A long time ago, someone asked this question of me in comments: How did you replace the alcohol? I see that people sometimes find the blog by asking that of a search engine. It is a fundamental question, I think.
At the heart of it, I replaced the alcohol with the program. The reason I drank was to cope with, well, everything. I loved life so much better when I was just a little bit drunk. If that had been a successful strategy, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m an alcoholic, so that didn’t work.
Without alcohol to help me cope, life was a very painful thing. To be honest, even with alcohol to help me cope, life was a very painful thing. It did not happen over night and it was far from easy. In my case, it took me six full years to actually stop drinking in Alcoholics Anonymous. I learned a little bit along that way, but really I’m just lucky I survived. Many don’t. I almost didn’t.
But over the years of sobriety, AA actually did teach me to cope with life, for the most part, in a way that far surpasses my strategy of being a little bit drunk. Even if that had worked, I’m sure I wouldn’t have learned the tough stuff. Learned how to cope and usually how to be moderately happy.
Now I think the person who first asked the question was still drinking, or had just quit. At that point replacing alcohol is difficult and there is painful growing ahead. I’m here to say it’s worth it.
For me, the way of alcohol was the way of death. I got worse and worse, and I had many examples in life and in the media of how bad things get. There was a girl, completely disabled by a drunk driver, on the hospital floor with me when I had my wisdom teeth out. I’m sure the driver who did that did not mean to. I can’t imagine the hell of either party. I can’t kid myself that I’m not taking a chance of joining them by drinking. I am. I would be.
AA has so many helpful ways to enable a newcomer to make it through to where life becomes bearable: phone numbers, meetings, literature, sponsors, service. Online is a huge vista of recovery resources I did not even dream of when I got sober. Newly-sober and not-so-newly-sober folks find refuge in these things when times are hard and they are made better by them, not worse.
I’m afraid some small measure of faith is needed to begin. A person simply can’t experience sobriety without being sober.
So both in terms of how to spend my time, and how to cope with life, I replaced the alcohol with AA. AA takes much less of my time now than it did at the beginning. That’s a choice I make and a crucial difference, too, is that now when I spend time with it, it’s because I really want to. Because I finally held on to some sobriety and lived long enough to see it get better.