I Am An Alcoholic

Dear Hope Nation,

I haven’t had a drink or used any mind-altering substances since May 21, 2007, which seems a long time to many of you, long enough to raise the question of why I continue to go to meetings and focus daily on my recovery.

“After 13 years,” I can hear some of you ask, “why hasn’t Keith turned the corner yet? Why keep targeting a disease that must be in remission by now? After all this time, doesn’t he have other things to do than go to meetings?”

Of course there are plenty of ways to spend a life than going to meetings. I could be writing or playing chess badly or cooking or chatting with friends. The problem is all of them would dissolve into nothing if I stopped focusing on my recovery every single day. Let me explain why.

I am an alcoholic.

The chart at the end of this letter tells the story in number, but now I’ll explain it in words. At some point in my drinking—the point where I was able to drink the way I wanted to without having inherited the natural consequences of such drinking—I was a boxed wine drinker. I know boxed wine is looked down upon by wine connoisseurs (or anyone, really, who likes wine), but it was a number of steps above the mouthwash I drank at the end. I’d buy a five-liter box of wine on Monday, which would still have some heft at the end of the evening, but not enough to guarantee I’d have enough for Tuesday. With minor fluctuations, I’d buy about two boxes of wine every three days.

I am an alcoholic.

Although only an alcoholic would come up with such a category as “boxes of wine not drunk”, I’ve not drunk 3,313 boxes of wine in the 4970 days I’ve been sober. The chart shows the math, but that’s enough not-drunk wine to fill a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall storage unit with an 11-foot by 11-foot base. Take a second and picture that: an average sized apartment bedroom sealed and filled to the brim with mediocre wine. That, my friend, is a lot of booze.

“Fine, fine, fine,” I hear those same voices saying. “You’ve asked us to imagine a large box filled with imaginary wine. What can that possibly have to do with why you go to meetings and all that other stuff?”

The answer is quite simple.

I am an alcoholic.

Imagine now all that wine returned to me en masse (en messy masse?), so I have 907 cubic feet of non-vintage wine. If I were to throw in the towel on recovery and start drinking, I might be able to drink, let us say, three liters the first night. When I came to the next morning, the shame and remorse of relapse throbbing in counterpoint to the hangover I’d experience, I’d look at the container with the remaining 907.9 cubic feet of wine and wonder, “Should I pick up a little more, just in case?”

I am an alcoholic.

Maybe others are different. Maybe you’re different. As for me, I continue to go to meetings, ask for help and offer it when it’s requested. After all, I am an alcoholic.

The Story in Numbers

Days sober4970
Wine box consumption2 boxes every three days
Boxes of Wine not Drunk3313
Volume of a five-liter box473 inches3
Volume of wine not drunk1,567,049 inches3
Convert cubic inches to cubic feet907 feet3
Possible Dimension of 907 feet311’ X 11’ X 7.5’

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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