A Ride Into the Danger Zone
I’m planning to relapse next weekend and it’s making me anxious
I’m getting drunk next week, and this is making me anxious. But that’s a good thing.
As I outlined in a previous article, I have adopted a system of periodic, and incrementally improving sobriety. My tendency to relentlessly pursue dopamine-producing activity previously led me down a path of alcoholism and drug use and I reached a point where I knew I had to change. But the label ‘alcoholic’ was not nuanced enough for my liking, and the prescriptive sobriety of Alcoholics Anonymous did not gel with my contrarian nature, so I devised my own system which allowed me to give up drinking without giving up drinking.
By next weekend I’ll have been sober for over eleven weeks. This will be a personal best for me and, coupled with the fact that I have an old friend coming to stay from out of town, I figured this was a good excuse to pull the pin and have a blowout.
And let’s be clear here — a blowout is exactly what it will be. One of the reasons I prevent myself from drinking most of the time is that I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. I find it very difficult to stop after, say, three or four drinks, and will generally drink until I find that perfect state of oblivion which usually kicks in around the twenty standard drink mark. And then there’s the issue of alcohol as a gateway — for when the inhibitions are neutralised and the synapses are happily pinging away, the likelihood of seeking out other drugs greatly increases.
This is why I am anxious about my planned relapse. Because I’m aware I am heading into THE DANGER ZONE.
I did not used to feel this way as I approached a weekend, or a party. My anxiety about these events was never focused on what negative outcomes my behaviour might imbue, but only whether or not I’d be able to maximise my enjoyment sufficiently — things like: Have I got enough booze and drugs? Has anyone essential been left off the guest list? What am I going to wear, and should I get a haircut?
It is not pleasant approaching a merry event like a party with an old friend in this state — recurring moments of panic and ruminative fretting about all the things that could go wrong. It was much easier taking the cavalier approach of the self-satisfied libertine. When one refuses to admit there is anything wrong with one’s behaviour, then one can approach said behaviour free from anxiety.
I have however long since acknowledged the serious problems drinking and drug use present to me, and so any time I am planning on using, I must approach the situation with caution, care and concern. In other words — a great deal of anxiety.
Some might say that this is a pointless way to feel, and it only detracts from what should be a happy anticipation of a fun, recreational event. It’s not like I do it regularly right? So why worry? We’re all allowed to let our hair down from time to time.
I have actually come to believe that it is this attitude which helps perpetuate so much harm in society, and that if it was instead more normal to approach alcohol and drug use with the respect that these dangerous pursuits deserve, then many of the problems we have with addiction would be lessened.
Drinking and even drug use has become so normalised that most people partake in these pursuits without a second thought and indeed, for many it is the process of inebriation itself that provides the feeling of safety and security that should be derived from clean and sober living. I’m speaking from experience — sobriety used to be a supremely uncomfortable and scary place for me and nearly every sober minute was spent in anticipation of my forthcoming descent into happy intoxication.
These days it’s the opposite; my sense of peace and security comes from sobriety, fitness and health, and it is the approach of a planned relapse that makes me anxious.
My system of sobriety is contingent upon strict adherence to the principle that drinking and drug use is not a normal thing for me to engage in, and thus when I am set to engage in it, I must give it serious consideration and mentally prepare myself for all the contingencies. It is only through this lens that I can justify it, because to look at it with a relaxed or cavalier attitude would open the door to all my old habits.
Anxiety besets our society and as individuals we are afflicted by it daily — most often in a weaposnised form from the corporate media and advertising firms. This we can do without. But anxiety also serves many useful purposes — most importantly, keeping us safe from real threats. We become anxious in dangerous situations because we know that unless we pay close attention and tread carefully, we may get hurt.
Our anxiety around danger does not necessarily mean we should not do the dangerous thing. Danger is fun — that’s why people walk tight ropes, and jump out of planes, and drive race cars. But danger demands respect. Our respect for the imminent danger is extracted from us in the form of anxiety, which causes us to formulate mitigation strategies. These strategies then greatly increase our chances of coming through the danger unscathed.
A crucial aspect of ascension is understanding our own dangers. Drinking and drugs are one of mine. And next weekend I am entering the danger zone.
This has been making me pretty nervous. But that’s a good thing. It has prompted me to construct a matrix of mitigation strategies which I am confident will see me through relatively unscathed. I’ll discuss these strategies and whether they were effective in a forthcoming article.
How I do remains to be seen, and it won’t necessarily be all high fives and victory songs. But I am hopeful that my time spent worrying about this will largely ensure I’m able to enjoy my party without the attendant regrets than can so easily result from poor planning.
Check in with me in a couple of weeks for my post party analysis. I very much hope I have a positive story to tell, but should it be anything less, I will not sugarcoat things. Wish me luck.