As of this week, I’m six years sober, and I’m still pretty frightened of relapse


Six years since my last drink! I feel very thankful for my sobriety. It's not something I take for granted. It's a bit scary: I know that if I started drinking again, it would be a pretty long road before I was able to recover my sobriety. Right now I can see that drinking would be the worst thing in the world for me. But I know that if I got drunk, I'd immediately start to rationalize it. And I know exactly how it would go: I'd say to myself, "Oh, you can stop tomorrow."

And that's how it would go, month after month, week after week, of "You can stop tomorrow."

The final stage of addiction is when you know you're an addict, and you know your addiction is destroying your life, but you still feel like you have time.

There are three ways for this to end. The first is when you say, "I can't take even one more day of this." The second is when you say, "I'm so terrified of what is going to happen to me that I think I need to do whatever I can to stop." And the third is when you die.

The interesting thing, to me, is that there are two ways of hitting bottom. The first is when you're just tired of it. Drinking is no longer fun. It makes you sick. It causes you to do things that you hate. And you're just like, "I don't enjoy this; I'm just enslaved to it."

The second is when you still do get something out of drinking, but you're so afraid of the eventual consequences that you decide you need to stop right this second.

In practice, I think people generally hit bottom in both ways at around the same time. Drinking becomes less fun, and you become more worried about the eventual consequences.

The problem with relapse, though, is that when you relapse, drinking is, for awhile, fun again. Your body is no longer used to it, so you're able to experience the pleasures that it gave you when you first started. At that point, you know that it's going to kill you eventually (unless your powers of self-deception are truly immense), but the lure of "one more time, one more time" is so strong and the "eventually" feels so far away.

And I don't know how you overcome that. If you're able to reassert your sense of reality and stop drinking before it destroys your life, then your relapse was just a "slip." But many people have to go through the entire cycle again. They have to drink themselves sick for weeks and months, until it stops being fun anymore, and then at that point they hopefully care enough about themselves and the future and are able to stop.

Because that's the other pernicious thing. If you drink for long enough, you don't care about the future any longer. You might know it's going to kill you, but that'll happen next year or next decade, and you're no longer able to think past next week.

It distorts your thinking, and for the life of me I don't know how that thinking can never get undistorted. To me it still seems like a miracle that I stopped, and I really don't know if I'm going to get two miracles in this life.

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