“There are all warning markers — DANGER! — in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel — they at the beginning, we at the end — and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence, it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” — 1 Corinthians 10:11 (The Message)
History, if forgotten, repeats itself.
Recovering alcoholics have a tendency to “romance the drink.” No matter how low you become when you “hit bottom,” there are those memories that somehow retain a rosy glow in the mind of the addict. The glass of champagne in celebration of a loved one’s wedding. The salt-rimmed margaritas enjoyed at the beach in the summertime. The warm glow experienced while having a few beers at a family cookout. By romancing the drink, we feel we are honoring the few snapshots of time in which we were not exhibiting addictive behavior. For the person in recovery, it is a dangerous train of thought to board because it is not accurate history.
What should we do when we romanticize the memories of our drinking days? These thoughts could be triggered by any number of things:
1. Stress: for an active alcoholic or addict, the drug always promised to ease the stressful times in our lives, but ultimately did NOT deliver. A glass of wine will not keep stress from affecting the mind and body…it only tricks it into thinking it will. Fifteen minutes of oblivion is never worth repeating the history that brought us to sobriety in the first place.
2. Feelings of being out of control: From my experience, addicts are often “control freaks.” We like things to happen a certain way, and we like to know when they will occur. This is one of the hardest things about recovery because it requires constant submission to God. Any illusion we had about being in control when we drank/used was just that — an illusion. With sobriety, we can have the wherewithal to surrender that illusion to God DAILY.
3. Taking sobriety for granted: This is perhaps the most slippery rock of all. If you are an alcoholic, you will not “outgrow” your disease. Nor will you “get well.” You have an incurable condition for which there are treatments and options for disease management. Having one drink or using on one occasion does not prove you aren’t addicted; it only sets the stage for a painful and repetitive relapse pattern. How much do I respect the parameters of my disease? One drink is all it would take for me to fall flat on my face again.
4. Putting confidence in self, rather than God. I got myself into the mess of active alcoholism, but God got me out. In my experience, having God-confidence is the difference between a successful recovery and a frustrating, self-driven relapse pattern. Part of managing the disease of addiction is to remember the past for what it was – dysfunctional. I am just as capable of messing things up as I’ve ever been.
It helps me to imagine each deceptively-idyllic picture of having romanced the drink with its ‘before’ or ‘after’ snapshot, based in reality.
The glass of champagne imbibed in at a wedding? It was really the fifth or sixth drink, as I had started while getting ready for the event hours before, and had to fill a soda cup with wine to keep the buzz at a comfortable level until the ceremony started.
The salt-rimmed margaritas in the summertime? They created an environment in which I took risks with myself and my children and embarrassingly passed out on the beach.
Beer at family barbecues? What better venue than a family event to really get obliterated and make yourself sick because you cannot stop your drinking.
Romancing the drink honors that which does not deserve honor. Not being part of the tinkling glasses and toasts among friends and feeling a part of the normal drinker world….such a small price to pay for living life with clarity, whole and full. What I could not do for myself was no problem for our loving God — when I cultivated confidence in him.
It's an honor he deserves.