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Getting Sober is Not “Giving Up Drinking”

Open the Gates of Hell and Let Me Out

Photo by Neal Hemphill

So many things in life are about mindset and attitude. One’s point of view can make all the difference.

I don’t believe in “Being Positive” just for the sake of being positive.

I do try to take an upbeat approach to the various parts of my life, but it seems to me that souped-up positivity is false much of the time.


Being sober has enabled me to see the world in a more clear-eyed fashion. When I was drinking, I was in many ways naive, and I tried to be “a positive person.”

But since I was committing a slow form of suicide, it didn’t add up. I had a split deep inside of me, and as I didn’t know it, I couldn’t reconcile it.


For a long time, I found drinking and using drugs to be a boon to my life. I got into some crazy things, and I had a ton of good times.

It was something I loved to do, and I saw it as fun. Being a drinker/druggie became a huge part of my identity.

I didn’t see myself ever giving it up. Why would I?


When it came down to it, I didn’t give it up. I stopped because I had to.

In a sense, yes, I gave it up. But it wasn’t like it was a choice I made out of a whim or a grounded decision like, hey, I think I’ll see what life is like without drinking/drugging.

I became desperate for my life, and I had a few moments of grace and clarity where I understood what was happening.


My denial had been so strong that I couldn’t see the spiral I was in. I managed my alcoholism/addiction in a way that kept me from being confronted on a regular basis. Every now and then someone would call attention to my drinking.

But for the most part, I kept it in the shadows. In the latter years of my drinking/drugging, much of it was done at home, by myself.


Looking back, it’s clear that I didn’t give up anything of value. Alcohol had turned on me. My body’s reaction to alcohol changed, and I was often sick from drinking. I frequently got blotchy, where I’d break out in rashes on my neck and face. As soon as I saw that, I knew I was in for a few days of utter misery because it was a sign of alcohol poisoning.

When that happened, the next few days were bleak and depressing, and difficult to go through.


Once I felt better, I’d tell myself I’d manage my drinking better this time. All I did was start the cycle again.

I was blind to the reality of my life. The role of denial for an alcoholic/addict is almost impossible to overstate. It can be deadly.


l can say, in truth, that I didn’t give up drinking. The early drinking years of fun and wild times were over, completely done.

Without being corny, the reality is that gained something incredible. I acquired a new life. This life is founded on the understanding that I cannot drink safely, not today, and not ever. That won’t change.

That knowledge is the springboard into life without hangovers and without alcohol poisoning. More essentially, this second chance at life has given me boundless gratitude for the life I’ve been given. There are so many people that I love, and that’s just about the best thing in the world.

And here’s an incomplete list of gifts in this new life: clarity, connection, a spiritual path, passion for work and creativity, a clean driving record, a home that we love, a good measure of inner peace, a feeling of usefulness, the joy that comes with being released from the chains of addiction. I could go on for a very long time. But I’ll address these things, and others, in future writings.


Without false positivity, if you find yourself struggling with drugs and/or alcohol, please look past the idea of “giving it up.” Instead, get ready for a world of possibilities you cannot imagine. There’s a great phrase I’ve heard, and that is the idea of living life on life’s terms.

Often, of course, it is hard. Illness, loss, disappointment, rejection - all of these are hard to take. Love, growth, connection, acceptance, and more, are of course much easier to take on life’s terms.

The thing is that I’m in for all of it. After years of escapism and controlling my feelings and outlook through chemical means, I’m all in.

Life on life’s terms. It’s given me a second life. I love it.

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