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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

She Stopped Drinking…Now What?

She hasn’t had a drink in over five years, but she’s in a miserable relationship, dead-end job, and mostly hates her life.

She calls herself sober, and some days, especially the hard ones, accomplishing that is the only thing she can successfully check off her to-do list.

Although she’s been tempted more times than she can count, she hasn’t consumed any alcohol, as she considers it entirely off-limits.

Ask her how she did it, and she’ll tell you she just stopped. Just like that. No begging, no pleading, no treatment, no nothing. Just took her last drink. Just decided she was done. 

She believed that she could stop drinking, and she’s living proof that she did.

Meetings depress her and therapy annoys her. In general, recovery talk feels fluffy and unnecessary, like a cop-out, like another obsession to consume.

I just don’t relate to those people, she says, referring to the ones who attend support groups or counseling. I have better things to do with my time, she says.

I’ll never drink again, she insists, telling the world that it’s just not an option.

So far, she hasn’t been wrong.

On the surface, she’s managing well. The relationship, the job, the mortgage, the retirement account, and three-times-per-week gym routine.  Just another twenty-something woman piecing her life into a puzzle that can make her proud. 

Her life puzzle is incomplete, though. It’s missing a few pieces- she’s in that limbo questioning if the puzzle manufacturers just made a faulty product or if she just clumsily dropped some on the floor.  Incomplete, but she’s not sure why. If you move a bit closer, if you just read between her nonverbal cues and stray puzzle pieces, you’ll feel her disappointment. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it comes in the form of resentment. She doesn’t have any of the alleged gifts not drinking offered. She doesn’t know what she’s missing, or why, and she doesn’t know if it’s her, or the world, or if it’s all of the above. 

Some would call her spiritually bankrupt. Some would argue she’s not “working a good program.” Some would call her a dry drunk. Some would argue she never had an alcohol problem in the first place.

Maybe all of these apply. Maybe none of them do. Maybe it was never about the alcohol, and the massive quantities of it, in the first place. Or, maybe it is entirely about the alcohol, and about the gaping voids that she still has not been able to satisfy.

Whatever it is, someone will have an opinion on what she is supposed to be doing instead. Someone will tell her she needs to do more of this, less of that. 

Addiction is difficult. Building a life around your next drink, next fix, next escape, is difficult.

Recovery is also difficult, though its challenges are far more existential and ambiguous in nature. She’s sober- she met the goal to stop drinking- but in this perplexing and emotional world, is that enough? Is she undermining herself? Is she barely scratching the surface, just taking on the bare minimum?

We have all these prescribed methods for recovery, and many follow them because someone else showed them that they can and do work. But, we still don’t have an exact formula or cure, and I don’t know if we ever will.

What is sobriety? What is recovery? And what about everything in between?

Her friends, though they’d never say it, secretly liked her better when she drank. Then, she at least seemed happy and carefree. Then, she seemed less depressed and pessimistic.

Alcohol was the lubricant- made the world less inhibited, her actions less intentional her freedom less contained.

She doesn’t think she was happier then, but she does wonder why she isn’t happier now.

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