With the sweet smell of SoCo in my nostrils

So I bought a bottle of beer tonight. Actually, been buying lots of them lately. Cases and cases in fact. I’ve bought liquor too. Liters of all kinds of it. I’ve bought beers, wines, rums, whiskeys, tequila’s, scotch and other stuff like SoCo, which I’m not really sure of it’s exact alcoholic category.

Strange actions for a guy who has been sober since Oct 1, 2011.

Not really that strange if you look at the last 20 or so years of my life. Not strange at all. Buying alcohol, and being around it, was a Big part of my teenage, and adult years.

Until 22 months and 15 or so days ago…

Yeah, since then life’s been different. Different in some amazingly awesome and some not-so-awesome ways.

Being clear-headed for this long has taught me some stuff about myself. I am not really that clear-headed at all, by nature.  Many of my mental pre-occupations, or quick-switch temper-flashes, are just about the same now, as they were back then. Back when I could blame my actions and re-actions on the alcohol. Now I can’t. It’s just me. It’s just what I’m choosing in those moments, without liquid encouragement either way.

So why is a sober guy, buying so much alcohol now? Well, I’m now helping manage and run a restaurant that contains a bar. Our bar contains alcohol. I am in charge of inventory-ing it. And sometimes, like tonight, my aunt has a birthday, and celebrates it with us. I’ll buy a beer for her. So there. Simple, right?  Just part of the job. Nothing more…

Well, as it turns out, not exactly.

See, if you divorce and separate yourself from an abusive relationship (like I did with alcohol), you’re angry for awhile. I’ve been angry at alcohol for a good bit of my almost 2 year sobriety. I’ve put blame on it for so many of my personal mistakes. My transgressions. My abuses of myself and others. It has been a poison drenching the worst times that I recall, and my own judgement of myself and of the alcohol too, has been harsh to say the least.

The anger period has shifted lately though. It is part of my job now. I am around it alot. I see lots of people using this stuff. Some drinks are simple relaxation and unwinding after work. Some are a tragic crutch, a sopping-wet bandage, poorly disguising deep emotional wounds. It’s a magic elixir and fixes everything for awhile… till it doesn’t. Then it just shows the shit, exactly as it is, raw and painful… And I usually leave the bar early 🙂

So, what’s the freakin’ point here?

Last week, the tension was high for me, as I actually tended bar. For the period of one solid hour, I not only served bottles of ice-cold brew, I clanked glasses and filled our metal one-shot measurer with the good stuff. I popped the button on the pistol-grip and splashed soda, in the just the right amount, to make it sweet. I smelled that SoCo. That sugary caramelized and candy aroma. It was so enticing. I really really engaged again with those old motions, those old e-motions… it was electric. A jolt. A jarring shock. And my mind was engraved again with new pre-occupations. Can I continue this sobriety? What if I have put in my time, I have proved to myself I could do it, so now I can go back. Do I want to go back? Is this where the agonizingly slow detour of my last few years, reconnects with that busy thoroughfare,that I used to know so well? Wow, think of the life I could have, if only I was back to my old self, and managing a bar too… A dream-life?? Or No?? I’m so confused!

Well… the dream life has showed up, in my sobriety. The dream life has materialized within those challenging and cold-sober moments. I have been on detour, clearly. But that path has produced so much rich nutrient fruit! I am living a dream now. My lovely wife, a Godsend. Travel, personal enrichment, living out ideas, instead of just wishing to. And the Bar, I love working it so much. It’s so hard and so deliciously fun. At the Brand’N Iron Bar and Grill I get to constantly problem-solve. I get to serve, literally. I get to build and shape and design business. I get to engage all of me, all day and almost all night long.

I don’t sit and pine away the hours, waiting for the clock to hit five, so I can get the heck out of this j-o-b and get to what I really want to do. I’m already there, clock-be-damned.

So. Back to these crossroads. Back to these temptations. There was a character in the movie, The Matrix. His name was Cipher. He had been released from the grip of the illusionary/oppressive brain-controlling construct of the Matrix, and he has seen real truth. He has seen human beings being farmed, not like livestock, but as fields of crops. He sees the machines, using humans as literal powerPlants. Yet, He is uncomfortable in the world of truth, it’s yucky and hard, and not pretty at all. In the beginning of the movie, he’s making a deal with the enemy. He wants back in. He wants to be plugged back in, like the other slaves, and to forget forever the truth. He wants the fantasy world that leaves him powerless and basically a vegetable, to be his life….

Cipher is working with an enemy that lies to him. He cannot be returned to his former existence. He wants to believe their promises that it will all be the same again. He imagines and designs a rockstar life, for when he gets to be a slave powerplant battery for the machines again…

Poor Cipher. He just wants comfort. He just wants relief. He is me… sometimes.

So there. Sometimes a person, working through this challenge of sobriety has Cipher moments, where we want back the lie. We want the magic elixir that soothes. We want to forget the truth. The hard truth, that the hard work is still always here, with or without the alcohol. It’s not a solvent, it doesn’t sustain. The real stuff of life, the gritty and gorgeous moments are best absorbed with clarity, not cloudiness.

I do find myself challenged, and I promise you nothing. I promise you not one iota of anything, that I can’t guarantee. I promise myself, this moment right now. This one deep clean breath, before I hit the sack with my beautiful bride, completely sublimely clear of mind. A moment I cherish and have worked hard for, amidst temptation and urge, even cajoling. I promise myself, right now, I will enjoy this moment of freedom from alcohol in my body. I enjoy this moment, not fully, but fighting for it. It must be the path and the place that I am trained to travel and toil, for now.

In my high school English class, a teacher said. ‘Wherever you are, Be there.”

Well, Here, I am.


Aaron Nichols

2 thoughts on “With the sweet smell of SoCo in my nostrils

  1. Aaron,
    I will be honest, I had never sat down and read your blog before, but your title had me curious. I had no idea you had the temptations/ struggles with alcohol. It was very inspiring to read your article and think of others I know that rely and “depend” so much on the “addiction of alcohol”. I have never been a big drinker (ask Lindsay, I take too much after Regina), but being pregnant has opened my eyes, to how much of a turnoff it can be/ is to watch others who depend on this “wonder drug”. I will admit, I once said, “I miss the ‘old Aaron’ that would party and drink”, but I get it now. It truly is sad when others do not see what alcohol does to them or their family.



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