Staying sober takes dedication and a constant vigilance to avoid the people and situations that trigger an urge to abuse. The triggers are not always obvious, and things like camping, watching football and making ribs are now off limits to me as I battle one day at a time to stay sober.
Only I can know when I feel the urge to drink, and therefore only I must be responsible for staying away from temptation. It’s not easy to change your life, but when you get sober, you relearn what’s really important, and avoiding the rest doesn’t seem so bad.
One of the best ways to ensure long term sobriety is simply to minimize the temptations, and make the daily battle as painless as possible. It sounds easy; I mean how tough is it to not walk into a bar right? But the reality is different, and the triggers to abuse can be very subtle and pervasive things.
- It sounds funny, but I can’t watch football anymore. I spent every Sunday for years at home with a case of cold beers, enjoying the games of the day. The memories of what I used to do, combined with more beer commercials than I can count, make a seemingly innocuous pastime a pretty dangerous thing for me. I can’t even read the box scores without thinking about a drink!
- I also used to make some pretty mean BBQ, but although no one makes ribs like I do, I always drank while tending the cue, and even the smell of wood smoke gets me thinking about cracking open a cold one. Like everything else, these triggers to use are strong at first, and gradually fade in intensity, but I still pay heed to the teachings of my therapist, and I still avoid any situation or environment that has even the slightest possibility of temptation.
Rehab taught me to really examine my life, and to think about the situations that put me at risk to take that first drink. Not only the obvious triggers to abuse, like not hanging out with old drinking buddies and not visiting the places you used to abuse, but also the more subtle, and therefore more dangerous triggers. I know the responsibility to steer clear of temptation lies only with me, and only I can know when I start to feel that urge. No one would think less of me for wanting to go camping, but I know that in my mind, the great outdoors will be forever linked with Jack Daniels, and only I can know that camping is a very dangerous place for me.
To stay sober, you need to be vigilant and responsible for your own actions. Rehab taught me that I need to be accountable to myself and that only I could keep out of dangerous places. One of the best ways to stay sober is simply to avoid temptation, and for me that’s meant a lot of changes. I’d rather be at home watching the game, but on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll probably find me out with my wife, at an antique show, at the mall, or in the park…anywhere but home!
I may not love these pastimes, but I love my wife, and if I can make her happy while keeping myself free from temptation, it’s a pretty good thing. The sound of my kids laughing, and waking up clear headed to bagels, sunshine and a paper on a Saturday morning; for this…I’ll pay any price.