there for me.  I’m going to go out and find it. I’m not going to wait in this shit hole any longer, thinking it’ll magically change. Holy I have no idea what I’m doing, at all.  All of my usual coping strategies have been left behind.  But I’m doing it anyway.”

Another thing, and i forgot to mention this, but i think the booze itself made me depressed.  I don’t drink because I was depressed — the booze made me feel lethargic and like a bag of shit.  The booze itself got into me and changed me. And then there’s wolfie …

Thanks to Lilly, cuz I really do love questions like this. They make me think hard.  I was in a toxic boy relationship before I met my husband.  we only dated for 6 months but it was like train wreck from start to finish.  why was I there? I must have believed that it was the best I could do (I was 35ish). I believed his lies (and it was all lies, including his name). He (literally) had an AA tattoo on his shoulder and he told me it “wasn’t his.”  hahahahahahahahaha … but oh, he was cute and could sing in tune.  and said such nice things to me… Thankfully my husband, who can’t even tell white lies, is also cute and can sing. and isn’t a gigantic jackass.

What do you think?


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • At day 14 this makes sense – I started stopping because I felt so tired all the time. Sometimes I feel like I could lie down anywhere and just go to sleep! I did dry January, felt better, then went on holiday for a week. Felt terrible for three weeks and then decided there had to be a change.

  • yep, ‘ya nailed it… I don’t even know what day I’m on, somewhere into my second year… BUT… over the weekend felt that niggly urge. I dug really deep to remember that feeling of being hung over..that really gross feeling… accckkk….thought, “what would Belle do?” & managed to hang tough. I have come too far to go backwards — thank God for this blog, because I can come here and just be… quiet & calm. Thanks, Belle and everyone…

  • Every thing you say is true of course. You mention being a high bottomer. Me too. (I always think of us in 1980’s style aerobics lycra. My bottom might have been high in the 1980s but its not now! – but I digress) I think the challenge at times is slightly different for high vs low bottomers. The bottom was not THAT bad for me – especially with a little drop or 2 of amnesia added. So its a different sort of choice. Its less about avoiding some dreadful pit and more about being the best I can be. I think I need to get this clearer in my head – it might help in the “fuck it” times. Great post as always Belle. C xxx

  • This is something that comes up often – the whole thing about doing something that clearly doesn’t work for us, and yet we go back for more and more pain out there. Yes, there is the physical addiction part. No doubt about that. When I put a drink in me, well, the floodgates open and I have no “off” switch. It’s until I pass out or get picked up by cops or put on a stretcher. It’s the insanity, as New Sober Life mentioned. Your analogy is a good one, and it touches on many of the ways that we talk ourselves out of what it best for us, and yet, it’s the same sick mind that is trying to heal the sick mind! Insanity x 10 now 🙂

    But in AA they do mention this. In the text, it mentions the following: “We are unable, at times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink”. And I know even after I got arrested, I STILL went out and drank again. It’s the alcoholism telling me, as usual, that things will be different this time. Alcoholism minimizes the damage I have done. It rationalizes and justifies. That is the true dangerous part of the illness.

    But certainly, we stay at it…it’s the only life we know, right?

    Great post. 🙂


    • thanks for this Paul, since I haven’t been in AA, I really do appreciate you giving us a better perspective on this. I admire your willingness to share your experiences, and to help everyone understand better ‘what’s going on’… hugs from me.

  • Kary May! Thanks for linking to that – yes, that’s it exactly!

    Belle, I also entirely relate to this:

    “Another thing, and i forgot to mention this, but i think the booze itself made me depressed. I don’t drink because I was depressed — the booze made me feel lethargic and like a bag of shit. The booze itself got into me and changed me. And then there’s wolfie …”

    And I really want to know how it feels when I remove the booze for awhile, like a good while, like a 100 day or longer while.

  • I used to say, “I’ve had good times when I was sober, and I’ve had good times when I was drunk, and the good times I had when drunk were a lot more fun.” That was true for me for a long time and then it was never true again for me for a long. But I kept trying to get back to that time when the times were good, just like in a relationship. The only thing that finally made me stop was the terror that the next drink would be my last, literally.

