It seemed I could not help myself. The crystal flute on the silver tray called out to me like a siren. I thanked the waiter and took the champagne. Soon I was extending my glass for more. I lost count of how many times he poured.
For alcoholics there is no cheer in holiday drinking. In an instant, one glass of champagne becomes six, then a pounding head on the pillow the next morning, a deepening sense of shame and a feeling of free falling back into the darkest place one knows.
The truth that shone brightly, burning my sore eyes on that morning after, was this: Without sobriety I am nothing, not even myself. With the first drink, my soul sails away like an errant hat in a brisk wind and I cannot grasp it. Feelings scatter. The center crumbles. I am a formless, muted human, a dull buzz moving through space or sitting and staring, just staring.
There were times not so long ago when I wanted to disappear in this fashion. I wanted to sense nothing because my feelings were too painful to bear. Now, six months after beginning this sober journey, I want to be alive to each moment. When I relapse into drinking, I feel lost and fearful. I see my strong heart walking away. I want to yell STOP PLEASE and run after it.
This particular relapse had a happy ending.
As I woke up on that grim, guilty morning, I experienced what the Twelve Step program calls a “moment of clarity.” I saw my fleeing sobriety turn around and stop.
In the vision, my sober self stood there looking back at me kindly, like a good friend, waiting for me to catch up. I was not being judged but forgiven. The hand of the Higher Power was not shaking its finger but reaching out to help.
I reached back and grasped the gift of sanity that was there for me. The moment was joyous.