Why Quit Now?

Think for a moment of a child you love. Or a beloved pet. Picture them stepping into the path of an oncoming car.

There. You feel it? Your heart leaping in your chest? The rush of adrenaline and the urge to move quickly, to rescue.

It takes a while to dissipate, even when the reaction is only imagined.

6 nights ago I sat listening to a motivational speaker at a fundraiser enthusiastically ask the audience, “What’s your GOAL?! What do you want to ACCOMPLISH??! Let’s talk about HOW you can take some STEPS everyday to ACCOMPLISH your GOAL!!!”

So naturally I turned my thought towards a goal.  I expected Machu Picchu to come to mind, as exploring the ancient ruins tops my bucket list.  But no, five other words came first, complete with the urge to move quickly and rescue from danger: I need to quit drinking.

Machu Picchu was no where in sight, and the words rang again: I need to quit drinking.

I ignored those words, as usual, because there was still half a bottle of wine on the table to share with my friends, and another half waiting for me in the fridge at home.

But that pounding in my chest would not stop, not at the table, not on the ride home. It startled me, this new twist.  It ached like a longing and pulled like an urge.

What the hell…..? So I did what any high functioning heavy drinker would do. I went home and shut that voice up with two big glasses of wine.

The next day it reemerged and I looked at it closely in the light of day. I know this feeling, I thought. This is the pull of the heart my children learned to walk, to ride a bike, and I feared constantly for their safety. And oh, that first time they drove alone, new license in hand, taillights disappearing down the road on that first adventure. “Danger! Danger!” clangs a mother’s heart.

Seriously, what the hell? Am I in danger?

I had to drink red wine that night, because all the white was gone from the night before.  The next day was beautiful and bright and full of sunshine-y spring promise. I awoke with a headache from the red wine but I’d made plans to go hiking with a friend so I pressed on. (I always press on, anyway. Most days start with coffee and tylenol.)

I felt a sourness in my belly that seemed to be growing, like a stink I could feel.  I’d been noticing it more and more. I recalled a commercial against drinking and driving in which an ER doctor says how disgusting the insides of a drunk smell when you cut them open for surgery.  It always bothered me to think I might repulse some handsome ER doctor in an emergency situation. I’d added “stinky inside” to the list of things I didn’t like about myself, right next to arm waddle and bunions.

But the stink was no longer just a notion. It was real. I could feel it, taste it. I was pretty sure I could even smell it myself, and you know you really stink when you can smell it yourself.

I had to quit, I knew it.

And so on that hike, I told my friend. I’ve told other friends on other occasions that I wanted to stop drinking, but they always pooh-pooh’ed it because, as far as they knew, it wasn’t that bad.  This time was different because this time I told the truth and entrusted my dear friend with my dearest secret. She agreed – “you need to change this” –  and also understood my reasons for privacy.  (more on that in the next post)

And that was that. We hiked, we went on to talk about other things, and the ache in my chest continues.  I’m not out of danger yet.

But I am on my way.

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16 comments

  1. Thank you Jean for a fantastic blog. What an amazing, brave, honest and generous women you are. I have been battling with alcohol addiction for nearly 40 years but I have just had my (first) moment when I knew I had to quit. Your advice about keep researching and reading is so on the money. I have read loads of blogs, books etc but it was when I was exploring the difference between pleasure and happiness everything clicked into to place with a loud clunk.

    I have known for a while that alcohol doesn’t make me happy. It robs me of my fizz, my passion and my energy, but still I couldn’t contemplate giving up. The thought of not being able to drink on holiday, or when eating out or socializing actually made me weep because I got so MUCH pleasure from drinking. But then I tried to quantify that pleasure against other things I enjoyed in life. The amount of pleasure I get from alcohol is about as much as I get from listening to one of my cats purr when they are sat on my lap! I discovered I get way more pleasure from running!! I know unbelievable but true.

    Anyway I am only at the start of my journey, 8 days sober, but I am feeling really good about my decision. Really positive and optimistic. I know I will have a lot of work to do over the coming weeks, months and years and there will be more than a few mountains to get over along the way but for now I am looking forward with excitment to the rest of my life without alcohol.

    Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been pouring over your posts. Today is day 8 for me. I relate to so much of what you have written. Thank you for having the courage to start writing these blog posts years ago. They continue to impact those of us who are trying our best at recovery all around the world. It helps tremendously to not feel so alone.

