Coming for the drinking and staying for the thinking

by Bree L.

I was five years dry, without a drink, not a sip of anything alcoholic, not even a sniff of Chardonnay or even a taste of Southern Comfort on the rocks. To my mind not drinking was the epitome of happiness. I wanted to say I was sober but it was a stretch as I stayed restless, irritable and discontent. That was when I brought my less-than-charming self to A.A., even though I knew you couldn’t teach me much because I knew it all already.

Before the final day, I’d done some personal research on how long it took the alcohol to kick in. It was about twenty minutes, give or take a few (Somehow, I always seemed to end up with a headache the next morning.) Other efforts to cut down included drinking milk to temper the alcohol’s effects. That didn’t work. Then I sampled different types of wine, because a wine drinker couldn’t have a problem. Wine, I believed, wasn’t the hard stuff. I started with Gallo Red, bought the gallon size, then took the top off to let it age in the refrigerator and add class to my drinking. I moved on to Merlot, Chablis and Chardonnay.   

Somewhere in those early A.A. meetings I heard about “Coming for the drinking and staying for the thinking.” Pieces of my alcoholic brain puzzle began to fit together. Early on, I realized that I might have not been drinking, but I sure as heck thought about how I was not drinking—a whole lot. During my five years of self-inflicted dryness, I let everyone know I was the one not drinking. 

Nowadays, I don’t think so much about booze. But my analytical mind is still in high gear. Especially at three and four in the morning. Worries that I’d easily put to sleep at ten o’clock seem to become immediate concerns. What else can a person do at four in the morning but worry? My children morph from the competent people they were to youngsters in need of my help and guidance. (My children are all in their fifties.) This is when some of the tools I’ve learned in A.A. kick in:

  • Remembering “The ego is not my amigo.” 
  • Listing my blessings with an A to Z gratitude list. I rarely get past “m” or “n” before falling asleep. I start out with my Aunt Elva who was so kind to me in earlier years, then move on to my brother Billy, who moved to California to be closer to me; then my reliable car, a favorite dress and so on. 
  • Repeating the wonderful Third Step Prayer with one word for each breath.
  • The Serenity Prayer can also come into play as I mentally list the things I can change and those I cannot.

The Big Book says we are absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge (page 39). Who am I to think I can stop thinking, either, aided solely by my own self-knowledge? Just because I’m not drinking, that doesn’t mean my brain takes a hike. My thinking is alive and well, but at least I have some tools today thanks to A.A.

Just because I’m not drinking that doesn’t mean my brain takes a hike
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