there is no right way

Recently MysteryGirl hit a bump in the road. She was just about to reach 30 days of sobriety, and then she emailed me and asked that I restart her counter to day #1 for the 100 day challenge.  I asked:  “for everyone who is thinking of relapsing, and is trying to avoid it … can you say a few words? Did you know right when you drank that you were going to enjoy it, or was it a ‘fuck-it’ moment, or was there any thinking.”

And — with her permission — here’s what she wrote to me:

My recent decision to drink on my 28th day of freedom from alcohol was completely a FUCK IT moment. I simply had a few glasses of wine to “take the edge off.”  Not in any way, shape or form did I feel better or relieved. The only relief I can think of is that once I had my slip, it was over.  I was relieved that I did not continue to slip the next day/night/week.  I simply put my big girl panties on, went to my regular Monday morning meeting and got back with the program …

Not once did I even CONSIDER calling one of my AA buddies.  This is probably the most frustrating part of all this.  I had been so proud of my upcoming 30 days … and I know for a fact that if I had not been able to reach the first person I called, I could have moved on to another.  I KNOW for a fact that someone could have talked me through the whole process… from pouring the initial glass to what the consequences might be.

That will be my number one change for the next time that I struggle.  They don’t have to be AA buddies – they just need to be people who understand you because if you are not someone who has struggles with alcohol, they will NOT get it and they NEVER will.

Why didn’t I think of the puppies and kittens as I went to buy that wine?  Why didn’t I reach out to someone to talk about things?  WHY did I let my brother’s drama turn into a reason to escape?  Still some unanswered questions, and all I can do is dust myself off and start again.

[underlined bits are my emphasis added]

I think sometimes people relapse ‘without’ thinking. It can be a weird, compulsive, spur of the moment thing. Like “ooops, i tripped, fell and drank.”

And other times i know that we plan to relapse. we think “i don’t like this feeling, i’m sure my problem isn’t so bad, i’m sure i can handle a drink or two or nineteen.”

I was curious if MG had either of these thoughts, or something different. I personally have ‘planned’ to drink, but have always managed to postpone actually doing it and later I felt better and the urge passed.  I personally have NOT had the compulsive “fuck it” thoughts and then found myself drinking.

But look. That doesn’t mean anything. It could happen to me tomorrow (god i hope not!). i’m not special. i’m not doing sobriety better than other people.  i am perhaps temporarily lucky. and i thought that if MG wrote out what happened to her, then it would make more sense to me (and to her, and to anyone else reading).

This reminds me of Al’s post about ‘ugly sobriety’.  In case there is any misunderstanding, my sobriety might look ‘pretty and rosy and divine and twinkling’. But it isn’t. Your sobriety might look heinous and difficult and shitty and not worth it.  But it isn’t.

We’re all doing the same thing. Trying to get and stay sober. And we’re doing the same thing in our own way.

My way is to put a positive spin on just about anything. Yes, i do that.  Yes, it’s irritating sometimes. And yes, just like everybody else, sometimes i go to bed and cry about how dramatically shitty my entire life is.

Mostly i’m optimistic. About life and about my sobriety. And I’m optimistic about yours, too.

There is no right way. Your way might be cheer-leader-y like me. You might blog or not. You might email me with your real name or not. You may want to date guys who drink, or not. You might be like MG, where you stop and start a bit, while you figure out how to get your sober car on the road. It doesn’t matter. There is no right way. There is only your way.

And frankly, drunks tend to isolate. That’s just what we do. Maybe in reading other people’s blogs you’ll find someone who ‘does it like you do it’.  I hope so. Cuz you deserve to be sober. And, to misquote Paul (MIAB), “the more sober cats, the better!”


