You Don’t Have to Eat Cake

Most of the stories I’ve told are things I planned to write about. Stories that I thought were entertaining, important, or potentially helpful for someone dealing with addiction, whether that addiction is their own or someone they love’s.

This is a bit more… spontaneous? I suppose that’s the best word for unplanned. I still believe it might be helpful or important.

I was in my truck earlier today, listening to the noise that is sports talk radio. Someone was interviewing someone.  I picked it up mid-conversation and honestly I don’t know who the host or guest were. Didn’t matter, I was just happy it wasn’t a commercial.
They chatted for a second about sports, but quickly pivoted to wine. Red wine. The guest had recently put out some wine that was getting great reviews. The host asked to have a bottle sent to him as he was a self-proclaimed “red wine guy.”

At this point in their conversation I drifted inward and started to think, a bit romantically, about how much I myself enjoyed a glass or, more accurately, a bottle of red wine. I was never picky though, unless I was trying to impress someone. I would be fine with the jug of Carlo Rossi. A couple glasses of red wine on a winter night near the holidays, mmmm. It warms you up, with a bit of a glow. Suddenly the music sounds better… couple more glasses, I might be fooled into believing I should dance a little in the living room. I picture myself smiling the type of smile that makes your cheeks hurt the next day.

Suddenly in the middle of this warm, happy memory of the December wine buzz, a flash nightmare comes across my brain waves. It’s me again and this time I am drinking wine out of the bottle. I’ve taken a handful of whatever pills were available and I’m taking this sweet little wine buzz idea to the next level. Instead of swaying around my living room, I am falling into a TV table, destroying it, and spilling the red wine all over the carpet.
The flash nightmare scene was real. Honestly, it was also a lot more common than the romantic ideal memory that had previously been playing out in my head. It’s a bit like the picture on a dating app versus the person in real life. Sure, being a sophisticated wine drinker who has the occasional glass of red with the right meal looks appealing, but the reality that a glass turns into a bottle, and the happy little wine buzz will never be enough, is what I need to keep in mind.

I am at a point currently where I can still pull myself away from romanticizing drugs and alcohol before I ever consider trying to “just have one.”  I feel very fortunate for that, but I am not at that point because of some natural gift or because I haven’t drank in seven years. It doesn’t work that way. I am at that point because I stay conscious of my addictions, I stay aware of the addiction’s never-ending hold it has on people. I realize that I will never be cured of addiction, that I still display many of the addictive personality behaviors, but I have found ways to funnel those traits into productivity instead of destruction. No matter how far-removed you are from your last drink, you are still just one slip away from falling back into that hole you’ve dug yourself out of.  Just one warm memory away from making a dreadful decision. Don’t get fooled by a cookie cutter image of yourself drinking. It’s not real. It just isn’t.

The holidays tend to add a little extra stress to a person’s sobriety. People who aren’t problem drinkers probably have a few more cocktails in December than in other months. It’s the nature of the holidays: Eat, Drink and Be Merry. That’s a Christmas thing, right? Or maybe it’s just a Dave Mathews Band thing… but you get the idea.

I don’t have any statistics, but I would again assume that the holidays, not just the winter holidays but all holidays, probably contribute to a high percentage of relapses each year. The first time or two through the year sober, you might find yourself feeling like an outsider. You might feel lost or lonely because everyone you know is celebrating the holidays how they always have.

Let me remind you that you didn’t feel all that great when you were drinking or using. No one quits because things are going well.

Birthday cake is the accepted way to celebrate birthdays in our culture. Everyone eats it. When you think of birthday cake, you think of children playing, people smiling and laughing. You might think of your favorite flavor, the type of frosting you prefer. You probably think of family and friends. Overall there are good memories attributed to birthday cake.

If once in a while, or some of the time, or- worse yet- most of the time when you ate birthday cake you ended up getting arrested or fighting with the people you care about; if birthday cake made you a different person, a person you were ashamed and embarrassed of; well, eventually you’d stop eating the damn cake. If cake almost killed you, you would quit eating cake for sure. If cake tried to ruin your life, you’d be done with cake. Fuck cake. You’d still celebrate birthdays, you would still enjoy the company of your family, you’d still smile and laugh, but you would eliminate the cake, because cake isn’t worth fucking your life up.  Sure occasionally you’d think “damn that cake looks good… I bet I could just have one piece,” but since cake doesn’t have any super addictive ingredients you’d probably be able to pass on it. Eventually, you’d find a replacement for cake- something you do to celebrate birthdays that doesn’t end so badly.

As soon as you accept that the “normal” way of celebrating doesn’t work for you, you can start to find a way that does.

Here’s to breaking the norms – celebrating in new ways. Being a trendsetter.

Happy Holidays everyone.

“Is anything as weird as a normal person?” – Arcade Fire

2 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Eat Cake

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