Beer-mugPeople I don’t know who are drinking in front of me are not a trigger for me.

People I do know are.

Places I’ve never been that are packed with alcohol (bars, large events) are not a trigger for me.

Places (homes, cocktail parties) I know that are packed with alcohol are.

Things that remind me of my drinking days are not a trigger for me.

People who remind me of the things I did when I was drinking are.

The sight of alcohol in a glass doesn’t trigger me.

The smell of it does.

So does the smell of alcohol on another person, whether it’s coming from their breath or through their pores.

Airplanes and hotel rooms are triggers for me. Trains are not.

People who drink responsibly don’t trigger me.

People who get drunk when they drink do.

If it sounds complicated, it’s because it is. They make it sound so easy in the various programs. Stay away from People, Places and Things. Keep it simple. It could only be simple if I lived in a cabin by myself off the grid and far away from the people, places, and things that set me off. Sadly, that might also mean avoiding the people I love because they are human and from time to time they do something that neither of us expects will trigger a craving in me, but it does and then we both feel bad.

There are no simple solutions. I need to accept that there will be people who trigger me. There will be places that trigger me and things that make me want a drink so bad I can taste the scotch swirling in my mouth and burning on the way down to that warm place where it settles in my belly. And even if I don’t want a drink,I could end up with a resentment so bad it could make the Dalai Lama look like Vladimir Putin.

If I can accept these truths, then maybe I can let them go and realize I really don’t “need” any excuse to drink. If I decide to drink it will be because I choose to do so, not because someone made me. Of course, anger and resentment can certainly stir the pot. But that first drink is on me and that’s the one I have to be very vigilant about not having, regardless of who, what, or where might be ticking me off.

Sobriety seems to be a series of life lessons: This works. That doesn’t. The challenge is to pay attention to the ones that work and then repeat them and be cognizant of the ones that don’t work and avoid them. I picture the good ones as healthful and the bad ones as toxic. I realized recently and painfully that I’ve been doing something pretty much the same way for over 20 years and I’m still surprised that I end up with the same lousy feeling. That is actually Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

That Einstein was a pretty smart guy for someone who wasn’t an alcoholic.

The challenge for me is to be with people I actually do want to see, but without all the toxic stuff that pollutes those interactions. I have yet to figure that one out, without having to get into a long detailed and revealing conversation that I really don’t want to have. I wish it would be okay to just say. “I can’t do that. Can we do this instead?” and leave it at that.

I think in general, I would be happier if we just dropped the word, “Why” from the lexicon. Then I wouldn’t have to follow up with a whole longwinded “because,” that just ends up being a lot of air that someone who doesn’t really want to stop drinking around me doesn’t care to know anyway.

Regardless of the challenges of sobriety in a drinking world, I am still grateful to have the opportunity to go through my life making choices that are healthful and self-full, even if people who are not alcoholics can’t always see why I choose to see my glass of Iced tea as half full.

Einstein also said “A happy man is too satisfied with the present to deal too much with the future.” I think the same could be said about the past.

So here’s what else I know.

The more I live in the present, the happier I am.