September 16, 2001
Five Voices


  On Tuesday, the little voice sounded small and confused, like the voice of a frightened child lost in the supermarket.

I need a drink, it whispered plaintively. Something unspeakable has happened in the world today, and I don't understand what it means. I need a drink to make me feel safe. 

I ignored the little voice, even though I fully understood its pain and its desire for comfort. Instead, I called my children and I e-mailed my parents.

On Wednesday the little voice was back. I need a drink, it said in exasperation. People all around me are already turning their anger on each other. A drink would help me deal with their nonsense, just until things calm down. 

Once again, I ignored the little voice. Instead, I wrote a check and I took a walk alone at lunch.

By Thursday, the little voice had become shrill and strident. I need a drink! it shouted angrily. The world is this incredibly horrible, fudked-up place!! I need a drink to calm me down!! 

I ignored the voice, although by this time it was becoming increasingly difficult. Instead, I ordered a cell phone and wrote e-mail to friends I haven't spoken to in years.

By Friday, the bargaining had begun. I need a drink to help me figure things out, the little voice pleaded. If I can just relax and let go of the horror for a while, I'll be able to think better/work better/sleep better/cope better. But I refused to bargain with the little voice. Instead, I lit a candle and listened to a group of grade school children sing "God Bless America."

On Saturday the voice was barely audible ... but it was still there.

Please? it said sadly. I need a drink to help me forget. 

But I got on my bike instead, and I rode seventeen miles as hard and as fast as I could, through the hills and neighborhoods of Contra Costa County ... along canals festooned with wildflowers and past houses festooned with American flags ... and by the time I was finished riding the little voice had disappeared again.

But on Sunday morning it was back. Apparently it had some unfinished business to attend to.

You're not going to let me have a drink, are you? said the little voice. Just checking to make sure. 

I said no, I probably wouldn't be. Not this time.

I'll be back, you know, said the little voice.

I said yes, I know.

This weekend marks my sobriety anniversary. I have been sober for three years and one day. I have to tell you: the first three years of sobriety and recovery were a breeze.

It's the past five DAYS that have been the real test.

throw a rock