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        • I’m so glad are finding this material helpful. It really does make a difference to realize that you’re not the only one. There are so many people out there like you and me who are rediscovering life again. 8 days is amazing. You’re through the hardest part! Have you added podcasts to your routine? Mine is The Bubble Hour and there are tons of other great shows out there now too – Mother Recovering, The Unruffled, This Naked Mind – so many!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a bruise on my foot from the weekend. I don’t know how the night ended – just some hazy thoughts. My elbow hurts from three months ago when I bumped into a wall. I have the very same feelings you have described about my drinking too – the panic, heart rushing danger feeling. My insides hurt physically. I have a wonderful family with beautiful children who deserve more, a great job, friends. Yet last night – which was Day 1, I finished up the white wine. Today has got to be day 1.

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  3. Awake again in the middle of the night and feeling so stupid because once again I did not make it through 1 day sober. I have been reading blogs (Big Lurker) and listening to Bubble hour in the middle of the night for weeks now but haven’t stopped drinking. I set September 1 as my Day One. Today is September 3rd and I haven’t done it yet. I don’t want to tell my husband or anyone so find this blog encouraging that I can do this on my own.
    I am a retired professor so that tells you something about my age and high functioning lifestyle. (If I’m so smart, why can’t I get through one day?) My husband is also retired and does not have a problem with alcohol.
    I have known for decades (beginnng in my thirties) that I don’t drink like other people yet always thought I was okay because I was functioning and achieving. I realize now there must be something broken inside and I want to fix whatever it is.
    House guests are arriving Thursday for the weekend. So do I try to abstain starting today? If not, I’ll be sneaking drinks while everyone else drinks normally. No one knows how much I actually drink. How embarrassing if they or my husband knew.

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  4. Just found your blog… I am likewise a high-functioning alcoholic, drink mostly in private, only those close to me know I have a drinking problem. Oddly, none of them have approached me about it, but I know I have a problem.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure hundreds or thousands more people have benefited from it who might not have taken the time to comment, as it’s one of the first things that popped up when I googled.

    I’m officially starting day one, and I’m not having any fanfare or declarations. I’m just going to stop.

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  5. I have been reading your blog and crying for the better part of the day. I too am a high functioning over achiever with a drinking problem. For the first time in my adult life I feel the burden of the stigma of “alcoholic” removed and am finally able to see my problem with drinking objectively. Thank you for courageously and honestly sharing your story. Knowing that I am one of many gives me hope!

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  6. Thank you for your blog. I can so relate to your story and those who comment. It’s great to find a community of people stopping before they hit bottom. I am on Day 4–vacillating between exciting, furious determination and utter anxiety and panic. Aghhhh!

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  7. I’ve been lurking around your blog. You are an amazingly honest writer and I’m so thankful to have found you.

    Congratulations on more than two years of sobriety. I’m working on two weeks as we speak. My drinking is different than yours in that I don’t drink daily, but I do binge drink twice a month. Drinking has made me physically and mentally ill (anxiety).

    I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I’ve enjoyed feeling stronger every day that I wake up after a sober night.

    The only person I’ve told is my boyfriend, who claims to be supportive but also tells me I’m much more fun after 2 drinks (but no more). He is an alcoholic who believes he has his drinking under control because he doesn’t drink to get drunk, just to stay even. My problem is, I can’t stand to be around him when he’s drinking. I started binge drinking to escape his drunkenness. How screwed up is that?

    For the first time in 4 years, I didn’t go to his house (I go every other weekend when my daughter is at her father’s). All hell has broken loose, but I feel good about standing my ground. I’m just not comfortable in that situation yet. I’ve been trying to explain it to him. I need to be better for me, my children and even for him.

    The irony of my drinking and not telling anyone is that my step father of 36 years has 35 years of sobriety. He is seen in our community as an AA god. He has sponsored and helped thousands. I just don’t want him to think less of me. What if I don’t make it? I’ll look even more stupid.

    So for now, I’m going to keep reading and taking time to become the person I want to be.

    Thank you again for taking the time to put your feelings out there where you are helping so many.

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    • Jenn, thanks so much for writing. I have a hunch that your step father would be absolutely OVERJOYED to know that you are embarking on this change and would love more than anything to encoruage you along the way. One of the most delightful lessons of recovery is the immense amount of welcome support for others – you will probably be blown away by his response. Please stay in touch and keep us all posted on your journey. Lots of love and encouragement – xo UnP

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    • Ho Jenn, I am new to this sit (absolutely thrilled I found it…or did it find me?!). I want to ask you how It’s going with your boyfriend. I finally reunited with my college sweetheart – the one and only who “got away.” We sew a perfect match and dated for a year. He asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. The only issue was I drank like a fish with him. I’m high functioning, etc. And this is the one area I need to REALLY work on and knew I could never do that while continuing our relationship. So, I broke up with him and am 22 days sober. How can you stay in your relationship and work on your sobriety at the same time? Just wondering what your thoughts are…

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  8. I am so happy you had that person to confide in, to become accountable to. To receive support from. What a blessing.

    And oh…hikes with hangovers?? So glad those are over. 🙂

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