Today’s Club Soda guest blogger is Aaron Nowell from Waterbury, Connecticut, in the US. He writes for The Christian Alcoholic blog, and he shares his personal story of cutting down alcohol.
Cut Back Before Your Life is Cut Short
I should be dead. My life should’ve been the same as the state I was in when my car crashed into a light pole… wasted. Lucky for me, the telephone pole that fell on top of my car didn’t serve as the instrument to end my life; instead served as my life’s wake up call. After almost dying from drinking and driving, one might think that I would give up drinking completely; and so I did. Well, for a year. During that year, I thought about what my drinking had been and about what I wanted my drinking to be. I still wanted to drink… responsibly.
Did I drink every day? No. Did I drink every time something bad happened? No. Did I go to parties every weekend and get drunk? No. But, I still had a major drinking problem. Before totaling my car I thought that in order to be classified as an alcoholic, someone had to drink every day or drink every time they were sad. I thought they’d have to be someone sitting on the street corner with a brown paper bag or someone who showed up everywhere hungover to have a drinking problem. Turns out, that’s a lie. It’s a lie that almost killed me.
I left out one minor detail. When I crashed my car, I was a little over four months away from get-ting married. My fiancee, a mother of two young girls, and I were going to get married on October 3rd, 2015. A week after the accident, she let me know she had decided to call of the wedding and that marrying me was no longer a guarantee. It was clear to her and it was clear to me. It was finally clear to everyone that I had a problem.
“I was drinking to resolve my problems and act as if they weren’t there.”
The truth is plain. If you drink to get drunk, you have a problem. I’m not necessarily talking a drinking problem, even though you probably have that, too. I had two problems: I hated myself and I had severe social anxiety. So I got really drunk to work out my issues. It’s hard to hate yourself when you can barely remember who you are. It’s hard to feel anxious when you can’t feel anything. In the middle of my heavy drinking, I couldn’t see that I was drinking the way I was to avoid facing these problems. I was drinking to resolve my problems and act as if they weren’t there.
The accident made it clear that I needed to change my drinking. The first step to cutting back is to completely stop drinking for at least a long while. For me, I decided that I needed to go a year minimum without drinking. It’s impossible to change your drinking habits in the middle of regularly drinking, so I decided to stay sober.
“I identified my self-hate and started facing it.”
The second step to cutting back is to identify and face your problems. Why do you drink to get drunk? What about yourself don’t you like? What about your life is too difficult to deal with? What are you trying to forget? Once you identify your problem and decide to face it, you are on your way to recovery—whether that’s drinking in a controlled, responsible way or not drinking at all. I identified my self-hate and started facing it. I began treating myself like someone who deserved to live rather than someone who deserved to die. I also finally faced my social anxiety and sought professional help in dealing with it.
The final step to cutting back is finding a community to talk to honestly and openly about your problems. Whether it’s an AA meeting or a church small group or just a couple of your close friends, having a group of people to honestly talk to about your problems with allows you to acknowledge them and deal with them in a healthy way. For four months after the accident, I at-tended AA meetings and learned how to be open and share honestly what was going on in my life. Outside of AA, I made a commitment to seek out close friends and talk to them honestly. Lastly, I decided to answer questions such as, “how are you?” and “how was your week?” as honestly as I could. A habit of honesty goes a long way in keeping problems and drinking manageable.
“In a year, my life turned around.”
My accident happened in the early morning hours of Memorial Day 2015. During the early morning hours of Memorial Day 2016, my wife and I were getting ready to catch a plane and start our honeymoon. In a year, my life turned around. I married. Deciding to stay sober certainly helped. Facing and dealing with my problems helped more.
Cutting back your drinking isn’t a sign of weakness. Cutting back your drinking means you are strong enough to face your problems and not ignore or avoid them. The sobering reality of it all is that owning your problems gives you power over them. The harsh reality is that drinking your problems away could cost you your life.