A sober alcoholic walks into a pizza place…

She ordered our 18’’ Flippin Pizza. Sitting down, we reached for our phones with a reflexive action, like a knee-jerk at the doctor’s office.

“So this is how we spend what little time we have together nowadays?” She said after a few seconds passed.

“We should put our phones away.” I grabbed hers and sealed them with a zip from my jacket pocket and then stared idly about the room.

Flippin’ Pizza posts slogans and memes about its walls, as most of these new fast casual chains do. The signs endorse fresh ingredients, filtered water, and hand-flipped dough.

My wife reached across the table and pressed her thumb below my lip, feeling for the plug of tobacco she just noticed.

“Really? Why right now?”

“I don’t know, why not?”

“I’m glad you can publicly broadcast that you have a tobacco problem.”

She must have read the blog I posted on Ash Wednesday about failing to give up Tobacco for Lent.

“So you’re the one who visited my blog today!”

“Oh quiet.” She didn’t laugh. “It’s just nice for you to admit you’re addicted.”

“I’ve said it before.”

“No — you really haven’t.”

This flat denial must be some relic of my days of hard drug and alcohol consumption. I know I’m addicted to tobacco. I know it’s a problem. I know it will kill me one day.

“That’s it. Give me my phone,” she says. “I need to send you something.”

My mind races to images of toothless men. I brace myself to see pictures of men who’ve lost their bottom jaw and look like the mutilated zombies on The Walking Dead. I imagine myself as these men, and wonder if I can live with myself as a father who, missing half his face, can’t cheer on his children at sporting events.

Given a few seconds, I can jump to extremes faster and further than anyone giving me a moral lesson.

“Check your email.”

I do, and click this:


Phew—a much less visceral attack on my problem. But the thought resonates.

My tobacco use has spiraled out of control. At first, it was only while coaching. Warm days reminded me of so many great coaches I had and the wads in their cheeks and the thick brown juice on fresh green grass.

Then, it was only when I am doing anything football: watching film, practice planning, in a coaches’ meeting.

Somewhere along the line, it came with me to work. I’d toss one in during a planning period. Then I’m keeping my beard to hide the bulge; I’m buying tins in bulk; I’m even tossing before I teach.

I can give myself a hundred excuses to continue while my wife waits for me to respond to a cautionary e-card she emailed to me out of concern.

“I’ll stop. Soon.”

My name is Mark and I’m an alcoholic and an addict. I am addicted to anything that gives me a notion of control over the way I feel. I haven’t taken a drink or a drug today. But if my sobriety were left up to me, I would … someday … soon.


13 Responses to “A sober alcoholic walks into a pizza place…

  • HI Mark, I’m Annette and I’m addicted to food, and if I had enough, I would be addicted to spending money too, but we spent all of that on rehabs for our daughter who is addicted to substances also. And raising 4 kids. LOL We all have something… I have heard addiction called a spiritual malady. (I’m sure you have heard that too. Lol) I really do believe in my case, that when I am eating for comfort or our of fear, or anger, or boredom, I am not spiritually fit. I am not living in a place of surrender and release. I am living in a place of hanging on tight and forcing solutions and the resulting need to comfort myself is in response to the frustration that those behaviors bring in to my life. Who knew that a pint of Ben and Jerrys (or a plug) could symbolize so much!

    • Hi Annette!
      If I had the means I would be a spenaholic as well. I have heard of the spiritual malady–that’s “the doctor’s opinion” the doctor being Dr. Silkworth. And I agree. I find so many ways to obsess and exhibit addict behavior in sobriety. My spiritual life needs some looking at, that I know.
      Until I’m ready, I maintain by not drinking and drugging! That I have given entirely up to God! And it works!

  • Yes!!! And if we have to pick… Cigarettes in my daughters case are the least of my concerns! We are all a work in progress, and for today maybe we each are right where we need to be, or are able to be, and that’s ok. ❤️

  • Love the honesty. Key to staying sober.

  • I love your wife! Tobacco is just like alcohol – it controls your life – hence the tins in every pocket. That’s when you know it is time to get rid of it. And you should seriously consider it….I love the freedom of not having to worry about whether I have some, if I have matches, if I can smoke…if it’s going to kill me…..well you know the drill. Freedom is a good thing.

    • I love that freedom! I’m all about it! And I think that’s why I get so frustrated with tobacco. I KNOW too much about myself to be messing around like this. It throws me into some foul moods.
      What’s that quote? I forget who it’s from. It’s something like ‘Hell is knowing it’s wrong but doing it anyway.’ That’s how it feels when I really think about.
      Anyway Audrey — Thanks for the read and reflection!
      I will pass on your comment to my wife as well!

  • Right on. I’m thinking that it’s good that you & your wife can talk about these things.
    In all reality, as long as we don’t drink or use, we have hope for conquering the others, eventually.

    • We do. And that’s what I sort of hang my hat on. Enough will be enough some day. And when it is, I have my program to work! Thanks for the read!

  • Mark, thank you for your comment on my blog….I would love to discuss my crazy education ideas. Lol I have not read Leonard Sax but will check him out at your recommendation. I read John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Howard Gardner…among other less known authors. It’s been a fascinating journey with my kids. : )

  • I salute your courage in blogging honestly about your addictions. I no little about alcoholism. I do however vividly remember going to a pub with a man who had an alcohol problem. In order to get him away from the drink I suggested going for a meal (I was, in fact hungry anyway). On getting to the restaurant the gentleman continued to drink the only difference being that the alcohol cost considerably more in the restaurant than it had in the bar. I wanted to help the guy but really didn’t have a clue as to how to do so. Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin. As an alcoholic I can tell you, it all starts with that person wants to help them self. There’s really no other way around it. So glad we can connect sir, and share our poetry and thoughts and all the else!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: