The Law of Unexpected Triggers



Just when you’re feeling all cocky about your recovery from alcoholism, a squirrel runs in front of the car and your mind screams, “You are about to run over a squirrel! YOU NEED A DRINK!”


I was driving to work yesterday morning, and a squirrel did one of those things squirrels do: it ran into the road and out of the road and then back into the road and under my tires. It all happened in a second. I looked in the rear view mirror and I didn’t see it and I remember thinking, I hope it’s not glued to the grill, or spinning around all smushed on a tire. And then wham, I got hit with a craving for a glass of wine.


Isn’t that crazy? I had this flash of memory from the time when we owned the gallery. I was drinking pretty heavily then (I used to keep screw cap wine shooters in the glove box) and we were moving paintings to a client’s house and Tony, our salesman, had borrowed a huge SUV from somebody. We were going to drive in convoy with the artwork, to the house. Tony is hilarious and he was doing this muscleman, flexing thing and acting all macho because he usually drove a little Toyota and he had to climb up into the borrowed truck. He was sitting really high and as we left the gallery, he did air-points at himself like, “Look at me,” and saluted.


We took off and moments into our journey, he barreled over a squirrel that had run into the road and I watched as he ran it over with his man-truck. For some reason, it struck me as insanely funny – the irony of this big, red-blooded guy driving down the road and mowing down woodland creatures, carelessly leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake… That’s it in a nutshell. Those are the things that went through my mind. And I thought, my God – that’s how it happens – you run over a squirrel and a memory pops up and you head for the Gate station for a few bottles of Sutter Home Chardonnay and call in sick.


Anthony Bourdain said it best in an interview for Men’s Journal, “There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, and smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons, and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.”


No matter how many tools you carry around in your sobriety tool box, you can never plan for the times when a craving comes out of the blue. You just have to find a way to “outwit that guy” when it happens. But yesterday it hit me, how bloody hard it is to be sober and stay sober when your natural inclination is to sit in bed with a party bag of Skittles and a gallon of cheap plonk (taste the rainbow indeed…) as soon as life gets you down or an unexpected memory surfaces.


Be careful out there.


Today I’m not drinking because I’m watching for squirrels (and unexpected triggers).

How come you’re not drinking?