Our theme for the month of March is “Part Two.” Writers were challenged to choose a piece they’ve previously contributed to the post calvin and revisit it, perhaps writing a sequel or reflecting on how things have changed.

Paul’s original post is “Portrait of an Alcoholic.”

482 days.

That’s how long it has been since my last drink.

I think it was some terrible vodka mixed with ginger ale, clandestinely mixed and imbibed while my wife was at work.  I can’t remember the details of that day. I don’t remember if I drank enough to become intoxicated or if I had a few drinks and then stopped.  All I know is that it has been 482 days since the last time I drank.

*

I wrote Portrait of an Alcoholic in March of 2016.  My last drink was on November 8, 2016.  Eight final months of struggling. I wanted to be sober, was trying so hard to be sober, but it still took another eight months of fighting my desire—relapse—starting over—relapse—swearing it off for the last time—relapse—and over and over… before it finally stuck.

I am not sure what made this time different.  Why this time was actually the last time.  

Three weeks is usually when I would end up relapsing, but I went on a fast/restricted diet for five days right around then.  It wasn’t specific to maintaining my sobriety, but I was trying to jumpstart a new, healthier me. Five days of strictly controlling what I ate and how much I ate did wonders for my self-discipline. Just knowing that I could resist cravings redoubled my commitment to being sober.

Then, at the end of December, my wife told me that she was pregnant.  I knew my wife was nervous about being pregnant and scared that I would relapse.  She asked me more frequently if I was having any cravings or was secretly drinking.  They say you can’t get sober for other people, only for yourself, and that is essentially true.  But I knew that I couldn’t relapse again if I wanted to be in my baby’s life.

Then in January, my wife had a miscarriage.  It was the most absolutely devastating experience of my life.  I was crippled with such grief and sadness I felt broken. Theoretically, I knew that alcohol would make me numb, drive away the specter of loss, if only for a time.  But I never really seriously considered it. I knew that if I let myself have even one drink, I wouldn’t be coming back.

*

I don’t really do anything special to maintain my sobriety.

I don’t go to AA anymore.  I started going in 2015, and I attended fairly regularly for the next two years.  There was a good group that met on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday every week, so I would pop in at least once a week.  It was a really nice group of people, mostly middle-aged with steady jobs, a few from Guiding Light Mission, and a few people there because the court ordered them.  Everyone was nice, and I connected with a few members, but it just wasn’t for me.

I briefly got really into assembling plastic models.  Mostly World War II tanks. It is really hard to glue together tiny pieces of plastic if your hands are shaking and your eyes can’t focus.  It is also a great activity because it forces you to focus intently on one specific task, but it is mundane and repetitive enough that your mind can go blank.

I am on a few online forums for people who have stopped drinking.  I don’t post much, but I find comfort in reading stories of success by people struggling with the same thing I am.  It lets me know I am not alone.

Mostly, I’ve just made a habit of not drinking.  I’ve spent time building up good habits, worked on my communication with those I care about, and tried to engage more with the world around me.  The first weeks and months were tough, but now it is just my natural state of being to not drink or want to drink.

Hi—my name is Paul, and I will not drink today.

Paul Menn

Paul (’10) lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Emma (’10), and cat, HandsomeMarcoCat. He loves board games, Babylon 5, and honey-curry chicken. Everything else is negotiable.

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