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Monday, December 31, 2012

On the New year

Mike Runner brings a perspective to Wings Like Eagles that is unique and challenging. 

I normally cover topics relating to the horror of having someone else bring darkness into the home.  Mike covers the same topics, but from a completely different angle.  He was the one who brought darkness to his family.  Mike is an alcoholic.

It is my hope that the perception of what we think we know about Family Crisis is shaken up a bit.  Because there is far more involved than we think.  Much can be understood by examining the other side, and I deeply appreciate Mike's willingness to help us gain understanding as he shares with us the mind as it is affected by alcoholism.

He isn't just an alcoholic.  He is an intelligent mind, has a bright, hopeful future, and he is my friend.  And this is his story.

There are a couple of things… ideas… that I wanted to share about the New Year and New Year’s resolutions. 

As I have said, I am not the sobriety guru.  What I do have is a long history of trying things that do not work and eventually a few simple things that did.  As is the case with every alcoholic and addict out there, I have one day to stay sober and try to do some things right and that day is today.

New Year’s Eve is an interesting time for alcoholics.  I said in my last column, it is not difficult for us alcoholics to make up an excuse to drink.  I’m happy, I’m sad, the sky is blue, whatever.  New Year’s Eve is a tough time for us because it has its own built in excuse.  We are supposed to celebrate, right?  I mean, it’s New Year’s Eve.  I am taking away your (and my) excuse right now. 

It’s another night that we shouldn’t drink… that’s all.  Many, many alcoholics who have stayed sober for some time, fall on New Year’s Eve.  Everyone is laughing, the clocks counting down, you are at a party, you are wearing a funny hat that says 2013 on it, and the booze is flowing.  It is very easy to say, “what the heck, tomorrow is a new year and I can get back on track then!  Makes perfect sense to me.” Nope.  If you are an alcoholic and you know that parties, bars, and hanging out with certain friends, are going to be a temptation… do something else on New Year’s Eve.  Go to a movie.  Stay home and watch the countdown on TV.  This is a big opportunity to stay sober or even start your path to sobriety. 

Then there is New Year’s Day.  Obviously there are football games to watch and I need not tell you that football is not an excuse to drink though they do go hand in hand for a lot of Americans.  What I really want to tell you is to stay away from grand New Year’s resolutions.  Many people have taken New Year’s Day, myself included, and said, “It’s a new year and I am done drinking for good.”   I was, and you are setting yourself up to fail. 

Families, if you are encouraging a loved one to make such a resolution…don’t.  I have made that resolution only to end up drunk that next day, beating myself up, and saying, “Mike, seriously, you couldn’t make it two days after what you said?”  I meant what I said with all of my heart and mind but grand thinking doesn’t work for an alcoholic of my type.  After so easily breaking a resolution you really meant, an alcoholic will beat themself up which takes us right back to drinking. 

Here’s the cycle:  Big promise to yourself and others, break the promise because you never should have made it to begin with, guilt to your family and bewilderment on why you didn’t do better, drink again to get over the guilt.  And so it goes. 

I am not suggesting that 2013 will not be the year you stop drinking.  I am not saying that New Year’s Day cannot be your start.  What I am saying is, your resolution on New Year’s morning should go no further than “I am not going to drink today and today I will do things differently.”  That’s it and it is doable.  If a day is too long because it is New Year’s Day, tell yourself that you are not going to drink for the hour, get through it, and say the same thing the next hour. 

It is ok to tell yourself that 2013 is going to be a year where you are going to be willing to do some different things.  Learning how to think one day at a time can be one of those things.  January 1, 2013 can be a great day to finally admit to yourself that there may be a problem and what you have tried… everything that you have tried… simply hasn’t worked with any long term success. 

If you are like I was, I really didn’t know how to go about not drinking on weekends or some holidays.  We have a lot of time on our hands because drinking occupies a lot of time.  We suddenly have a lot more hours in the day and the clock can tick very slowly.  A lot of alcoholics fall back into drinking simply because they are bored and they have too much time on their hands.  So, if you are bored and craving a drink… instant message me, sprint around the block, call a friend who gets it, journal what you are feeling, write down a gratitude list, call the AA hotline and ask where a meeting is--they will be running them all day and all night on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Some of them will actually be showing football, have good food, etc.  If you can do something with your mind and body for about five minutes, the craving will pass and you will have made it through.  When the next one hits, you will know you got through the first one.  One minute, one hour, one day at a time.  That is how I don’t drink. 

Again, my experience is the same as many other alcoholics.  NO long term resolutions about not drinking on New Year’s or any other day.  Do what I do and take the day as an opportunity to make some changes and not drink for the day.  After a while, I promise you that the cravings will become less frequent and things will get easier if you work a good program.  Twelve-step programs (AA, Celebrate Recovery and others) have worked for millions and eventually saved my life once I really looked into what they were all about.  I am not saying 12-step programs are the only way to get sober, but I can tell you that it worked for me once I was willing to do a few simple things.

For everyone else, please be careful on New Year’s Eve.  There is a reason that the jails are overflowing with drunk drivers.  People are over the limit but don’t think they are, people tell themselves that they can drive home because it is only a couple of miles, it may be an alcoholic’s planned “last big night” before they quit and they decide to drive.  Stay off the roads late if you can.
2013 can be a wonderful year for all of us.  You and I can stay sober.  You can get sober.  The family can start picking up the pieces.  You, the alcoholic, can find the person that they lost long ago as I did.  Families can re-find the mother/father/spouse that has become only a memory. There are any number of miracles that can and will happen to you and yours if you are willing and find help.  Remember, I lived in misery and desperation for years and I found hope, peace and joy, which I never believed possible.  So can you.  May 2013 be a year of wonderful changes for you and yours…one day at a time.

Happy New Year Everyone.

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