Staying Sober on Halloween? Tips From Your Friendly Neighborhood Alcoholic

Last week I hit 90-days sober. It sucked. It’s starting to suck less because the cravings are going away and I’m finally used to not thinking about drinking all the goddamn time. Going to AA has helped too. I just got out of rehab a few weeks ago. Surviving the first few days out of rehab without relapsing is brutal. But every day that I’ve been able to stay sober since getting out of rehab has gotten easier and easier and easier to stay sober. The tricky part is the waiting. Oh Jesus the waiting. This shit doesn’t just go away. It literally feels like I’m in an airport 24/7. It transcends airport boredom. But I take a bit of solace in knowing that absolutely NOTHING that I do in my life from this point on will ever be as hard as getting my drinking under control. 24-hours at a time, baby. Reaching 100-days, I’ve embraced the suck. I’m only now after 3-months of battling my hardcore alcoholism starting to feel like myself again. When I take a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come since the police brought me to the hospital to detox–it wasn’t at all dramatic or “exciting” as it sounds and I got lucky–I do feel kinda good about myself. Knowing something about myself is the best part. I know I’m an alcoholic, and I’m ok with that because I’m working on it. I’m in recovery. I hate my alcoholism, but I like myself in recovery. The sooner I accept that I’m an alcoholic, the better my life is going to be and I don’t have to be living with any limitations whatsoever.

If you’re an alcoholic or an addict like myself, ANY DAY is a good day to drink or use. It really doesn’t fucking matter. Any hour of any day, I’m ready to pick up. Events and holidays and social events aren’t triggers for me. I can be around other people drinking and stay sober. Sometimes it pisses me off because I really hate to be around drunk people when I’m sober (I’d feel the same if I wasn’t an alcoholic) but it does not make me want to pick back up. If anything, I’m guilty of getting off on my holier than thou attitude about it. I turn into a less charming version of Condescending Wonka when I get up on my sobriety soap box. I don’t lash out most of the time because I’ve got an INSANELY good filter, but when I slip, oh boy, I lose friends by the buttload.

So if you’re an alcoholic/addict too, here’s some tips that I’ve got that have helped me stay sober:

