A sober friend said recently that he tried to quit drinking for years, but if he was being honest, he wasn't trying that hard. This struck me as significant.
A lot of us tried for years, or are still trying, and think we were/are trying hard. Were we? Are we? It sure feels like it when you're struggling to stay sober and keep backsliding and drinking.
Another friend, who has been struggling to quit for years, and is still struggling, told me that a woman at AA told her she didn't really want to be sober or she would be. At the time, that comment struck me as incredibly, horribly, unforgivably mean. I still think it's mean. But underneath the meanness, something significant lurks.
A few people in my online group recently have commented with impressive honesty about how they are not really sure they want to stop drinking. I've been thinking about that for the past few days, and my friend's comment about in truth not trying all that hard made all the thoughts come together.
Between the time I first had the thought "I drink too much" and the time I quit for good, I didn't really want to stop. What I wanted was to be a social drinker. I wanted to be able to moderate. I wanted to be able to go out and have drinks with everyone else and feel like an ordinary person and not someone who had this label. I wanted to come home after a hard days work and pour a glass of wine or three and numb my feelings. I wanted to run a hot bath and soak in it while drinking a glass of wine and chilling out. I did not want to go to 12 step meetings and be preached at. I did not want to drink club soda when everyone else was drinking wine and either make up some bullshit excuse about why I wasn't or tell people I had a problem. I did not want to be The Other.
I wanted to stop having hangovers and making an ass of myself, but I did not want to stop drinking. I wanted – and this is one of the three things that Buddhists say cause pain – things to be other than as they were. I wanted to be the kind of person who had two glasses of wine and no consequences. I didn't want to stop drinking. I wanted to be that person again.
At some point, something shifted. I turned a corner. I wanted the madness to end more than I wanted to be able to have a long hot soak in the bath with a ginormous glass of Pinot in my hand.
Wanting to do the work of recovery came later. And it was only after I did the work, and received the gift of having done it, that I started really wanting to be sober instead of wanting to be able to drink moderately.
So no. At the beginning. I didn't really want stop drinking. I was angry that I had to stop drinking. Resentful that I didn't get to drink anymore. It was doing the work of recovery that allowed me to transcend that resentment, to be grateful for sobriety and recovery.
At some point, I stopped fighting against the resentment that I couldn't be a moderate drinker. At some point I became willing to try something new and see what happened.
Became willing. That's Step 2. Almost everyone here has done Step 1, admitting that their lives have become unmanageable. But Step 2? That's a hard one. Becoming WILLING to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
For me, that power wasn't God. I've had issues with the higher power thing. For me, that power was the program itself. I saw my father and all these other people living happy, fulfilling lives in sobriety after following the program, and I became willing to try and see if it would work for me, too.
That was the key for me. Not willpower, but willingness.