Part of CRA is reassessing goals," Dr. Meyers had told me. "When people come in, they are overwhelmed by the idea of never drinking again. So we get them to sample sobriety to see what it's like. Then we talk about how they're doing and how things are changing. We coach them to supplement their drinking with other fun activities."
It dawns on me that Dr. Kosanke probably knew I couldn't be a normal drinker. She admits that she thought it might be difficult. "I was concerned you might not be able to be a controlled drinker," she says. "But if I had told you that in the beginning, you probably wouldn't have believed it. I thought it was more useful to examine the role alcohol was playing in your life, then make a decision that you could feel good about and one that would be sustaining."
"Do some people come here and choose to keep alcohol in their lives?"
"Sometimes," she says, "after a period of abstinence. When they create a new relationship with alcohol."
I want more than anything to be that kind of person. But deep in my soul—a hardy though delicately edged thing I'd come to know far more intimately during the past six months—I feel that even if half of France drinks more than I do with no problem, I was still in the cold, wretched clutch of something that, if I let it, would drop me someplace very, very bad.
I quit drinking completely.
It's hard. Brutally so. I don't go to parties when I'm feeling like being boozy. I meet my favorite drinking buddies only for lunch or breakfast. I spend too much money on flowers, furniture, clothes, and cosmetic procedures. I imagine my daughter finding me dead, drowned in my vomit, which is how a friend of mine's alcoholic mother died.
Dr. Kosanke tells me that she feels our work is pretty much over. (Dr. Meyers says CRA tends to be short-term—its therapists want their clients out mountain biking or writing poetry.) In our last session, I ask Dr. Kosanke if I'll ever be able to return to casual drinking. "That's probably not a question you should ask for a couple of years," she says. "But if you do have a drink, it's not the end of world. You always have everything you learned in here."
Some days I feel it would have been more useful to have been released into the world with an admonishment to stay sober no matter what. I guess it's the little girl in me who's used to being punished, not soothed when she misbehaves. But another part of me is relieved to know I don't have to be perfect to be better. And every day, I'm grateful to no longer be living for the tick, tick, tick of my bedroom clock.
To find a CRA program, call 505-925-2361