  1. DON’T BE ALONE! I isolate like a leper and it’s nothing but trouble. It’s bullshit. I’m an extrovert and I hate being alone and I really cannot stand my own company because my brain just buries me with nothing but negative thoughts. One thing that’s a big help is telling one of your friends that your plan is to stay sober tonight. Talking to a friend who knows what you’re going through is helpful because it takes a lot of pressure off of you to “seem ok”. That’s the dangerzone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to social events with the intention of staying sober, stayed sober all night while at the event, then went home and immediately started drinking. The shittiest part of nights like this is white-knuckling through a party and being completely distracted and consumed by thinking about using and then going home after a “successful” sober night only to drink/use the second you get yourself alone. Don’t do this. Play the tape. That’s exactly what’s happened to me in the past.
  2. Telling somebody (ANYBODY!) that you’re struggling to stay sober tonight is going to be your best shot at waking up sober tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve got a better tip than tip #1 (that’s why it’s #1). But another thing that helps me is thinking of things in terms of X’s and O’s. I ask myself pretty much every day, “ok, so, which people/places/things are going to be a threat to my sobriety today?” It sucks to go there every fucking day but the way I am, I need to do this or else I’m fucked and I know I’ll be asking myself, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!” I’ve done it before and there’s no doubt in my mind that it could happen again. Always “out of nowhere”. My advice is to think about your options for tonight. Is going to a party going to wear you out? In early recovery, I’ve had to learn how to not overreach. It’s ridiculously hard to relax but if you’re like me, unfortunately, that’s the whole game. It fucking blows. But seriously, if you’re on the cusp of having a panic attack about it (I’ve been there–take a baby asprin) sit down and write out all of the things you could do tonight and don’t even be afraid of thinking about scenarios that lead to using. See the situations that would cause you to return to use. I always like the Russian proverb: If the bear sees the trap; he cannot be caught. See the trap. Don’t think about it. Write it down and put it to paper and literally SEE it. Don’t put extra pressure on your brain by trying to remember shit and juggle a bunch of thoughts. Put it to paper. It seriously helps.
  3. PLAY THE TAPE! Once you’ve told somebody your sobriety plan, sat down and written out all of your potential plans for the night, then I recommend playing the tape. I touched on this above, but once I start thinking about the scenarios in the past where I’ve used while I’ve been trying to stay sober and think all the way to how I’ve felt the next morning, I feel relieved. Anytime I get a craving, I play the tape. I think all the way to the next morning when I wake up and want to kill myself because I ended up using again. I’ll take the panic attack over the guilt any day of the week. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve got to start all over again. It sucks. But if you can bare it and you’re literally shaking today because you’re terrified of picking back up, seriously sit down and think about how you’re going to feel tomorrow morning. Not physically but emotionally. This is hard work. 90-days sober, it’s still hard work. I’ve made it this far and it’s fucking sucked. But I really fucking don’t want to start all over at day one again.
  4. YOU’RE NOT A LOSER! For me, the hardest part about being in recovery is my shaky self-esteem. My self-esteem is ass. And my addiction doesn’t make it any easier. It feels like my addiction is always saying, “Hey fuckface, you wanna get out of your mom’s basement? Stop mopin’ and start drinking, you pussy!” I am 100% aware that if I start drinking again, I’m going straight back to detox. There is no doubt in my mind. It’ll be straight to detox. But the fucked up thing that a lot of people who aren’t struggling with addiction don’t understand is that my brain is constantly lying to me to get me to drink again. I KNOW that drinking will kill me. I KNOW that I don’t even WANT to drink, but because I’m an alcoholic, my brain THINKS that it wants alcohol. It’s very hard to describe. It’s the difference between knowing something and understanding something and feeling something to be true. The truth is, everything in my head is telling me to drink despite my knowing better. It feels instinctual. My brain cannot stop thinking about drinking and if I fight back, I can’t stop thinking about suicide. That’s the binary system going on in my head all of the time. Drink or die. Otherwise, I feel freeze dried. But the reality is that I’ve got a serious disease that will kill me if I don’t figure out how to deal with it. Do I want to be a 22-year-old, 2-time college dropout, living in my mom’s basement? Unemployed, rippin’ cigs and slammin’ black coffee all day long? No. Fuck no. I didn’t grow up DREAMING of becoming like this. Jesus, I hope no kid wants to be like this when they grow up. This sucks. But I’ve got to remind myself everyday that I’m not a fucking loser. I’m a recovering alcoholic. And as long as I stay sober, I’m a winner. I’m alive and I’m sober and there is nothing but hope as long as I stay that way.

You’re a BAWSE if you’re staying sober this Halloween. And if you’re helping out your friend with drug/drinking problems then you’re the man too. But I wanted to shout out to everybody in recovery this Halloween and say good luck. I hope that we all wake up tomorrow feeling good. I hope we stay sober tonight and can just relax and enjoy Halloween for at least five minutes. If I can have five minutes tonight without thinking about drugs or alcohol or suicide, I’ll consider it a good night. And if I don’t drink or use, I’ll consider it a great night.

Recovery is all about the long game. The life-long game. Even if I stay sober tonight, there’s a good chance that I’m gonna wake up tomorrow and still be unhappy. It will be ridiculously hard to feel proud of myself or feel like I’ve accomplished anything at all. But you know what? I’m embracing the suck. BRING ON THE SUCK! Even if I stay sober tonight, I might still feel shitty and sad tomorrow. But, sweet Jesus, NOTHING will feel nearly as horrible as drinking tonight and waking up tomorrow morning and just hating myself. The only guarantee that I can rely on is that if I drink tonight, I will wake up and have to deal with the most intense and painful depression. That kind of misery knows no depths. I really don’t want to feel like that. I’m done with feeling like that. If the only reward I receive for staying sober tonight is NOT feeling like that tomorrow and having another day added to my sober streak, I’ll fucking take it. When I think about it in those terms, in early recovery, that’s not a bad deal. Good luck tonight! Stay strong and stay sober! Do whatever it takes. Happy Halloween!

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