When we get sober, we are taught to make new friends and detach from the friends we used to drink or use with. And, for those of us in residential treatment facilities, like Breakthrough Recovery Outreach, we live in a bubble of safety. But, what happens when we go back to work, go home, begin dating, and enter the world – where liquor stores are on every corner, and millions of people can safely drink when we cannot?
We must go back into the world in a state of readiness because it is not a matter of if we will face alcohol again, but when. Many tools can help us navigate this world – especially if the desire for drinking has not left us. Going to meetings offers us a safe place to talk about upcoming events that may worry us. Talking to our sponsors can help us devise exit plans or learn how to turn down invitations that we have previously always attended.
The first time we are faced with alcohol in newfound sobriety can be overwhelming and can come as a complete surprise, and that’s scary, but essential to know. Knowing that our disease may kick in at any moment helps us learn what to do when it happens. If you are caught off guard and face alcohol and feel scared, tempted, angry, or anxious, please pick up the phone and call another alcoholic. We have all experienced those same emotions and can help you.
After we’ve experienced time in sobriety, those of us who are single will want to begin dating. Many people drink. Should we date people who drink, but aren’t alcoholics? The answer to this is no. It’s not an easy answer; we may have to say no to people we are attracted to.
Nevertheless, we should remember that dating a drinker will eventually put us in a dangerous situation. On the first date, our sobriety may be healthy and stable. and we may have no desire to drink. But life happens. And, there will be a bad day, an argument, a moment when our sobriety is teetering, and our alcoholism will be tested. We may fail, and if we do, we may die.
This month, Demi Moore was interviewed by People Magazine. In the interview, she described her struggle with addiction and alcoholism. Her story is a lesson for us all.
When Demi Moore began dating Ashton Kutcher, she had 20 years of sobriety under her belt. On a date, Ashton indicated that he really didn’t believe in alcoholism. Instead, he believed in moderation. As Demi sat across from him, she wanted two things – to be the girlfriend he wanted and to believe that she could drink successfully. She admits now that she wasn’t working her program at the time. Ashton’s one comment, coupled with her desire to believe the lie that she could drink successfully, set Demi into a relapse that lasted for years.
Her relapse badly hurt her relationship with her three daughters and her ex-husband. And, her marriage to Ashton Kutcher fell apart. One night. One drink. And, a massive catastrophe that she luckily made it out of alive.
Nobody can blame Demi Moore for spiraling back into addiction. The truth is we all only have one day – today. Our disease never leaves us, and it is ready to overtake us at any time if we aren’t careful. It is sitting on our shoulder, waiting for the moment that we believe the lie that we can have one drink, or use one time. So we MUST be careful. And, it is for that reason that I would never date a drinker and suggest you not get involved with a drinker either.
Perhaps the most important part of Demi’s story is that she had 20 years of sobriety when she relapsed. As a newcomer, I thought people who had double-digit sobriety were so far ahead of me. But, we are ALL a drink away from disaster, regardless of how much time we have. And, that must be at the forefront of our minds. It must drive our decisions and must propel us to say no to events we feel will tempt us or test us.
As an alcoholic and addict, I have found the thing that motivates me to stay sober is my family and the amends I made to them. We all have a purpose and reason for fighting for our sobriety. I have many reasons to stay sober, but the love of my family and the gift of healing we have received drives me.
Two years ago, I was at a restaurant with a group of friends from work. Someone ordered a margarita. I had over ten years sobriety, but that drink looked delicious to me for some reason. And, as I watched my co-worker drink it through her straw, I remembered the look of horror on my father’s face as he took me to treatment. This is my go-to action in situations like that.
I wasn’t expecting to want a drink. I actually hate the smell of alcohol. But, I am an alcoholic, and my disease will trick me with a frosty, icy glass when I least expect it. So, I have spent hours talking to my sponsor about always having a plan. Thinking of my father’s broken-hearted face helps me.
Please talk to your sponsor about how to prepare for situations where there may be alcohol and drugs. Knowing what to do in advance can be the difference between sobriety, a decade-long relapse, or death. Also, if you are considering starting to date, please consider dating someone who doesn’t drink or use.
(If you get sober and are married or in a committed relationship with someone who is using, please speak to your sponsor – this advice is for people re-entering the dating world.)
If you are in the grips of alcoholism or addiction, there is hope. Please call us at (770) 493-7750 and let us tell you about our two Atlanta locations and how they can help you turn your life around.