Don’t Believe Your Own Publicity

A comment on my post yesterday got me to thinking about why we relapse.  Why, when we know how good it feels to be sober do we go back?  Why do we choose that substance when we know how much better, more fulfilling and wonderful our lives are without it?  I mean seriously, how can someone with 10 or 20 years of sobriety, one day pick up a drink and be back to their old ways in a matter of days…sometimes hours?  Or someone with 30 days?  Or six months?  Or (insert time here)?

When I got serious about quitting, I relapsed once.  It was between the third and fourth month sober.  A friend’s husband had just begun to sell wine through home parties and she was hosting a wine tasting to get him started.  (I know you already see where this is going and I know you’re thinking, “WTF?” but stay with me.)  I had already started the conversations in my head, with the hubs and with the kids that…

  • “I can drink.  I just don’t have an ‘off’ switch so I have to be careful.”
  • “I’m not really an alcoholic.  I just needed to take a break to prove to myself I could quit if I wanted to.”
  • “I’m not really an alcoholic.  I didn’t need any help quitting.  I just did it so that must mean I’m okay.”
  • “I’ll just be sure to limit myself to one…or two at a time.”
  • “Insert lame excuse here.”


I ignored all the authors I’d read who were just like me.  Who drank just like me.  Who acted just like me when they were drunk.  Authors like Carolyn Knapp, and Jane Velez-Mitchell, and Augusten Burroughs who wrote both eloquently and painfully about people just like me.  In fact, it was very minor character in Burroughs’ book “Dry” who said something I credit with starting my long road to sobriety.

It was either his first or one of his first AA meetings (it’s been a long time since I read the book – long before I actually got sober) and he was looking around and marveling at the fact that no one looked like his mind’s version of an alcoholic.  Then a woman got up to speak, during her story she said what turned out to be my catalyst.  She said that although she doesn’t look like society’s view of an alcoholic, the fact was that when she was drinking she was always the first to arrive at a party and the last to leave.  Just.  Like.  Me.

Yeah…I ignored that too.

And so I went to the wine tasting and I tasted.  And before it was time to go I had drained all mine and everyone else’s glasses.  I didn’t get drunk, but that didn’t take long.

After I sobered up the second (and final) time, I spoke with a therapist that told me that the 3-4 month mark was a dangerous place.  It’s a pink cloud place with a direct line to the beast.  It’s easy to believe your own bullshit at that point because you’re feeling invincible!  Like you can do anything!  I mean seriously, you quit drinking!!!  They said you would never do it and you did!

My husband has a phrase he uses when a celebrity makes a bonehead move or puts their foot in their mouth.  He says, “Don’t believe your own publicity.”  I love that phase because it’s so apropos and it fits the relapse profile (at least for me) to a tee.  I believed my own publicity.  It bit me in the ass.

Everyone was congratulating me and telling me how wonderful I was and how much better things were and how good I looked.  And I was thinking that life had never been better and my aren’t I strong and yes, I, in fact, am amazing!  I can do anything I put my mind too!  Including drink!


Not so much.

Ever since then I’ve been very careful about this publicity thing.  I call bullshit on myself on a regular basis both in this blog and in my head.  I tell myself to simmer down and relax.  To Be Still.  That the beast is a fucking liar and is just filling my head with tabloid publicity designed to sell booze not to tell the truth.  And no amount of time away from that wine bottle is going to change that.  And to remember that the Big Guy always has my back.

Yes, sometimes it makes me sad.  I’ll admit that I miss the experience of drinking wine.  Sometimes it makes me mad or it makes me feel weak or I get embarrassed or I feel like a bump on a log at a party.  But then I remember that all of that is just a different kind of publicity and I don’t have to believe it either.

And then I go back to my nice, sane, and quiet life that I came very close to losing because of all of that publicity.  All of those lies.  And I grab my People Magazine to see what the rest of the crazies are doing today.


14 thoughts on “Don’t Believe Your Own Publicity

  1. Thanks for that. I am coming up on 4 months. I intend to follow your advice. I do NOT want to go back to the way it was. 3 years ago I was 72 days when I had a glass of white with Thanksgiving dinner. Then a glass a of red with Christmas ham. That's all she wrote. So here I am at 115. My plan is to see 365!

  2. Thank you~ I think you were in my head today driving to work. I was thinking, when is it safe? When does one feel like they accomplished sobriety? One month, 6 months, a year or longer? Like losing weight…. you go to WW to lose 20 lbs and you do, than what? Maintenance?? Is that the same in sobriety? Is there an ultimate goal? Are you ever safe with your sobriety or do you live the rest of your life prepared for wolfie or what ever you call the devil (drink)? It's 29 days for me and I'm keeping my head down and focused on my goal of 100 days in hopes as I approach 100 days there is no question in mind to keep on my sober train!

  3. I feel like I have to be real careful around thoughts, in the sense that I should hear each one out and maybe even put it out to others. I have had plenty of nostalgic thoughts of drinking, but those don't scare me as much because they seem inevitable. The ones I have when I'm pissed off or hurting are the ones that feel more dangerous, and so I guess they are for me anyway. Hearing them out gives me some distance and time to remind myself why drinking would be a terrible idea. It is worrisome when those with a big chunk of time drink again. It reminds me I'm never safe, so yeah, hopefully I'll never believe my own hype.

  4. Love the analogy to losing weight because it so true for me. Everytime I lose some weight it ends up returning and bringing friends. Same with drinking, when I relapsed it was like I had never quit AND it was worse.

    When does it feel like you've accomplished sobriety…every damn day.


  5. Damn I love your writing style! You are always right on the nail with your words of wisdom. I am so mad at myself for picking up after 77 days……well I forgive myself but I totally can relate to what you're saying about feeling invincible! I listened to the damn voices! I was on the pink cloud and loved it so much! It didn't take long to become a black cloud…one that I've been fighting off for a very long time.
    I'm so very grateful to have found that pink cloud again! I'm not letting it go……I will hang on to it and bring it with me in my coffin. It's exactly where I belong!
    Jen Day 10 again….

  6. I remember my first year to 18 months definitely had a sort of 3 month up and down cycle to it.

    Last night we celebrated my sponsors 24th sober anniversary. A man who is not complacent about it at all – he still attends meetings, does service, helps others etc. No doubt for himself he recounted people who had great sobriety that lost it and some of those never make it back at all. The beast lies within – like you say you have to ignore the stuff in your head at times. Good for you to be so clear on this.

  7. Great words of wisdom, Sherry! That is exactly why I have gone back to drinking after sober months…looking at me doing so great sober for all thee days. I will listen for that chatter and shift to the reality.I miss the experience of drinking wine with friends and that is my weakness. I want to stay sober. Sober me is good. Day 18.
    Jenny G.

  8. I am so, so scared of relapse because I know that it could lead me to a very dark place. I pray about it. A lot. I worry that if I begin to stop praying, relapse could be right around the corner. And I am not even religious at all! Ha!

    It helps to read things like this from someone who has been through it. I love this expression, too. I will remind myself not to believe my own publicity. 🙂

    Thanks Sherry! xx

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