    It never fails to interest me how all of us seem to be thinking and dealing with the same questions and issues at the same time, I was just sitting down to write a blog about what made me quit drinking when I clicked on your blog and Mr. SponsorPants blogged today about the amnesia of alcohol that Lilly was asking about. Here’s a link to his post

  • I satyed for too long because deep down I knew that without the booze numbing my emotions I would have to feel. Really feel. I don’t know why I chose to avoid being present in my life. I know that without wine, my emotions run really high and that takes some getting used to. There is lots of other stuff I need to deal with. I don’t even know where to start with that yet. I only know that I have taken that important first step to getting myself out of the toxic realationship. The rest is up to me and I have all the time in the world now…
    I have removed the “rose tinted”spectacles and stamped all over them!
    Great post Belle. Well done you on your early exit and awesome wisdom.

  • Yup…it’s exactly like that Belle! The toxic relationship that sucks all the joy out of life and makes things 1 billion times harder! I thought I was easing the pain of losses in my life by self medicating with wine…but I was making it way worse and HIDING and beating myself up! I am grateful every day for sobriety! Awesome post! 🙂

  • Yes, this is so true, the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. For me no matter how I would drink I got drunk. It was not how I drank, it was that I drank. And I too remember those times that I would feel better and forget about how bad I felt few days ago and thought well, it wasn’t so bad after all. We here have this saying, that this is the disease that tells us the we don’t have a disease. Lol! Also, I love the comparison to the toxic relationship, yep, it’s totally like that. Thanks for the great post!

  • One of the best things I have ever read. As a matter of fact, I tried to re-blog it…but somehow can’t quite figure that out (or maybe I *did* do it correctly – who knows. Anyways, I shared the link to these pearls of wisdom as I read a few posts today from folks who didn’t quite have their game plan figured out for tonight. Somehow I have a feeling this may change some mindsets. SPOT ON!

  • Totally agree! I think it’s only when we stop the cycle of reacting to what makes us feel really uncomfortable–and, that changes, on a daily, monthly, yearly basis!–by drinking do we see JUST HOW BADLY we’re treating ourselves. We don’t see that our actions signify a sense of self-disgust, a belief (where did we get it from?) that we somehow deserve to feel bad, be out of control, put ourselves in stupid places, say stupid things, risk our lives, etc.

    Anyway…it’s really interesting to see where you’re coming from. I, honestly, would not have stopped drinking had I not HAD to. I wonder how different my current relationship to drinking and wine would be if I had cut it out sooner…

    • DDG I think that most people keep ‘doing what they’re doing’ until they have to stop. maybe that is something weird about me: a high bottom drunk. but wine still speaks to me, it still calls my name. I’m glad you’re back commenting … I wondered, as you commented less and less, if you were retreating … I guess you were. note to self (and to everyone else, I should make a poster and put it up around town): If you DDG fading away, pls email her to send hugs xoxo

  • He lied about his name?

    I think continuing to drink had everything to do with low self-esteem for me, that & it’s a shitty habit. When I first started considering to seriously quit drinking the thought popped into my head for the first time– I do deserve to be sober. I do deserve for good things to happen to me. I didn’t think that before. I thought I deserved to be punished for something. I don’t know for sure what, but I was certain I did.

    It’s also a lot easier to wallow in self-pity & not try.

    Really nice post 🙂

    • his name. he was going by his second name even though his id was in his first name. or some such nonsense. honesty, it seemed rational at the time. like all bullshit does… I like how you identify that you deserve to be sober (and more, really there’s so much more greatness that happens after we’re sober). and I think that wallowing in shitty-ville, while it may be ‘easy’, is soul destroying. but I know I’m unusual about this. I think that life is like a big amusement park full of interesting things to do. at least, I think that when I’m sober. when I’m drinking, I think that life is a gigantic list of responsibilities and pressures.