The M Factor
The circumstances had dictated that I alone must change my life, but I did have some unexpected help. On the day the walls caved in, I received a text message from, M, the girlfriend of a friend of mine. M (not her real name), me sent a text message to say goodbye. She and my friend had broken up and she assumed the breakup would estrange us from one-another. M also knew I wanted to quit drinking. As she exited my life via text, she asked how I was doing with it. I replied by telling her what had transpired earlier that day, and a cheerleader was born.
Over the next several days, M called me, emailed me, and texted me to stay connected. During the first few days of this transition she stood behind me, in front of me, and beside me. Mostly, she helped keep me aware of the task at hand. She was an unexpected angel on my shoulder, and I will be forever grateful for her hand in this.
Unique Vantage Point
I make a point of warning all weight loss clients to be cautious of expecting any degree of success. The CDC defines successful weight loss as having lost 30 pounds or more, and keeping it off for more than one year. Even by that liberal definition, the success rate among sincere weight loss attempts I have been involved with is under 10%. The notion of weight loss is easier to conjure, than tangible results are to achieve.
People who attempt weight loss often seek structure to aid them. Systems such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or NutriSystem are sought. Though these may have utility, at the end of the day it is not those means which enable successful weight loss. I argue that successful weight loss is primarily the result of the level of commitment exerted by the individual – that success is the result of the commitment, not the methods. Too often we praise these systems for someone’s success more than the commitment an individual poured into reaching the goal.
When I chose to quit drinking many of my friends suggested I attend AA meetings or join a 12-step program to help me stay on track. Similarly, the success rate of AA is relative to the success rate of many weight loss systems. Though many people do succeed with the help of AA and similar organizations, the much larger majority fail. My experience in weight loss gave me a unique vantage point where I could see the parallel between losing weight and stopping drinking. I knew this change had to come from within. This would not be about the system. This would be about my commitment.
Also, I have never been able to accept two primary tenets that AA and similar programs teach:
- That alcoholism is a disease
- That the term “addict” is a lifetime assignment as it apllies to alcohol.
If addict is a synonym for decision maker, then color me an addict. Once you’re a decision maker, you’ll always be a decision maker – that I can accept. Every drink I ever chose to take, I chose to take. Cancer is a disease. Drinking is a choice.
Also, such programs teach addiction will be with one for a lifetime. In my opinion that ideal only teaches weakness, and offers a built in excuse to relapse. There is no room for relapse here and weakness is not an option – my potential is at stake.
Monster. Energy. Drink.
When I stopped drinking, my fear of not sleeping was the monster whose shadow still frightened me. From May of 2000 until recently, I had come to believe that fair sleep would only come my way with a liquid head start. My first night without alcohol I slept just over an hour. Still, my business was at stake so the next day I nailed a 12-hour workday on just 1 hour of sleep and I survived. The next night I enjoyed nearly 2 hours or so of broken sleep and nailed another workday, as well as survived my taxing bicycle commute.
By day 4 of this pattern I was beyond exhausted and knew I needed a better plan. I decided I would begin to eat dinner late – just before crawling into bed. Prior to eating I would allow myself 2 over the counter sleep aids, and let my late dinner work them into my blood stream quickly. The first night, that resulted in 5 hours of fair sleep. I woke up feeling refreshed and positive. Five hours of fair sleep is enough. A new protocol was born.
No, it’s not perfect. Yes, I have substituted one fix for another. I will hope in time I will successfully wean myself from the sleep aids. If I never do, honestly, I’m good with it. I have energy these days – real energy. I have enthusiasm, optimism, and bravery in the face of bad circumstances. I am alive. Over the counter sleeping pills notwithstanding, I feel like me for the first time in over a year.
Where It Fits In
But I didn’t really stop drinking — I stopped drinking myself to sleep. Since that Friday morning I hit critical mass, I have enjoyed and appreciated a glass of wine here, a beer there, and even a smidge of Ouzo while traveling in Greece – without feeling the need to pile on and load up. I have not had multiple drinks, or even consecutive days of drinking since I crawled out of bed. I have been tested to be sure, but not tempted. Life is still life, relationships are still messy, and finances are still evil. None of these though, have been reason for me to drink. This all began with, and had everything to do with sleep. People have challenged me on this and suggested those social drinks will set me on a dark course. Those people, I suspect, would find fiendish pleasure in seeing me fail. If addict is a synonym for decision maker, then color me an addict. Be well. rc
Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from the Candy Skins — one of my all-time favorite covers of a classic song. Enjoy…