Six years alcohol free, but still want to drink

I am an alcoholic. Yet, today is the sixth anniversary of my last drink. I have learned a lot about myself along the journey, but don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, stopping a habit is hard work. The thing I most learned is from an old colleague where we were waiting for our respective flights in an airport restaurant in Cincinnati, shortly after I stopped drinking. She gave me the best piece of advice courtesy of her husband who had stopped earlier that I will share with you now – I am not going to drink today.

You see, while I do not drink anymore, six years later, I still want one. The urge is still there as a faint echo at times and as a stronger urge at other times. Usually, the stronger urges occur when I do something like cook on the grill on Sunday afternoon while watching the golf tournament, football, etc. As an alcoholic, you eventually don’t screw around, so I was drinking scotch on the rocks. Many at a time. Yet, with that said, there are many people with habits off other kinds of drinks. Chris Mullen, the great NBA basketball player spoke of being a beer alcoholic. Tom Watson, the famous golfer, almost derailed his career with wine.

Two things happened that caused me to do something about my problem while I still could. My doctor told me that taking action before it was too late was a major plus in my favor. Many wait until the train wheels come of the track.The first thing is the wife of a colleague of mine, who I knew and was one of the most vivacious people you would ever meet, died in her late fifties from complications due to alcoholism. To hear the diagnosis after she passed, when no one else knew she had an issue, was staggering. I wanted to see my kids become adults and witness their many life events. I wanted to be there for my wife. I knew I had that problem.

The second thing is what I started noticing at work late in the day. You see, I was what is called a “home drunk.” I would only drink when I got home after work and on weekends. Being a big, tall guy, I could hold my liquor, so I would easily down five or six doubles a night. I mentioned the scotch on the rocks. The scotch and waters drinks diminished the amount of water used over time until it the water was no longer necessary. What I noticed late in the day at work is my body would begin craving the alcohol and I would get over-heated and red-faced. I was already on blood pressure medication in a stressful job, so I was a train wreck waiting to happen. It did not help matters that my father was an alcoholic before he quit late in life.

So, I had to stop. I started with a drug called Campril which is designed to wean you of your craving. I did that for a few weeks, but stopped that as well. The key is to substitute a new habit for the old one. If you do not, you will eventually drift back into the old one. I am now a green tea aficionado and drink a lot of fruit juices. At parties, I don’t mind ordering a nonalcoholic beer or tonic water. I don’t mind being around people who drink. Plus, you need to exercise as your sweet tooth can get out of hand due to the craving for sugar. But, the key is the lesson that my friend shared with me in the Cincinnati airport – I am not going to drink today.

It is a daily journey. The craving is still there. You just have to say, I am not going to drink today. People trying to stop drinking know the number of days they have not had a drink. This is the reason. It is a daily struggle. Over time, it becomes weeks, then months and now years of tracking the absence of alcohol use. It is hard, but it can be done. This is one reason people find places like Alcoholic Anonymous. The support group is amazingly helpful. I chose not to go that route, but that was a personal choice. The stressful job did not go away and, most importantly, I wanted to be there for my wife and children, so not going to AA was a time issue for me. If I had not stopped, I would have become a liability. Plus, it has given me a platform to talk openly with my kids about being aware of their medical history in me and my father.

A couple of other benefits of not drinking is your weight (again with the caution about the sweets) is easier to maintain. Alcohol has a lot of calories, so when you don’t drink, you can lose weight. The other is the money. Alcohol is an expensive habit. Take the time to add up what you spend per week on alcohol – the beer, wine and hard liquor. I estimated I was spending over $6,000 per year on alcohol. That can add up. Plus, the other stuff goes away and your health improves

Please feel free to share this with others who may have my problem. They should start with being truthful with themselves, their spouses and their doctors. Doctors have said when a patient tells them how much they drink, the doctor knows when the patient is understating the amount. Tell the doctor the truth. He or she cannot help you if you don’t. Do something while you can. It is hard, but if you do try to stop, remember these words – I am not going to drink today.


65 thoughts on “Six years alcohol free, but still want to drink

  1. You’re very brave and strong. Congrats doesn’t seem like the appropriate word, but your courage to recognize your weaknesses and to work counter to them is admirable. So many of the things we have to do in life require the idiom “a day at a time”. When I get overwhelmed by the changes I’ve made in my life, taking the step back and allowing myself to just get through this one day, allows me to succeed. You’re an inspiration and thank you for sharing.

  2. Congratulations! that is a major success story. I understand addiction, as I was into smoking. Kicking the habit was the difficult , and the cravings never went away. 23 years without a cigarette, and one key to my success is realizing if I have a smoke, I then have to start the count all over again. Don’t want to do that.

    Congratulations once again. It is a difficult journey you are on, but you can make it!

