Obsession: 5 Reminders Why You Stopped Drinking

By Neville Elder 03/15/17

Congratulations! You've been sober since forever now. You're all good right? You could probably drink again if you wanted to, which you don't. There are reasons you stopped, remember?

An index finger pointing up with a red string around it.
It's been a long time, but don't forget!

So you haven't had a drink in a few years, eh? You've done your time at AA meetings—a few "24s"—you've got a couple of sponsees, done the steps. You're all good right? You could probably drink again if you wanted to, which you don't. Well good for you! But despite the fact that you don't drink anymore, let's not forget how easy it is to slip back into old behavior. As one alcoholic said to another: 
"What would you do if you discovered you weren't an alcoholic?" "I'd get absolutely shit-faced." It’s still there, the obsession. I don't mean you're obsessed with drinking, or you crave a drink every time you pass a bar—oh no, thank God those days are gone! Life is so much better now. In fact, you've so got your shit together that your partner can leave a half-opened bottle of wine in the fridge and you don't want to drink it. Nope not at all. I mean, you did uncork it and smell it for a minute the other day, and of course, when you go to get milk for your morning coffee, even before you open the door, you know the first thing you'll see is that ice cold Chardonnay splashing around in the bottle.

Sometimes when you get up in the night, you’ll remember the bottle in the fridge, and you know if you wanted to...and you don't...you could drink it and no one would know. In fact you spend a lot of time thinking about that bottle of wine and checking your impulses, and discovering you’re solid and still don't want to drink. Well congratulations! You're still obsessing about alcohol, just now it’s from the other side of the mirror. Here are a few reminders of why you stopped, and why you should stay stopped.

1. Those two miniature bottles on the spice rack

You know the little Bombay Sapphire and the Jack Daniel's bottles that come with a gift basket? They ended up as a cute addition to the spice rack in the kitchen. One reason that stops you from drinking those little buggers isn't because you don't like gin or bourbon, no, it's because on their own, they're just not enough to get you really drunk. If you drank them you'd have to go to the liquor store for more, and by the time you got out on the street you'd feel guilty, and by the time you got to the store you’d find yourself calling your sponsor. Ugh, day-counting again? No thanks.

2. You eat ice cream the same way you used to drink

It's the Talenti, isn't it? That fancy, expensive sea salt/caramel flavor, God it's good! But let's just have one helping, shall we? Two, no three scoops. Then leave some for your partner when they get back from work, like you promised. That's it, that hits the spot! You're satisfied and now you can go back to watching the end of that documentary about narco-terrorism on Netflix. Except, as much as you try to focus on the downfall of Carlos Castaneda, or whatever his name is, you can't stop thinking about that pint of deliciousness in the freezer. Hmm... Maybe just another scoop? And well, you don't want to make any more dirty dishes so... The hell with it, just take the pint and the spoon back to the couch. You can go to the all-night pharmacy and get some more for your partner in a minute.

3. You watch a lot of documentaries about narco-terrorism

It’s hard to not get caught up with a lot of TV that deals with the salacious aspects of the War on Drugs. And as you sit there—with your expensive gelato—watching the coca farmer mix his icky paste on an upturned rusty barrel, in a dirty puddle in the Peruvian jungle without even washing his hands, you can’t help thinking about all that coke you did in the '90s. Despite all your fair trade chickens and free range bananas you put in your basket at the farmers market, no matter how you slice it or you bought it off, someone somewhere down the line ended up dead in a ditch for that 8-ball. Gives you the shivers doesn’t it? But hey! Remember Jenny’s bon voyage party the month before you gave up drinking? Oh wow, Jenny always had the best coke.

4. You can't help counting your partner's drinks 

They’ve warned you about it. It drives them crazy, but you can’t help spying on them! You know exactly how many drinks they had at the Watsons’ barbecue, and as much as you want to keep it to yourself, you volunteer the math in the car on the way home. “I think I’m a little drunky,” they say, and you say, “Yep, four Coronas and a tequila shot will do that.” You bite your tongue but it’s too late, it’s out there. And now there’ll be radio silence until the argument—that you won’t win—starts tomorrow morning at breakfast.

5. You run into a sober friend in a bar and you're immediately suspicious—have they been drinking?

“Hey fancy seeing you here!” you say.

“What's up?” they say.

“Oh you know, birthday party for someone at work, you?”

“Oh same, work, I mean, a post-meeting drink."

You look down at their drink. They look at yours. Yours is a Diet Coke with a slice of lemon in a highball glass. Theirs, clear and sparkling, with a lime in a rocks glass. You think, is that vodka and tonic? You step in and try and get a whiff of their breath. At exactly the same moment, they take a step towards you. You clink glasses, liquid splashes on your hands. You both look down, now awkwardly standing in each other's personal space. You're inches away. You are both sniffing.

“Got a cold?” they say.

“No,” you say, “you?”

“No.” You both step back, you're both thinking the same thing, and you both take a sniff of the liquid spilled on your hands, nothing.

“Did you think this was booze?” your friend says, raising their glass.

“Haha, yep, you?”

“Ah yes, sorry!”

You both laugh.

“I guess we’re still alcoholics then?”

“Oh yes! No doubt!”

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