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Seven Seconds


It’s been thirty days since I last had a drink. I don’t know why thirty days holds such a big place in sober circles, but it does. I guess it’s as good a marker as any. A month. Four weeks. Long enough to mean something and at the same time, a mere blip in the radar of life.

I have decided that I am not going to drink today, or at least not this morning, and probably not tonight, and at this point, no plans to drink tomorrow either. After that, who knows really, because there is a novel coronavirus sweeping the planet, Donald J. Trump is President, the Supreme Court is a useless bunch of twats, our democracy is in shambles, and let’s face it, anything could happen at this point. Just trying to get through today and feel pretty good about tomorrow. I think I’ve got today and probably tomorrow. Probably.

I definitely picked a strange time to quit drinking. It was either brilliantly prescient or incredibly poor timing on my part. My last drink was March 8th, just a week before the country started going into quarantine, so while I gave up alcohol during a period of great national stress, I also dodged the bullet of being inebriated for what might end up being a few solid months. I definitely saved a good bit of coin for what that’s worth.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian word quarantena, meaning “forty days.” This was the period of time that ships were required to be isolated before coming ashore during the Black Plague of 14th century Europe. It began as trentino, or 30 days, but eventually evolved into 40 days, mostly likely due to the strength of the number 40 in Biblical lore. From the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years, to Jesus’ fast in the desert, Moses’ time on Mount Sinai, the Christian observation of Lent, and of course the forty days and nights of rain that caused the Great Flood that wiped out almost of all of humanity. The number forty had powerful symbolism for Italian Christians in the mid 1300’s, and it was determined that this was long enough for the illness to either kill you or leave you, rendering you safe to join civilized society, such as it was.

So, forty days and nights in order to survive a plague of death? That’s pretty heavy. Possibly a bit too heavy for simply making the decision that having 10-12 drinks a day, every day, for decades, might not necessarily be the way to go through life. Or maybe not.

The thing is, I was good at it—drinking. I never drank to get drunk. It was more of a constant habit. Just something I did to pass the time. I didn’t want one drink, I wanted one after another. Nothing crazy. Just constant. I finally decided enough was enough, and that it was time to find a new path.

No fanfare. No treatment. Just quit drinking. In fact, until today, only a handful of people even knew I’d quit. Not that hard to keep quiet really, when you’re stuck inside your house for a month. Nowhere to go anyway. So maybe this was actually a perfect time to quit drinking. I’m already all out of sorts, and all my normal routines are shot anyway.

So, I don’t honestly know what comes next. It’s only been a month. No great wisdom to impart. Nothing learned. No big changes thus far. In the big scheme of being sober, thirty days is a drop in the bucket. Barely worth mentioning.

But if it’s anything like quitting smoking, which I did eight years ago, it gets easier and easier the longer you go. I had only been nicotine free for a few weeks when I had the realization that more than actually smoking, what I enjoyed was the idea of smoking. The pageantry. The paraphernalia. The distraction. I feel like booze is much the same. You have to break the habit part first. When I stopped smoking it was all the triggers like getting in the car, getting off a plane, waking up, finishing a meal, having a drink, morning coffee. Once you got past thinking about it, the hold it had dissipated. 

I read once that seven seconds was a thing when it came to cravings. When your mind got the urge to light up, or have a drink, or whatever it was for you, you needed only to wait seven seconds for it to pass, think of something else, and your mind, being the overstimulated toddler that it is, would move onto something else.

So yes, I still want the drink, but I like to think I want the idea of the drink more than I want the buzz. Seven seconds. That’s where I’m trying to live right now. I still keep a soda with me at all times. Mainly I like the habit I guess. There’s just no booze it in. It’s not a trigger for me. I like having something to drink. I just don’t get that fuzzy feeling and I don’t feel sick in the morning.

You’d think I’d feel amazing, but I really don’t feel that different. It’s fine. I feel okay. Good. Not bad. But not amazing. I have lost fifteen pounds, so that’s something. Maybe if I start to get in better shape and lose some weight, I will feel significantly better. One could only assume, or at least hope. 

That’s my secret wish—is that I get skinny again. Maybe start walking more. Start surfing again. You never know. I had already decided to mow my own lawn this season, so I’ve got that going for me.

I’m only seven seconds away.

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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Writer | Journalist | Storyteller


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