  3. i love a cold beer on a hot day! that cold beer easily becomes a habit for many in costa rica for that reason. goodness it gets hot there! the climate is cooler in ecuador, and fresh juices are included with the lunch almuerzo. for that $2.50 – $3.50 special, everyone is also plugged into a culture where drinking a beer with lunch is not the norm. you are right; many times it’s a habit or ritual, and i’ve found if i serve the red hibiscus tea in wine glasses, everyone is happy! it’s the custom of drinking ‘something’ with society.

    i still love that cold cervesa on a hot day, and i’m grateful that i no longer live where the five-o’clock toddy is part of the custom!

    thank you for sharing your story.

    • Cold beer on a hot day is wonderful. My problem is the stopping at one or two, so it is a self control, habitual issue. I have wondered from time to time if I could control it, but come to the conclusion each time I would not be able to do so. Thanks for your comments and support, BTG

      • a friend who obviously had your problem told me once that i was very lucky b/c i have never had a hangover or felt lousy after drinking too much… i am also lucky that i realized that i did not want to be one of those who had had too much to drink, and i usually easily stop at two cervesas… i also love tequila and love red wine but last year a bottle of patron lasted a year, so i don’t think i have to worry!

        getting older is great, and i’m glad to have had lessons that formed me into a wiser person!

      • Agreed about the lessons. I don’t mind not drinking for the most part and my children actually listen when I speak about not drinking and driving and not letting it take control of you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. BTG

  4. I’m so proud of you! This is truly inspiring. Keep it up! And I think I could apply your advice to sugar. I am not going to eat sugar today… 🙂

    And you know, the other thing I love about this is how human it shows me you are. I’ve idealized you a bit based on your wisdom as an “old fart” and your work for the homeless. You remind me that none of us are perfect, but that we can still do our best. I struggle with worrying about perfection a lot. So thanks for sharing your story.

    • Emily, many thanks. My wife can let you know just how imperfect I am. :>) You are right, though, we all are fixer uppers and we just have to do the best we can. Watch the sugar, though. Take care, BTG

  5. Thanks for sharing the journey and the wisdom. It’s important that these types of insights are revealed to those who may come after you. Congratulations on reaching the 6 year mark. May you always have the strength and wisdom to not drink today.

  6. Remember your post about your Dad’s 85th birthday? My comment? “Dads in common you and I BTG…especially their non-healthy habits. My Dad quit drinking when I “found” him when I was 39 years old. I asked him, then, why he didn’t start drinking again…he looked at me and said, “I didn’t have to drink anymore.” There’s more…my Dad asked me the same question, “So why did you quit drinking, Lovely Daughter?” My answer was pretty much the same as his…I didn’t have to since I’d found him…the missing piece of my life, and could finally say in finding him I had finally found myself. I, too, BTG am an alcoholic and would never give up my 30 years of sobriety. I have forgotten much more of those sodden years than I remember. What I do remember I’d not want to repeat. One particular vision keeps the very narrow…straight.
    I can’t give you anything more than what you have already given to yourself…and thus your family.
    I can, however, stand beside you for a good long while…

    • Raye, many thanks for your heartfelt and wise comments. I hope I can add 24 years to my sobriety and match your 30 years. You replaced your bad habit, with a new relationship with your dad. Very cool. I appreciate your support. Last night at the dinner table, I told my kids of my personal anniversary and we toasted with green tea and sparkling water. Take care my friend and I look forward to your future jots here and on your site. BTG

  7. I come from a long line of heavy drinkers. It has always been part of life. I almost always have a glass of wine when I get home, which sometimes turns into the whole bottle. I smoked for twenty years, and couldn’t imagine life without cigarettes, but I quit nine years ago. Thinking about never having a drink again is a scarier prospect for me. “I am not going to drink today” sounds much less daunting. Thank you for sharing your story, BTG.

    • Best wishes on whatever course you take. I am glad you stopped smoking. This is one area where my dad showed me what not to do, by his smoking. If you do cease the drinking, do find a substitution. Take care, BTG

  8. My dad was an alcoholic who was 27 years sober when he passed. He also took those words seriously – I am not going to drink today. For him there was no yesterday and no tomorrow, just today. I also have an addictive personality – mine comes out with food. I used to weigh over 300 pounds. Its a struggle not to self comfort with food sometimes, but like you I just say I am not going to overeat today. I will be healthy today. Congrats, and many hugs! D.

  9. As this post continues to interest some people, I would encourage you to read a book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habit.” His premise is based on Aristotle’s belief that we are a creature of habits. If you have a bad habit and know its trigger, replace it with a better one. If you don’t, he contends, you will drift back into the bad habit. Mine is the green tea, which I drink instead of alcohol. Here is a link to a post on the book.

