On getting drunk without booze

The other day in a meeting, a woman spoke about feeling at risk. She felt close to drinking again. Relapse could happen at any moment, and she knew it.

Often, when people talk about relapse at meetings, it’s because they’ve found themselves in particularly trying circumstances. Perhaps they’ve lost a job, or a relationship, or a pet. Sometimes a fight with a spouse or a sibling has pushed them to the edge. Drinking - and more specifically, that promise of not feeling which comes with it - feels like a dangerously good option.

For this woman, life wasn’t falling apart. On the contrary, she was coming off the sober high of a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to live music in a season which now, finally, feels like summer. As she described it, her eyes closed, a faint smile on her lips. I felt like I was right next to her, swaying in time to the music. And then, it was 5pm: Shoot. Time for my Sunday meeting.

I could feel her disappointment - or was I feeling my own? In the midst of a non-chemical high, the need to attend a meeting can feel like an unwelcome reality check. Maintenance of our spiritual condition isn’t always fun. It is often, well, maintenance.

When I least expected it, her voice broke. “The music was so lovely, I felt so good” - and then, out of nowhere, a sob - “and I didn’t want it to end.” My eyes snapped up. That was fast. The smile on the woman’s face had been replaced with anguish. Of course, my first thought was to rifle through my diagnostic library. Bipolar? Borderline? Histrionic?

Nope, just alcoholic. And not only alcoholic, but alcoholic in a perfectly relatable form. I myself am coming off of quite a high couple of days. I’ve been traveling since early June, and it will be nearly two weeks between meetings for me. Never once in this span of time have I wanted to drink. But if I'm being honest, never once have I craved a meeting, either. Rather, I have loved the feeling of floating, grazing the surface of my life, soaking up the sun, soaking up novelty.

Sober high - in the rose gardens at Julia Davis Park in Boise, Idaho

Nothing will be a sterner reality check than the TSA patdown that awaits in a few hours and the creative masterminding of attempting to sleep on a plane.

Mine is not a problem with alcohol. Rather, it is a problem with feelings. I feared the advance of bad feelings - inadequacy, invisibility, irrelevance. I feared good feelings, too; like the woman at the meeting, even the best of feelings positively refuse to be bottled up into 3oz containers and quart-sized bags. The feeling of being high, chemically- induced or not, is criminally brief, temporary. Even when it is replaced with serenity or acceptance, the come-down never ceases to be heartbreaking.

Feeling good is good. Attempting to trap that feeling is at best futile, and at worst dangerous. All we are guaranteed is this moment. Can we call it enough?