No matter how long it’s been since you quit drinking, at some point you’ll crave a drink.
I’ve heard people say, “Once I quit drinking the obsession was lifted” and sure, maybe the obsession was lifted, and they weren’t thinking about drinking all day every day, but that doesn’t mean they never again had the thought that they’d cut a bitch for a Budweiser. We’re human! It doesn’t matter how hard you work on your sobriety: You can practice transcendental meditation two hours a day; visit an expensive therapist weekly or journal endlessly about your childhood, but the fact is, sometimes it all goes out the window and you crave a drink. You want a momentary reprieve. You just want to alter your goddamn mood for a minute, even if nothing’s wrong!
About a week ago I had some impure thoughts about a White Russian.
Let me explain: Last Sunday night I was snuggled into a booth at California Pizza Kitchen with my cute husband and three kids, enjoying a bowl of chicken tortilla soup and a chopped salad, feeling entirely content, when a waiter walked by with a White Russian on his tray. The layers of coffee liqueur, cream and vodka glistened in the glass due to the restaurant lighting and the moisture from the ice cubes. It looked incredibly delicious. And that’s when the fantasizing started. How would it feel if that drink was for me? What would it feel like to be able to have a nice drink at a restaurant while relaxing with my family?
I mean, sure, I was definitely appreciating my evening; I was sitting back listening to my son make burp and fart jokes, smiling at my daughter’s tales of middle school, I wasn’t tense in the least. But how nice would it feel to have a little buzz? Wouldn’t it just elevate the experience? Wouldn’t it be that much nicer? I was triggered. I was romanticizing drinking. This kind of thinking always leads to resentment: Why can other people have a drink and I can’t? It’s not fair. Why can’t I just have one?
This is when I had to employ a tool I learned in recovery called “Think Through the Drink.”
In this tool, you follow what would happen if you had a drink to its probable conclusion. For me, it probably doesn’t go the way you might imagine. If I had a White Russian I don’t think I’d end up having seven more, fighting with the waiter and then commandeering the car from my husband and driving the whole lot of us home in a blackout.
It would never be that dramatic — at least not at first. Here’s a more likely scenario: I’d have a drink and I’d really love the feeling, especially after not having had one in such a long time. Immediately, I’d think about having another one because if one drink makes me feel loose and relaxed, two will make me feel that much better. But I’ll stop at one to show I can. The next day I’ll think, well I managed to have just one simple drink out to dinner with my family last night so why not experiment with drinking a glass of wine at home? And since I’m just hanging out at home, why not have a couple?
Soon, I’ll be back to having a few glasses of wine every day until one weekend, I’ll go to sushi and have a large sake and a large Sapporo all to myself because that’s how I roll! I’ll probably insist on going out for another drink or four after dinner because now that I’m drinking again, might as well! Let’s live a little! We never go out! The next morning I’ll wake up with a crushing hangover, not remembering whether I paid the sitter or whispered good night to my children -- who before that White Russian had only known a sober present mom and I’ll be full of regret.
I didn’t have the White Russian and the craving passed. They always do.
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Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, blogger and podcaster. She’s talked sobriety on Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, Dr. Drew, GMA, 20/20 and The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.