Every once in a while we are asked to consider what we would do if we only had a few weeks left to live.
I thought about this the other day and realized I wouldn’t do much differently. I’d want the usual routine of family life I now enjoy, morning coffee and paper in bed with my husband and our pups, dropping by the office during the day, family suppers, activities with the kids, evening walks, visits with my sisters and my friends.
Interesting. “Nothing different?” I asked myself. “I guess I could start drinking wine again. What would it hurt?”
I caught my breath. Would I do that? Could I do that?
“Why not?” said my Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. “You’d be dying anyway, so what the heck?”
I thought about it.
If I only had a few weeks, I could probably go back to having wine with friends and with dinner, to give myself a bit of worldly pleasure before leaving it all behind for good. If I only had a few weeks, I could surely keep control over alcohol. I wouldn’t even be alive long enough for things to spiral. It wouldn’t matter. It would be so small in the grand scheme of things.
Yep. That’s what it would take to make it okay for me to start drinking again – terminal illness. Good to know.
Some part of my brain sat back and observed “the committee” in action. Some new, calm part of me that inserts itself between thought and deed was adding a secondary assessment of all this.
After a brief pause, she spoke in a warm, assertive tone.
“Really?” she asked kindly. “Is that really what you’d want, to undo this achievement in your last days? To see disappointment in the eyes of your sons instead of respect and love? To fog the mind and avoid absorbing every second of life? To withdraw and comfort yourself instead of reaching out and comforting others?
“Your last weeks should be your best. You must live out all you’ve learned.”
Yes, I thought. If I were dying, it would be more important than ever to stay the course.
“You are dying,” the rich, warm voice continued in my head. “Everyone is. We just don’t all know the timeline.”
What I learned from this discussion between the forces within me is that even after seven months, my patterns of addiction are still bubbling away beneath the surface. Perhaps they are more dangerous there now, because they continue while I carry on above thinking I have things under control.
I used to think it was an extreme position to say that alcohol addiction is a life long battle. I used to think I would get through extricating myself from an unhealthy pattern and be done with it. In truth, I thought by now I would “finished”.
I understand now how the work goes on and on. The individual evolves intellectually and emotionally but so too does the addiction.
I learned anew that my mind was creating limits for itself, and that I mustn’t become complacent.
I also learned that there is a part of me with a voice like Diane Sawyer – an elegant, strong virtuous woman in there who can override the committee. I like her. She wears cashmere sweaters and tasteful gold jewelry. She smells like fresh flowers, and she doesn’t often bake but she always brings a hostess gift.
She can come out and take over anytime.
This is such a wonderful post. I also have had these inner tumultuous conversations, bouncing back and forth between the thoughts of going out spiritually fit, soberly showing my children and grandchildren how graciously and gracefully a sober woman dies…and just saying “whew…now I can drink without worry…who would blame me…I am dying anyway…pull up a seat, pour yourself a drink, and let’s have some interesting conversations in the final days!
I spent 28 days in a wonderful rehab and remained alcohol free for 18+ years, but had stopped attending meetings at about 5 years sober. I thought that I had it…I was always going to be sober…I was a model sober AA member. Til I was told by 2 physicians that they did not believe that I was really an alcoholic.
Well, I proved to myself that I am indeed in the right place. 4 1/2 years after I chose to pick up a drink again, fully believing that i could control my drinking, I was in the emotional and physical pain that brought me to my knees again.
I am now approaching 18 months of renewed sobriety, and though I cannot say that every time I drank that I got drunk, I must be honest with myself and say that I always thought about the need to control my drinks.
I am so grateful for the gift of sobriety again. This time around I cherish it, I believe in it, and I will do what I must to maintain it. I never want to black out again…I never want to forget what brought me back…there is a reason and I will do my best to be my best in sobriety.
I can totally relate to the thinking of one day being “finished” with the disease, but it doesn’t work that way does it. sigh. I just hit my 14 month sober, and around my one year, I totally started romanticizing the drink. I kept thinking about having just one night to blow it out. I kept telling myself I didn’t want to drink every day, I just wanted one good night to rage. Thanksfully, my Diane Sawyer came out and helped me through that little situation, and I’ve managed to make it another couple of months. Keep up the good work!
It is a great dilemma, you’re gonna die, do you just go for it, or do you stay the same?
I’ve gone through this scenario and answer for me?
No longer is my idea of success or the ‘ultimate relaxation’ leaning over a balcony, admiring the view, with a goblet of shiraz.
It’s being present and calm and contributing. thought provoking.
Great post. I’ve heard it said that addiction continues to progress (as in, it’s a progressive illness) even if we’re not drinking/using. I have no idea why this would be true, but people who have been sober a while and have gone back out have confirmed that this was their experience. So the longer I’m clean and sober, the more dangerous it is to relapse. I figure it’s not worth the risk — who knows if I could get sober again — so I don’t do it today.
Hey fantastic post, you write so well, I love your honest assessment and insight into your thoughts. I can totally relate. I love that together you! I have a together Mrs D inside me as well and I think she’s foxy and great but the naughty rebellious Mrs D is also in there and I’m worried that she’s bored and dangerous… I counted my days today, I’ve only got 50… Wish I had 500000000000000000000000000000000000!!!!!!!!! Your blog is really helpful. Thanks xxx
I like those inner voices and selves who emerge when we least expect them. Diane Sawyer no less!
“Is that really what you’d want, to undo this achievement in your last days? To see disappointment in the eyes of your sons instead of respect and love? To fog the mind and avoid absorbing every second of life? To withdraw and comfort yourself instead of reaching out and comforting others?
Fantastic Post! Thanks!
you just walked me through a conversation I have never asked myself. And my thought process was exactly the same. I admire your strength!
Wow! You’ve just learned something that takes most addicts a very long time to learn. It’s not the alcohol that’s the problem. The abuse of alcohol is the symptom. The Committee is the problem. The -ism IS the terminal illness. You’re doing great. I’m very proud of you…
Agreeing with the idea that we don’t want to leave others with the memories of us as drinkers-my circle now is not the circle with whom I drank and I could not have stayed sober without changing my entire group of friends. My soul mate has never seen me drink and has often wondered what I could have been doing that was “so awful”. I only confirm for her that the me of now is the one she loves. Staying sober requires thought and conviction and long-term power over our past; you are doing a right good job too-congrats.
I admire you in your strength and weakness! You GO GIRL!
I love your last paragraph. Just love it 🙂