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

  • I have wanted to drink so much lately…which is odd to me after 8 months of not. I know it is all the ‘new job’ stress. Plus my mother in law just died…so all these triggers that I would have numbed away with lots of wine are just overwhelming. So the other night I just started to cry…the kind of silent crying where the tears are just pouring out of my eyes and I am breathing normal and I just can’t stop them. I think ‘what the hell…stop’! But then I realize it is just a good release of emotions and I usually am “tired”…so instead of drinking or feeling sorry for myself cause I can’t drink, I go to bed and cry myself to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be a better day. It always is a better morning.

    I also just made plans with an old friend to go to dinner next Friday and we used to do that and drink our wine and talk. So now I am thinking that I am going to make her uncomfortable and seem like a party pooper. BUT I know that I will talk just as much with lots of cups of hot decaf tea. But it doesn’t have that same feeling of going out with a friend and having drinks and chatting. Any advice?

    I really do understand MG’s ‘fuck it…I just want to take the edge off’. I am feeling the ‘fuck it…I just want to have fun and be a normal drinker’.

    • Dear Anonymous:
      I think grief is a big stress, and it’s subtle. Like, there’s lots of crying to start, and then there’s none, and then later there’s ‘crying for no reason’. I once read that colds were uncried tears. and while I don’t believe that, every time I’m crying I think “at least I’m not getting sick.” and really, I’m a crier, barely need an excuse! I think that crying is fine. normal. good even. and wanting to drink to hide from crying or to hide from feelings is … well, it’s normal, because it’s what we USED to do. and some of those habits and patterns are still there. Maybe they’re hidden better after 8 months, but if you throw in a bit of grief or real distress, then the old patterns can easily surface.

      if your old friend is uncomfortable because you’re not drinking, then … well then they’re not your best friend right now : ) you (and I) can chat quite nicely with tea. we can talk with anyone about anything. we don’t need booze to ‘have fun’ – we were fun to start with!

      I don’t really have any *advice* I don’t think. except to say that equating fun = booze is a slippery slope. I think I wrote somewhere before, there is no “one glass of wine would be nice… there is only, for me, a choice between being (moderately happily) sober OR feeling like a bag of shit. There’s no in between.”

      I don’t much care what regular drinkers can or can’t do. I don’t much care what shitty irritating friends think of my un-fun-ness. I know that I’m feeling better now. Sure some days suck, but overall, in general, to further elongate this tired comment, I know that thinking about drinking is a rabbit hole that I don’t want to go down. anymore.

      change the venue (get coffees and go for a walk), change the time of day (mid-morning versus 5 pm), or cancel the event entirely if you feel truly shitty and nervous.
      take the best care of you that you can. Cry, sleep, walk, run, hide under the covers in bed for a day. And wait a tiny bit, because (again, for me) right around 8.5 months I got a very clear picture of what one year sober was going to feel like. and I’m headed there now.


      • Oh my gosh Belle! That was the nicest comment anyone has EVER said to me! I (of course) have tears in my eyes now…tears of relief and from your kindness! Thank you SO much! Grief is funny how it appears out of no where or is triggered by a memory or passing thought at any time. It didn’t help that we had the memorial mass a month after her passing. It has felt dragged out and then re-opened.

        Thanks for telling me that what I am feeling and thinking is ‘normal’! I do not really want to drink…cause I know that it would be like falling down a deep hole and I do NOT want to go there again. I do know that when I start to remember it as romantic and relaxing…like you say ‘that’s just wolfie talking’ and I then say ‘shut the fuck up and go away’ to it. I look back at all the things I’ve gotten thru the last 8 months withOUT a drink…holidays, concerts, dinners at bar restaurants and I LIVED without a glass or bottle (or 2 bottles) of wine! I actually had tons of fun and can ‘remember’ it all! I know I can do this too. Damn it…I am doing it!

        I totally agree with you that I need to call my old friend back and change the venue! That would take the pressure off of me and we would still have a great time! We do love having coffee and shopping during the DAY! You told me what my gut was feeling! I really have to trust my gut feelings!

        I can’t wait to feel the ONE year anniversary!!!! So I’ll stay right behind you sober and cheer you on in July and then we can cheer me on in August!!! Thanks a million for your hugs and support!!!

