Tonight I’m drinking water

As of today, 23 months sober

Twenty-three months ago plus one day is the last time I took a drink of alcohol. I take it one day at a time—I don’t promise myself I’ll stay sober forever—I just make a deal, each day, that I’ll stay sober for that day. I learned that from people in AA and NA who had a lot of clean time.

Since stopping drinking, my bipolar has gotten way worse. I take a mood stabilizer, an antidepressant, an antipsychotic, and some other drugs (and I took them before I stopped drinking) and I don’t care what anybody says, alcohol is a fantastic suppressant of mania—maybe the best. Too bad it has so many deadly side effects. Sober, my manias are more intense and longer (5 months in one case). My psychotic symptoms are increased. I have hallucinations outside of mood episodes so my diagnosis has worsened from bipolar to schizoaffective.

I am less easygoing. I am harder to get along with. I suppress less of what I am thinking and this openness, during mania, has severed all remaining family relationships but one: my mother is the only person left in my family who speaks to me.

On the other hand, since becoming sober, and partially due to the increased mania I now experience, my writing productivity has gone through the roof. Drinking interfered with my work consistency: on a particular day I’d either write or drink. Now I only write. Instead of two books a year, this year I’ll finish six or seven. If you’re not a writer, I’ll tell you: that’s phenomenal productivity. And I only work one or two hours a day.

So being sober is a mixed bag for me. But it’s what I wanted to do and I did it. It’s how I still want to live my life and it’s how I’ll live my life today. I don’t want to be a slave to a substance.

But you know the thing that finally got me to quit for 23 months? It’s a statistic that doesn’t figure into bipolarity, schizophrenia, lost family relationships, or number of books produced. It’s number of times I drove drunk today. Number of times I risked my life and other people’s lives by getting behind the wheel of a car in a blackout drunk. I don’t care if my aunt doesn’t talk to me anymore, or my sister, or my uncle, or if doctors now think I’m schizophrenic. I woke up one day 23 months ago and said to myself: I’m never driving drunk again. So everything else can move and shift. But I wanted something, and I got it, and I’m proud as hell of it: number of times I drove drunk in the last 23 months: zero.

Like what you read? Give Matthew Temple a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.