Me? An alcoholic? I had always thought of myself as a social drinker. As an attorney like my father, I worked hard and enjoyed a good drink. It wasn’t until I was forced to come to terms with my dad’s alcoholism that I came to recognize my own addiction.
It’s a hard thing for an adult son to be forced to realize his father’s vulnerabilities. My dad was my hero and I had emulated him in many ways, both professionally and socially, and like him, I enjoyed my booze at the end of the workday. I grew alarmed when I watched him go downhill. He had started to drink during business hours and was growing increasingly irrational. Clients started leaving. They could smell the alcohol on his breath, and so could I.
In order to understand my dad’s disease and work through my feelings of abandonment, I knew I had to learn about alcoholism. I started going to a support group to get information that would help me understand my dad. One day I meandered across the hall to an AA meeting where I was confronted with the realization that I exhibited most — if not all — of the signs for alcoholism. That changed everything.
One month, that’s how long it took me to get a jump-start on my own wellness. Understanding my dad’s alcoholism had led me to accept my own problem. The red flags were obvious: I had started having a few “social” drinks during the workday. I was drinking more than I was not. So, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped drinking for just 30 days.
You find out a lot about yourself when you’re kicking a habit. I have a personality that swings toward addictive and compulsive, so I figured I’d use that for good. Instead of slipping into “feel good” drinking, I gave exercise a go. I got a trainer, took up hiking and biking. I felt great! If you think about it, drinking uses a lot of energy. When you’re not drinking, that energy is much more readily available. You can do so much. I’m still compulsive by nature, I just channeled it into things that make me healthier.
Thirty days came and went. I took stock of my total-body transformation after not drinking for a month and I knew I would never go back. I make it a point to fill my time, those moments I used to reserve for drinking, with physical activity. I do something every day. Some days it’s a bike ride, others I go for a swim, or do planks and pushups at home. In the month it took me to break the habit of drinking, I built up a new habit — exercising — and that’s what I crave now.
Along with the physical benefits of quitting drinking, I was struck by what a boost it was to my mental health. My brain was producing serotonin again! My sleep improved and I was truly happy for the first time in a long while. I was finally able to tune into the beauty of the little things I’d always missed, like books and art. You miss these everyday wonders when you’re too busy drinking.
We all have our reasons for quitting. For me, it was seeing my father go down a road I knew I never wanted to take. Those first 30 days were enough to make me fall in love with how good I felt when I wasn’t drinking. Thirty days became 60, then 120, then years. That’s how I stopped. I fell in love, and haven’t looked back.
After thirty years of practicing law in Georgia, Howard T. Scott pivoted from the courtroom to writing fiction inspired by anecdotes from the southern storytelling tradition he’s immersed in. He’s one of the founding partners of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise — the world’s only fully chartered blues cruise — and a lover of live music, fitness, nature, historic preservation and travel. Scott splits his time between the dry land of Athens, Georgia and the high seas of the Atlantic and the Caribbean aboard Capricho. Rascal on the Run is his first novel.