By: Jana Greene
“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 that 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)
It is hard to wrap my mind around the Holocaust, the horror and carnage of genocide. And 9/11? The images we all watched that day as they occurred resulted as what can only be described as hell on earth. The past teaches us that human beings can inflict mind-blowing destruction onto other human beings.
History, if forgotten, repeats itself. and we all have a personal history, as well.
Recovering alcoholics have a tendency to “romance the drink”. No matter how low one became when he or she “hit bottom”, there are those memories that somehow retain a rosy glow in the mind of 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 drinking beer at a barbecue with family. 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. It is not accurate history.
What we human beings can do to ourselves is pretty horrific, too.
Romancing the drink doesn’t allow for the desperation to feel “other than” that preceded that rosy picture. It does not acknowledge the lack of control from the very first sip, nor the dark craving for oblivion that is the goal of each drink. Romancing it forgets about the self-demeaning actions that followed many drinking sessions, the endless slide show of ugly behavior and shameful choices made under the influence. It doesn’t reflect the sobering shame after the snapshot, nor the lives of the children and spouses left in the destructive wake of a drinking binge. Romancing the drink will not show you the bigger picture: broken relationships, self-loathing, sickness, embarrassment, loneliness, shame and death.
What to do when romancing thoughts of our drinking days creep into our minds? Sometimes they flash before us simply as memories of our lives in a different time, but other times they are a warning sign to stop and consider the trigger.
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. Having God-confidence is the difference between a successful recovery and a frustrating, self-driven relapse pattern, in my experience. 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. But God is my ever present help in danger.
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? My drinking them created an environment in which I took risks with myself and my children near the water, and embarrassingly passed out on the beach. Beer at family barbeques? 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. 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.
An honor he deserves.