Favored to Win
So many mornings, Sunday through Saturday, I’d wake up overwhelmed by defeat. I’d lost once again. Before my brain even registered what day it was, I was reminded of the failure from the night before. I’d wake to the realization that despite my best efforts, once again, I’d succumbed to the reigning champion. Alcohol was the victor.
I’d attempted to take on different players from the team, but never had enough willpower or strength to have any chance at beating them. Draft beer, wine, vodka-tonic. They were all stronger, better trained, more experienced. I thought I could win. I’d start with a head full of strategies and a heart full of determination, but it was never a fair match. Slowly, as the day wore on and daily life unfolded, my early morning resolve would waiver. Before I knew it, I’d been overcome by what I used to think were “trick plays…”
“If only I’d seen it coming…”
“If only I’d planned for that…”
I’d even make excuses, “it’s not playing fair…”
How I did it, I don’t know. But morning after morning, I’d drag my dehydrated, emotionally battered body to the home gym in our basement and I’d work out. Literally. Some days it was 30 minutes of cardio or up to an hour of interval training. I’d lift weights and run miles on the treadmill. Afterwards, I’d feel better. I’d accomplished something. I had atoned for my bad choices the night before. I could justify my drinking thinking, so I’d revisit the same locker room pep talk with myself:
“I don’t have a drinking problem.”
“Of course not! Look at what you just did!”
“Alcoholics don’t get out of bed early.”
“Never! They can’t workout like that-they’re too hungover.”
“I just drank the way everyone else did last night.”
“You clearly care about your health!”
“Obviously, tonight I won’t have any at all.”
“Or, just have one to sip on…”
Today, on this 172nd Sunday I’ve woken up sober, I woke up confident. Rested. Free. I no longer wake up obsessing over what I did last night, or not drinking on the coming days. That vicious cycle of trying, and failing, and trying again is over. I’ve finally strung together enough victories that I understand the game plan that keeps me winning.
I love what @holly of Hip Sobriety posted this past week:
“The thing that everyone who has quit drinking has in common is: they kept trying until they quit.”
Before I got sober, I held fast to the fact that I WANTED to beat it. I just wasn’t convinced I COULD. It wasn’t until I enrolled in a program where two things happened that changed my entire outlook on the game.
First, I was forced to assess my situation and admit the obvious: my life had become unmanageable. I was “continuing to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” Insanity. What I was doing day after day wasn’t working. The more I tried to stop, the more I drank.
Secondly, the director of the program said, “it’s time to fire yourself as the General Manager of your own life. You’re failing at it. You are not qualified to manage your future.” I wasn’t getting the job done alone. I needed God.
Common sense, right? I was embarrassed when I started hearing these cliche slogans repeatedly. But that’s the thing about my alcoholism.
I’m stubborn. I think I’m an exception to the rules. I think I’m better. The description of an alcoholic wasn’t me!
I’d be the ONE person who’d defy logic, the underdog who would beat the #1 seed, despite the statistics. It’s not just stubbornness. It’s arrogant!
Today, while I still have plenty of character defects, I think I know more humility. I’m not perfect, I’m still a work in progress, but I’m stronger. I appreciate the quote, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger.” While I believe there is a lot of truth to that, as I continue to evaluate my plays, work the 12 steps, stay connected in a team of other alcoholics, list my gratitudes, and ask God to help me, I don’t drink. Yes, I’m stronger and smarter, but this continued work has allowed me to outplay every party, holiday and vacation since July 2015. It’s definitely gotten easier.
But when it’s not easy, when my old rival comes to town, boasting of its record, I come out swinging. I’ve been practicing. Regardless of the conditions, with the right playbook, the right team, and the right coach I’ll wake up a winner again tomorrow, confident and eager to take on the day.
I still work out several times a week, but now, I enjoy it. I do it for pleasure, not repentance. Physically, I’m stronger and healthier than ever. Emotionally and spiritually, I’d say I’m stronger too. But more than anything, I just want to remain coachable.