It crossed my mind this morning that I made the decision to take the Fifth Precept and quit drinking on December 7, 2011. With only one infraction, I think I’ve done fairly well — 89 days with the intention of being free of alcohol.
As I said, I have had one infraction — I thought it would be a good idea to go out with some friends on the last work night of 2011 and one of my them insisted on purchasing shots for me. I suppose free alcohol was a bit too much for me to continually say no, and I must admit that the headache I suffered on the way home that night was sufficient to prove to me that the alcohol needs no place in my life.
Ill done is that action of doing which one repents later, and the fruit of which one, weeping, reaps with tears.
~ Dhammapada Chapter V: Balavagga
Okay, so I wan’t in tears afterward, but I did regret taking the drinks. It really wasn’t a good idea, I knew it at the time, did it anyway and didn’t feel good afterward. I didn’t drink much, but the ill effect lasted into the morning and gave me plenty to think about.
I think my friends at work have learned to accept that I don’t want to drink anymore; they no longer invite me to join them every Friday, which might suggest they don’t think I’m much fun without being liquored up. Ha!
So have I gotten anything in exchange for quitting drinking? Certainly. My mornings are free of what I now call “brain fog,” for instance. I used to think this was because I hadn’t had my coffee yet, but now I realize it was all an after-effect of the prior night’s drinking. Now I wake up and generally get started with the morning without much fuss — not that I’ve given up coffee (yet). I’ve also found that I have an affinity for herbal tea, something I never bothered with before. Moreover, my weight loss progress has continued, albeit slowly, and even though I’m not loosing a lot of pounds, my shape is changing so that I will still need to go another pant-size smaller when I buy shorts for the Summer. Further, I also feel less stressed out about being at work and less consumed by the feeling that I want nothing more than to go home [and drink]. Being at work has turned into an almost enjoyable thing some days, even when I’m working overtime.
I’ve also had the mental clarity to read over 1,000 pages of Dhamma in that time, some online and some in books, all sober.
The biggest thing I realize now is how big of a spiritual and family hindrance alcohol really was for me. When I was drinking, it was as if my entire existence was fast-forwarded like a DVD, skipping scenes and moving from one drunken event to another in time. I wasn’t very good for anyone in that condition — my son has even commented that he’s really glad that I quit drinking!
I think the main thing I want to get to is, if you are fighting your own alcohol demons, you can take comfort in the fact that you most certainly can beat them. Whether you place your spiritual confidence in the Triple Gem, Christ, or only in yourself, you need only make the choice and hold to it. This means being willing to change not only the choice of putting the liquid down your throat, but also the environment (and sometimes the people) around you.
If you think that’s hard, you are probably right. Isn’t that proof that it might be worth doing?