Sept. 14: Why keep up this recovery stuff?

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Above: Not the author; simply a demonstration of a boxed-wine delivery system, for some.

Tiny White Box newI haven’t had a drink or used any mind-altering substances since May 21, 2007, which seems a long time to many of you, long enough to raise the question of why I continue to go to various meetings and focus daily on my recovery. 

“After 16 years,” I can hear some of you ask, “why hasn’t Keith gotten it yet? That disease must be in remission by now After all this time, doesn’t he have other things to do than go to meetings?”

Of course, there are plenty of ways to spend a life than going to meetings. I could be writing or playing chess badly or cooking or chatting with friends. The problem is all of them would dissolve into nothing if I stopped focusing on my recovery every single day. Let me explain why.

I am a serious drinker who needs recovery.

The chart at the end of this letter tells the story in numbers, but now I’ll explain it in words.

At some point in my drinking—the point where I was able to drink the way I wanted to without having inherited the natural consequences of such drinking—I was a boxed wine drinker. I know boxed wine is looked down upon by wine connoisseurs (or anyone, really, who likes wine) but it was a number of steps better than the mouthwash I drank at the end. I’d buy a five-liter box of wine on Monday, which would still have some heft at the end of the evening, but not enough to guarantee I’d have enough for Tuesday. With minor fluctuations, I’d buy about two boxes of wine every three days.

I am a serious drinker who needs recovery.

Only an alcoholic would come up with a category like “boxes of wine not drunk.” I’ve not drunk 3,973 boxes of wine in the 5,960 days I’ve been sober. The chart shows the math, but that’s enough not-drunk wine to fill a cylinder three feet across and 150 feet tall. That, my friend, is a lot of booze.

“Fine, fine, fine,” I hear those same voices saying. “You’ve asked us to imagine a large tube filled with imaginary wine. What can that possibly have to do with why you go to meetings and all that other stuff?”

The answer is quite simple. 

I am a serious drinker who needs recovery.

Imagine now all that wine returned to me en masse (en messy masse?) so I have 1,087 cubic feet of non-vintage wine. If I were to throw in the towel on recovery and start drinking, I might be able to drink, let us say, six liters the first night. When I came to the next morning, the shame and remorse of relapse throbbing in counterpoint to the hangover I’d experience, I’d look at the container with the remaining more than 1000 cubic feet of wine and wonder, “Should I pick up a little more, just in case?”

And I would buy more. Just in case.

Maybe others are different. Maybe you’re different. As for me, I continue to go to meetings, ask for help and offer it when it’s requested. After all, I am an alcoholic.

The Story in Numbers
Days sober 5,960
Wine box consumption 2 boxes every three days
Boxes of Wine not Drunk 3,973
Volume of a five-liter box 473 inches³
Volume of wine not drunk 1,879,229 inches³
Convert cubic inches to cubic feet 1,087 feet³
Possible Dimension of 1,087 feet³   3 feet diameter cylinder 150 feet tall

You matter. I matter. We matter.


About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box