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What if Quitting Drinking Doesn’t Stick the First (Fifth, Tenth) Time You Try?

What if Quitting Drinking Doesn’t Stick the First (Fifth, Tenth) Time You Try?

What if Quitting Drinking Doesn’t Stick the First (Fifth, Tenth) Time You Try?

Try, try again…

Get ready – I’m about to use climbing mountains as a metaphor for quitting drinking again. I can’t help myself, it’s too symbolic. Especially since the first time I tried to climb the “big hill” on my vacation in Puerto Rico last week, I failed. Let me explain. The road to get to the big hill is a few miles long, with three rather high, sloping hills and many smaller rises along the way. There is a long dry stretch, where the wind rarely blows and it gets hot. The surface is loose sand, littered with small, ankle turning rocks. And the hill itself is steep and long, curling up a narrow, rocky path.


It doesn’t seem that BIG in a photo, but if you look right in the middle of that mound there is a tower. That is where you have to go. And this road is already SUPER high up.


It’s not that hard, really…

Kim says it’s not really that tough. It’s not like you need carabineers. You don’t have to dangle from cliffs. But the walk is challenging and for some reason, it’s  immensely difficult for me. But I want to do it every time I go to Puerto Rico. Right now, in my mind’s eye, I can see it – every rock and curve through the green… Going up, up forever


And the fact is, I am not as proud of myself for getting up the hill – finally – as I am for wanting to get up the hill the next day, after my failure.


Even though I pretty much almost died the first time I tried. Seriously, the top of my head was exploding and my legs were soggy noodles with thigh weights and I would make it a foot or two up the hill (mountain) and I could actually see birdies flying around my head like the cartoons… So I would have to sit down. Eventually, I turned back shamefaced without getting close to the top. I met up with Kim and was able to talk myself out of collapsing inconveniently in the wilderness (stumbling along like some old plow horse ready to be made into Elmer’s), but as soon as we hit the paved road I gave up. This was a first, but I sat down in the grass and I said, “I cannot do it. I can’t make it back.”


The things you’ll see…

You’ve Done it Before – You Learned From the Experience…

But I’ve climbed that hill so many times before. I have memorized the route. So the next day, I was up and ready to try, try again.  And I made it – no sweat. And then I got an email from H who says she has been trying to quit drinking for two years now. She quits drinking for two weeks, a few days, a month, but always goes back to the bottle. H feels defeated. She said she “wants what I have – the freedom.”


And I thought, Holy crumb – let’s look at this positively – she’s quit a few times before, so H knows what it feels like to not drink. It’s like climbing a big, huge hill. And all is not lost with a relapse, or a failure. Especially if she learned something along the way. And what’s more, H is looking at quitting as freedom. Freedom, like standing at the top of a hill after a long climb with your arms in the air…


Mountains of Booze Bottles…

So, for H and everyone else out there who knows they have to quit drinking, but can’t seem to make it stick, let’s talk about the tools you need to quit for good. You don’t need carabineers – no hanging off the face of a cliff. But you do need gumption – the belief that you will not drink again. Ever. And you need friends who will tell you “it’s not that tough,” but who will walk down the hill with you (without judgment) when you are finding it way too hard to get to the top.


Yes, I am using that tired, mountain metaphor again. But it is so apt – taking the first step, knowing it’s going to be a challenge and going for it anyway. And if you’ve faltered before, if you didn’t make it, there is no crime in trying, trying , trying again until you get it right. You just keep thinking about the way it’s going to feel – the freedom of standing at the top – sweaty and tired and breathing hard, but there. With your arms in the air. Free.


Oh yeah – that’s a double rainbow…

Today I’m not drinking because I feel good about wanting to try again – even if it’s really hard


How come you’re not drinking?


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Comments (8)

  1. Avatar
    Mar 13, 2017

    One of your best ever Marilyn. Put this one in Chapter 1 of the book. Your work and words are inspiring to people in and out of recovery.

    • Marilyn
      Mar 14, 2017

      Thanks David. Coming from you it means a lot.

  2. Avatar
    Mar 13, 2017

    What David said. Beauty.

  3. Avatar
    Who the hell has time to drink?
    Mar 15, 2017

    Of course it’s hard. We had our once a week English Language meeting today, here in Mexico. Only three of us came, but it was, as always, a good discussion. And one of the guys brought his lovely Latina wife. We three try to be available to one another if someone wants or needs to talk.

    • Marilyn
      Mar 21, 2017

      That’s what helps – the camaraderie, the talking…

  4. Avatar
    Rose-Marie Jaeger
    Mar 19, 2017

    How come you're not drinking?
    Hi. I’m working very hard to remain sober. This is day 3. So far, I am enjoying your blog and your honesty. I will continue to check it out regularly. I’m not drinking because my 60th birthday is coming up in a week and I have decided I deserve my sobriety, and so do my young adult children. I am using a program called The 30 Day Sobriety Solution, and so far it is really helping me focus. Looking forward to reading you………Rose

    • Marilyn
      Mar 20, 2017

      Thank you and welcome. And congratulations on 3 days of sobriety. Stay focused and let me know how I can help you. Thanks so much for checking in – I promise you sobriety is a great way to live and your children will be so proud of you.

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