‘What would you like to drink?’
The question hangs innocently in the air. What would I like to drink? Around me I can see cocktails being mixed at the bar, I can hear the glug glug of wine being poured at the next table and I watch someone take that first refreshing sip of beer.
I want wine. I want lots of wine. I want it quickly and I want it now while my stomach is empty and it will rapidly reach my bloodstream, quickly course to my brain and fulfill the ever-present need.
Yes, I want wine. I want wine very much, yet at the same time, I don’t. Should I or shouldn’t I? I want what I cannot have, yet here I am, all grown up, surely I can do as I please? I am torn between the options, exhausted by the mental gymnastics going on inside my head. This small decision of huge magnitude is the first crossroads at the beginning of my journey into the unknown. From today I am adopting an alcohol-free life. I am unsure if I can succeed, but know that failure is not an option.
How can it be so hard not to do something? Just don’t do it. It should not be difficult. But it is. So, so difficult. Can I make the short term sacrifice of what I want right now, for what I want most of all? Can I bear the immediate hardship in the hope of a longer term gain? It should be a simple decision but making the correct choice is so hard.
It is 6pm and I am sitting on a beautiful terrace watching the sun set. I am on holiday. I arrived this afternoon at a luxurious all inclusive hotel in the sun. It was an early start and now I am tired and need to sleep but I am also hungry and must eat first. The restaurant opens at 7pm. There was an hour to wait when the waiter asked that simple question.
Today was to be my new start. My 48 hour hangover from the last boozy episode had receded and I felt better. I’d learnt from my mistakes and my many failed attempts at moderation. My hangover mindset had changed from never wanting to drink again to realising that I could not, must not drink again. I had come to the conclusion that becoming completely alcohol-free was the only option for me in the long term. But. I could just have one tonight. In fact, I could just drink tonight then start stopping again tomorrow. Or start stopping after the holiday. What difference would an extra two weeks make? Or would it be easier to stop once back to the routine of work and the hum drum of daily life? Probably not.
In the days prior to this holiday I had felt anxious about the lack of control I would have over my drinking in a resort with plentiful, all inclusive bars: all normal restraints absent, no driving, no work, no pub closing time. I was acutely worried that the bar service would be slow, the drinks would be small and inadequate and I’d feel embarrassed to keep asking for another. I didn’t want a hangover in the baking heat the following day yet I wanted an alcoholic drink now. The two were mutually exclusive and I felt panicked by my lack of conviction.
This time was supposed to be different and failure was not an option. This time was supposed to be It, yet here I was hesitating at the first hurdle. Twice previously I had ended my attempts at abstinence when the first hurdle presented itself. A social function, a night out, a birthday, a Friday, whatever. These events were part of life yet seemed like impassable barriers, completely blocking the path and bringing each journey to an end. I know that to succeed I must negotiate a way around these obstacles. I could not afford to fail at the first one. Where would I end up? How much worse would life get? What would it eventually take to make me stop, if not this time?