    Thanks all, BTG

  10. That was the most poient piece about alcoholism I have ever read. It echo’s my experience to a tee! We are the same age and I applaud you for your strength and honesty. I start rehab the week after next and will use your letter for encouragement! Many Thanx! Tom

    • Thanks Tom. Best wishes on your rehab. I am fortunate to have caught my train wreck early. I am coming up on seven years now, but the want never fully leaves. As I mentioned, substitutes help me greatly – Arizona Green Tea with ginseng and honey, Italian ice and all fruit popsicles assuaged the sweet craving. Take care and all the best.

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  12. I am both happy and sad reading this. Happy for you that you stopped and you should be proud of yourself! I’m sure it is difficult. I am sad for me because hubby is like you were. Recently he revealed to me that his doc tested his liver function. He told me after the fact, after it had improved? I think you know that one of my biggest goals is to retire to Spain. Along with that is my fear of his health. will it prevent us from going to Spain? or, will it be worse once we get there? I tried Al Anon meetings. They just weren’t for me. They did help in that I realized that I could not change him and so that relieved a bit of my stress. I am just not a support group type of person so stopped going after about 6 months. It’s his problem that he chooses to do nothing about…….oh anyway. didn’t mean to go on and on. but this post definitely hit home. Again, you’ve done a great job!! and you should be proud!

    • Toby, the only advice I can give is to be candid saying I would prefer to live my life with you than without.
      You could add you are a better person to be around when you are not drinking. With all that said, he has to be the one who changes. Now, my mother in law took the more direct approach with my father in law. She put his bags on the porch and said it is up to you. He stopped drinking after that. Best wishes, BTG

    • People that know me are surprised when I tell them I am an alcoholic. Since I drank at home, I could mask it better. My dilemma was the red faced sweating I was doing more of at the end of the day as my body craved the alcohol before I went home. I had to do an all or none, as I could not moderate my drinking. The other concern people have is they drink a lot as well, so that mental seed is planted when I tell them I an alcoholic. Most people deny it. I guess my lone piece of advice is be honest with yourself – how much do I drink. If you discover it is more than you think, talk with someone like your doctor. Feel free to reach out to me using my email address. Best wishes, BTG

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  14. I quit smoking almost 9 years ago. I gained way too much weight. I still have the urge to smoke. I drank but I didn’t have an addiction. I know many alcoholics with a whole slew of health issues but they don’t want to stop.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Smoking cessation is hard work as well. A key reason I never smoked is my Dad did and I sat behind him in the car on family trips. I look forward to reading your future posts. Best wishes, BTG

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  17. Thank you so much for drawing my attention to this, Keith. I am going to mark it on my favorites in hopes that some of my extended family might be ready to read it in the future. It was brave of you to share your journey, and I hope that many people find encouragement from it.

    Addictions of all kinds are horrible, robbing things – stealing dreams and futures daily.

    Blessings, my friend!

    • Thanks Tanya. I am about to have my ninth anniversary sans alcohol. Please feel free to share this with those who need it. My airport conversation with my colleague helped me immensely.

    • Many thanks. This is by far my most visited post. I think many of us have some challenge to desk with or know someone who does. I am glad someone helped me.

  18. I salute your courage and determination, Keith. I have an addictive personality as well. I’m a big guy too, but I cannot hold my alcohol – I’m the cheapest drunk I know. As a result, I drink very little. My big addiction was tobacco. I finally kicked it a dozen years ago and rarely think about it – thank goodness. I hate being around it, not because it tempts me to smoke, but because I can’t stand the smell.

    Now I have an addiction to sugar and fatty food. Like you, I need to clean up my life so I can live to see 70. Be well, good sir.

    • John, thanks for your comment. I think a key reason I don’t smoke is my father did. Since I rode behind him in the car, I got the brunt of the fumes. We do need to treat ourselves better. After a kidney stone, I drink a ton of water which helps. Best wishes on your quest. Keith

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  20. Note to Readers: I just passed year twelve of sobriety. The feint echo of wanting a drink remains, but it is definitely in the background. There are times when the echo gets a little louder, but I am able to move past it.

    My wife and I have been eating dried fruits (figs, peaches, apricots) or dates to tie us over until dinner. They are a good way to distract from a desire to drink. Find a substitute when the urge arises.

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    • Thanks Roger. Even still, that feint echo of wanting a drink remains. But, it is withstandable. My wife has a jar of sour Jolly Rancher candies that will cure any drink tendency. Keith

      • Those Jolly Rancher sound a useful ‘treat’ to have around.
        I can understand the ‘feint echo’ experience. Drink and me, we never got on like folk who never smoked but there is always ‘something’ ‘somewhere’; we’re back to demons again.
        This aside your courage and determination does you great credit Keith.
        Keep on keeping on.

  22. Thank you for linking to this post. I come from a long line of alcoholics and I work hard to avoid relying on alcohol/food/anything as a pacifier. My brother, unfortunately, does not believe alcohol is a problem because he only drinks on the weekend – even though on those weekends he “binge drinks” (his words). Keep taking it day to day. .

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