Someone at an A.A. meeting recently asked me: What does ‘play the tape out’ mean. I was happy to explain that this is probably the best and most rehearsed (in my mind) sober slogan of all time. To me, it means that if I were to engage in risky behavior, take a drink, do a drug or not ‘do the next right thing’ and then play the tape out as to what would happen after; my life would unravel very quickly. In my mind, I literally watch a tape roll out in to a series of tragic events. As the tape continues to roll out, my life spirals out of control.
It goes a little something like this: I have one drink and I’m uncomfortable. I quickly decide it’s a great idea to have a few more and than I make everyone around me even more uncomfortable because I start looking for drugs. I find drugs and the next 10 days are a complete blur. My wife can’t find me; I’m clearly hiding from her. My employees are trying to reach me, customers are calling me and they are pissed because they can’t reach me. My company is slowly taking a turn for the worse. I have several engagements with the nonprofits I work on and I am missing those meetings. My brothers and the rest of my family is wondering why I’m not returning their calls….
I continue on this solo and reckless binge of alcohol and drugs. I don’t want to be around anyone, it’s just me and my poisons. I can consume as much as I want without anyone judging. The tape continues to unravel. I’m holed up in an expensive hotel room trying to live like a king while the alcohol and drugs don’t seem to last as long as they used to. I can’t stop obsessing over when I’m going to take my next sip. It’s like a continuous funnel. I take one drink and before I swallow, I’m worried about not having enough vodka. I don’t even enjoy the moment.
My wife has now called all of my sober friends to help me and there is no way I’m taking their calls. They are begging me and pleading with me to answer and to meet them at an AA meeting. They are worried! I have zero time for or interest in that. I’m obsessed with more and I can’t stop putting more of this ‘medicine’ into my body.
The tape is still rolling out…. I have much more destruction left before the tape is completely rolled out. Now the police are trying to find me. My employees don’t show up to work, my customers have left and are working with my competition. My parents and my wife’s family have flown in to help find me. My checking account has been drained, I am working on clearing out my savings account…..next up is my 401K and my retirement account, they too will be gone in a matter of weeks…. The tape is about to run out and my life is a mirror of that tape…
Almost rolled out… My wife has left me, filed for divorce. My company has gone bankrupt. I have nothing left; no money, no booze, no drugs, no self respect, no dignity; just the clothes on my back and an enormous amount of shame. I have lost my house, my family and everything I had built back up after getting sober. How did this happen so quickly?
I finally decide to make a call to a sober friend and ask for help. He gladly takes my call and offers to help get me where I need to go. I know what is coming next; I have seen this happen to so many people and now it’s happening to me. He takes me to an A.A. meeting and there I raise my hand when the leader asks if ‘this is anyone’s first meeting since their last drink’. I am embarrassed, ashamed and the tape has finally run out on me.
Understanding what this tape and it’s full effect has on me is vitally important in my recovery. It helps me ‘do the next right thing.’ I have zero doubt that if I were to have one drink, my life would quickly be turned upside down. Whenever I have a thought about taking a drink, when I pause for a moment to think ‘I could just have one’ or ‘I’m cured for today’, it’s in those moments that I must play that tape out and go down that road to realize just where I will end up.
It takes me just seconds in my mind to unravel the tape and to go to those nasty places where I am reminded at every corner that picking up that drink is NOT a good move. I am so grateful for sobriety, my sober friends, my sober life and living sober!