Craving alcohol was a way of life, and now that we are in those first tenuous days of sobriety, the cravings seem like an insurmountable obstacle.
"How do I just NOT DRINK?"
I will tell you that at this writing I have been sober for 13 years, 9 months, and 27 days, but who’s counting?! I will also tell you that I lost the cravings for alcohol somewhere along the way. They are simply gone.
In the beginning days of my sobriety in 1995, those cravings were tough to deal with, to say the least.
I began drinking at a very early age. I had my first drink of alcohol when I was about 14, pretty typical of a lot of people who are alcoholic. That’s just about when the phenomenon of craving alcohol began for me – in my teens.
Alcoholism can be described as a mental obsession coupled with a physical need to drink alcohol. Alcoholics drink essentially because they like the feelings produced by alcohol, contrary to what alcoholics may sometimes tell you. (“I just like the taste of beer.”) Well, that may be so, but what they often fail to admit is that they also love the way alcohol makes them feel.
This is what sets the ball rolling. The stage is set. Craving alcohol becomes a part of who you are. I know it was who I was during all those years I drank.
And because over time alcoholism gets worse, never better, those cravings for alcohol get stronger and stronger. So understandably it is extremely difficult to fight off those cravings when the alcoholic tries on his/her own to quit drinking.
Craving alcohol is also the main reason that alcoholics can quit drinking for a period of time but they can’t stay quit! They are overpowered by the desire to drink. They fall off that wagon again
I speak from experience. I fell off the wagon time and time again. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are reminded that we deal with alcohol: Cunning, baffling and powerful and that without help it is too much for us. craving alcohol After 25 years of drinking, and many of those years drinking alcoholically, I finally hit bottom. I look back on those early days and the series of events that led me to piece together those first tenuous days of sobriety, and I am convinced of Divine Intervention. God is truly at His best when we are at our worst.
How else did I end up on the phone with such a compassionate and understanding woman from the insurance company who convinced me that I needed to see an addiction counselor and not a marriage counselor?
How else did I land in the office of a psychologist who was so tender yet so tough as to draw me out of my rock-solid denial?
How else did I wind up in an AA meeting when I swore that AA was not for me and that I’d never go back? And not only that, I was surrounded by a group of people who absolutely understood me and sincerely wanted to help me.
So did all this love and compassion cause my cravings for alcohol to just disappear? I only wish! Craving alcohol was sometimes more than I could bear in the beginning days. But I went to lots and lots of A.A. meetings, and somehow that got me through until I could get to the next meeting or the next word of encouragement from another recovering alcoholic.
I rarely missed a church service, and I got involved in Bible studies at my church. The WORD OF GOD is known as the Sword of the Spirit. Reading, studying, and memorizing scripture became my reliable weapon against those cravings.
All I know is that at some point in my journey into recovery they vanished.
I would be out at a restaurant, for instance, look across to the next table where someone had a full glass of cold beer, and I was not affected one way or the other. It would just be an observation. “Hmm. Look at that, he has a cold beer . . . so what?” It was as if I had never been alcoholic or at one time a voracious beer drinker! I no longer wished I could drink that beer like the old days nor was I envious of those who could.
Or I would get to the end of a long day and realize that I had not once thought of drinking. Amazing stuff!
In a nutshell: I worked through those wonderful Biblical principles found in the Twelve Steps and followed the directions of sober alcoholics. I put my pride and ego aside and listened in A.A. meetings. I sought out people at my church who I admired and respected, and I followed their lead.
This Step, the all-important 3rd, done only after thoroughly understanding and incorporating into my thinking the first 2 Steps, was key. It says that we turn our will and our life over to the care of God.
What I had to understand was that God already cared for me more than I could ever imagine. No matter what I had done in my past, He cared for me.
I developed my own, special method for communicating with God, and He absolutely responded. I talked to God at every turn, all throughout the day, for every need. Mostly, I asked Him to keep me sober.
Craving alcohol became a thing of the past, and I absolutely believe it was because my thoughts were focused on prayer and communication with God and what He would have me do. I was working Step Three. I had turned my will and my life over to the care of God! I continue this practice today.
Does this mean that I will never again crave alcohol? No, not at all. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
I have a very healthy fear of the possibility of drinking again. All it would take would be one drink, and I’d be off and running again. And I know from experience that I would pick up right where I left off in 1995.
So for now, I’ll just keep turning my will and my life over to God’s loving care each and every moment of the day.
To read some of the prayers that I recite regularly to keep me growing strong in my recovery and to keep from craving alcohol, click here.
You can read more about the phenomenon of craving from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is contained in “The Doctor's Opinion,” found in the beginning pages of AA's “manual” for sobriety, the Big Book. Written by Dr. William D. Silkworth, it is one of my favorite passages to read and re-read. It reminds me what I, as a recovering alcoholic, am all about.
For those of you reading this who are not alcoholic but are trying desperately to understand your loved one who is, I think this may shed some light.
I especially love the part that says [speaking of members of A.A. - that, of course, would include me along with the estimated 2 million+ members around the globe] that, “You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves.”