        (maybe this would have been more appropriate to email you…but maybe someone else reading this feels better too? hope so!)

  • Great post Belle.
    MG–proud of you for getting back up and dusting yourself off and starting again. Most of us slip at the beginning, the key is just not staying down and learning what we can from each misstep. Then sharing that experience with others helps us all, so thank you!
    Continued support and best wishes to everyone going for 100 (and beyond)!

  • Thanks Belle and MG! This is such an important post! They say relapse although not necessary for recovery, is a huge part of it! Relapse was a huge part of my story, actually I relapsed so many times that I was like a chronic relapser, I could only stay sober for about 3 months at a time. After the first few times I ran out of answers as to why… my sponsor would just say, – because you are an alcoholic and you want to drink!” But anyway, I really appreciate you sharing this MG, – “Not once did I even CONSIDER calling one of my AA buddies.” – THIS I found, was the key to my sobriety. My feelings and reasoning changes so quickly, even the act of dialing the phone and having it ring and leaving a message if needed, would slow my though process down, just enough to think it through. Thank you MG, I am so glad you are back! Keep pushing forward! Hugs!

  • Wow Belle…I feel famous (or is the right word infamous?!?) ha ha. I truly do hope that this share helps at least one other person. I totally understood what Paul was saying about not wanting anyone to talk me out of it…but I can assure you that I will think things through very differently next time. That hour or two of escape is not worth starting over after MANY MANY hours of recovery, sobriety, growth, etc.

    This community is so incredibly helpful…as is my AA group…as is my recovery/spiritual literature…It takes time to figure out how all of the pieces come together, and I absolutely LOVE the title that Belle appled to the post – There is No Right Way. That is SO, SO true. If someone can do this on their own, then damn, I applaud them. If someone comes here plus goes to three meetings a day, then yay for them. There are so many programs available other than AA – Women For Sobriety, SMART Recovery, and I’m sure there are others.

    If each day I enjoy opportunities for growth, then I am doing something right. If I learn just one tiny thing per day, then my journey is on track. If I somehow help one person in even the slightest way, even if it’s through my mistakes, then at least there is something gained.

    Moving onward…and as Frank Sinatra says, “I did it MY WAY.” 🙂

    • and thanks to you MG for bravely answering the question “what were you thinking” … it would have been easy to say “I don’t know, I just drank.” i agree with you 100% that improving bit by bit is the only way to get ‘there’ – wherever there is! hugs from me.

  • When alcoholism has us in its sights (it ALWAYS has us in its sights, by the way…lol) and we are mentally without defense, then we will get zinged. In the big book of AA, it’s called the “strange mental blank spot” It’s that thing that makes us pull into the parking lot of the liquor store and pick up a bottle of wine or scotch. Seemingly without even thinking about it. Strange it seems, looking at it from the outside, but inside there is a certain amount of sense it makes. It’s like our mind stops and alcoholism completely takes over, like a parasite taking over the host.

    At that point, yes, we usually don’t call anyone. There is a reason for that – we don’t *want* anyone to talk us out of it. We *want* that drink, alcoholism holds sway, and we have already mentally prepared for this long before the drink hits our lips. Simple and powerful as that is, that is what usually happens.

    You are right, we isolate. We get into communities like this one, or going to meetings, or hanging with other sober folks, or email, or whatever it is we do to stay connected and not cloistered away somewhere. Being with ourselves too long is a bad thing…lol. At least for me it is!

    The “fuck its” are a powerful thing, and that is the sound of us resigning ourselves to our alcoholism. “You win” is what we really mean. Blech. That is why support is very important in our recovery. It’s not all, but it’s vital. And I think what you have going here with this 100 day thing is marvelous. Your optimism and enthusiasm for recovery is contagious and all the women here pick up on it. Yes, we all have our ways of doing this – and some of us need more help than others. Just as someone helped us along as well. “I” don’t recover. “We” do.

    Love this post.