Day 37: Cravings

I passed the same houses and trees and businesses as I always do on the way to the grocery store. The weather was overcast and humid, mid 70s, not bad for an afternoon in August. Despite the mild weather, my mind was a storm of worry, fear, and confusion. “How are we ever going to get through this? What if things get worse? Am I doing the right thing?” As I paused at the light, a new, completely different thought flashed into existence… “Maybe I’ll just have a couple of beers tonight to help me relax.” Immediately, I knew this was a bad idea, but the allure of it was so strong that I allowed myself to entertain it. “What kind of beer would I like? What glass would I drink it in? How would it make me feel?”

As I pulled into a parking spot about halfway down a row from the store’s entrance, I felt like I was in a very dangerous situation…because I was.

A mere 37 days ago, I had made the conscious decision to quit drinking. No one asked me to do this. I never got a DUI or did anything too terrible while drinking. I decided to stop drinking because I hated what alcohol did to me. Of course, everyone hates being hungover after a night of overindulging, but when alcohol becomes a part of your daily life, there’s so much more to hate about it. Here’s a short list of what I hate about alcohol:

  1. Lack of productivity. All my good intentions go out the window when I drink. Dishes and laundry pile up, bills go unpaid, hobbies no longer interest me, and I basically just sit around. I’ve wasted so much time on drinking that I could have used to enrich my life. I can never get that time back, but I don’t want to lose any more.
  2. Blackouts. Although I don’t always black out when I drink, it happened more and more towards the end. I’d wake up in my bed and not remember how I got there. I’d prepare and eat food and not remember doing so. I’d post on social media and have no recollection of what I said until I read the post the following the morning.
  3. Weight gain. I was probably consuming around 800-1,000 extra calories every day at the height of my drinking. No wonder I gained nearly 20 pounds in a month!
  4. Depression. I take an antidepressant medication, but it doesn’t do much when I am drinking. The alcohol masks my depression temporarily when it’s in my system, but after it wears off I’m more depressed than before.
  5. Lazy parenting. I’m so ashamed to admit this, but I have turned on a movie or TV show many nights to entertain my toddler so I could just sit and drink in peace. I can never undo the damage that might have caused or get that time back, but I don’t ever want to start doing that again.
  6. Financial strain. Not only did my personal alcohol consumption cost around $60-$100 per week, but I’d also end up spending money on things we didn’t need while drinking. There were a few times that I spent over $100 shopping online while in a blackout state.
  7. Spiritual drain. I don’t know how common this is among other people, but I have noticed that my sense of meaning, connection to God, and general ability to be spiritual goes away when I have alcohol in my system. When I’m sober, I get these things back, so I prefer to live sober and have a rich spiritual life.

Given all of these negatives that I’ve identified about drinking, why in the hell would I crave alcohol? The short and simple answer is because I’m an addict and my brain is trying to get its fix. But because I am a spiritual person and I look for deeper meaning in things like this, I also think that my cravings are opportunities for me to connect, reflect, and grow.

Sensing that I was in a dangerous situation, I said a short prayer and then reached out to my sober friends and let them know what I was thinking. The response was immediate, encouraging, and fortifying. Their messages helped me to reexamine my craving. I started to see it for what it really was: a lie. I knew where that 6-pack of beer would lead me and I knew it wasn’t good, but my brain was trying to convince me to drink for the momentary dopamine release that the alcohol would provide. But after that initial release, I’d have another, and another, and so on. I’d be numb. I’d wake up at 3am, sweaty, thirsty, anxious, bloated, and full of remorse. I’d end up sleeping late, skipping my morning routine, and feeling like crap all the next day. And the cycle would likely continue, because once I let alcohol back into my life, it’s so hard to stop again. I’ve done this before. I know how it goes. It’ll never change.

I made it through this craving and returned to my car with only the items on my list and a couple of extra cases of fizzy water. I thanked God for watching over me and my friends for their support, then I drove back home and had a perfectly lovely alcohol-free evening with my son and my husband. I slept great and woke up refreshed and I did not regret not drinking at all. (That’s one thing I always like to remind myself of when I’m tempted: I often regret drinking, but I never regret not drinking.)

Cravings are powerful, but they can also be overcome. Having support and a plan for when cravings strike is key. For example, the grocery store is often a trigger for me, but I know that if I pray and reach out to friends, I will be okay. And overcoming a craving makes me feel so good about myself. It’s not easy! It’s like passing a big test. But each time I pass, I feel myself becoming stronger, smarter, and healthier.

I hope this post inspires and strengthens you! What do you do to deal with sudden cravings like this? Leave a comment below to share your experience.

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