monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking

Putting my training wheels back on.


My last post was about how confident I felt being sober – but today I’m rattled and shakey after a near miss with a mouthful of Vodka.

The situation.

My lower back has been niggly for a few days and yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in 6 weeks. When I got home I was bending over to pull up my pants when I had a sharp, stabbing pain in my lower back. It was so sharp that I collapsed to the floor and crouched there for 5 minutes before I could lift myself up using my arms. I spent most of the day bent over, barely able to walk, and on a cocktail of strong painkillers.

Last night I was having waves of compulsive urges to drink. They were so strong that I jumped up and swigged a mouthful of vodka while my partner was in the shower – just like old times! I stood at the sink with a mouthful of vodka burning like Listerine. I remember debating thoughts like ‘just this once’ versus ‘this is a turning point’ – it was probably only 10 seconds but it felt much longer. I made an active choice and spat it down the sink and rinsed the sink and the acrid taste from my mouth (so gross).

I went and sat on the couch. I was restless and fidgety and was really glad when my partner came out of the bathroom. Within 5 minutes the compulsion waves stopped and I began to feel that sense of commitment again.

Why’d it happen?

Probably two main reasons. The first was just that the pain was (literally) crippling yesterday – it was the worst backpain I’ve ever had. I kept remembering friends saying how a glass of wine really enhanced the effect of painkillers when they have back pain and muscle spasms.

The other reason was the painkillers themselves. They made me feel slightly drunk – spacey, detached, slightly uncoordinated and slow. Each time I took the pills I could feel them kicking in and then a few hours later I could feel myself ‘sobering up’. They reduced the pain but that HALF drunk feeling triggers compulsions that I need more.

The combination of the two things meant that my resolution and commitment were the lowest I’ve had since quitting. I had lots of recurring thoughts about ‘just this once’ and ‘this is a reasonable situation’ and I was really fixated on drinking. I kept brushing away the thoughts but they’d be back a minute later.


Feelings of intoxication are my Achilles Heel. In my last post I wrote about drinking a glass of Champagne while on holidays – and that it had triggered no compulsion or loss of control. The difference was that the glass of Champagne caused no intoxication because it was so small (less than one standard drink), I drank it over a LONG period of time (1.5 hours+) and with a meal. I had felt so in control that when I eventually finished that glass I was able to effortlessly say ‘no more thanks’.

Probably the most damaging thing about the glass of champagne was that it ‘opened the seal’ and planted some seeds about occasional, controlled drinking.

Today I’m sore, a little bit shaken BUT really glad I didn’t swallow that mouthful of vodka. My gut is a bit upset and queasy because of the painkillers which is reminding me of hangovers. It’s not like I had forgotten the compulsion and aftermath of self-loathing and disrespect – but they haven’t been in such clear focus for a long time. Today they’re at the forefront of my mind and have shown that the compulsion is still there and how hard it is to deal with when it gets triggered.

I keep telling myself that I should feel good that I spat out the vodka – but in reality I feel flat and self-judging.  It’ll just take time to pass – although I’m glad I don’t have any desire to drink.

It’s odd. It took 8 months before I felt shakey and really challenged – it might be time to put my training wheels back on for a while.

2 thoughts on “Putting my training wheels back on.

  1. Many times, we have to put back on the training wheels. The important thing is that we continue on our path. I feel grateful every day that I can go to bed sober, and awake with a clear head.

  2. Glad you didn’t take that poison in. Things would probably be very different today. Shows just how this thing can lie in waiting. Vigilance is required more times than not. Glad you’re here.

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