Sharpe to the Point: Sobering Thought

Jim SharpeJanuary 2020
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If you’ve already broken a resolution to not drink or get high in 2020, I can relate. And maybe I can help.

Nine years ago, I broke that very same resolution. My lousy track record of quitting, coupled with a gnawing belief that I couldn’t live without inebriating substances, put my odds for career and family success somewhere between the Diamondbacks winning the Super Bowl and the Cardinals winning the World Series.

Yet, to continue this keen sports analogy, I crossed the goal line in 2011, and the scoreboard still reads 0 (as in zero drinks or recreational pills). So, how did I do it? Well, I didn’t. My breakthrough was realizing that sobriety is a team sport. There’s an “I“ in addiction – but there isn’t in recovery. Getting “stopped” hinged on letting others (just as screwed up as me) help. And staying stopped means passing it on.

The dawning of that understanding was a truly awful night of chemical consumption in April 2010. The next morning, I swore to my wife that I would quit forever. And I really meant it.

Yet, I got drunk again. Four months after my solemn oath, I found myself downing several large Sam Adamses while waiting in Richmond International Airport. A few minutes later, Sam’s buddy Jack Daniels also stopped by, and… well, I was wasted. In a superhuman feat of denial, I laid aside the fear that my wife might leave me and shoved to the back of my mind all the stupid things I’d done in the past while drinking. I did this because I’m an alcoholic. Birds fly. Fish swim. Drunks drink.

So, while waiting for that flight in Virginia, I graduated from alcoholic to super-secret-squirrel alcoholic. That really sucked, because sneaking in a drink here or there leads to a cocktail-party-style buzz, when what I really wanted was a college-party, falling-down, can’t-remember-last-night kind of effed-up.

Thanks to others, I don’t want that anymore. I don’t even want a single drink.

But getting here took setting aside any notion I knew how to solve my problems alone. My ego is not my amigo. For me, shattering the illusion of self-reliance became easier to swallow when I realized the toughest, bravest people I know – members of the military and first responders – don’t go it alone, either. They don’t kick in terrorists’ doors without backup, and they don’t charge into burning buildings without someone else at the other end of the fire hose.

If these heroes need help, then a workaday schlub like me is not above needing help. Now, I return the favor and help others flee their proverbial burning building, before their lives turn to ashes. Doing so has given my life purpose and helps keeps me sane and sober.

If you can’t keep a resolution to not drink or drug, you might try finding the resolve to ask for help. Go to your priest, your yoga teacher, find a secular 12-step program, whatever. You can even ask me. These days, you’ll find me at jimsharpe@gmail.com – instead of at the bar.

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