…It’s a thinking problem

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process of quitting drinking, it is this:

Avoid overwhelm.

Because especially now, after more than 5 months since I began the serious process of quitting drinking, I am amazed to say that I have broken the habit of coming home to a bottle of wine every night.

Since I made it over the big hump — I’m not sure when it happened exactly, because for me this has been such an iterative process, but probably after the first 30 days continuous — I’ve been really embracing being alcohol-free and all of the super great things that come with it. I never would have imagined it, ME, not drinking red wine every day, let alone going weeks or months without a drink, but it’s true. It’s pretty easy now, and the benefits have been more than I could have imagined.

These benefits become especially clear when I do have a drink again.

I’m sure this is a necessary part of my process. It was the same way when I quit eating meat. Every once in a while I would test out eating meat to see how I felt about it, but then I’d see another horrific farm animal abuse video and my resolve would be set again. Of course I wasn’t addicted to bacon, but our culture is every bit as saturated with messages about eating meat as it is about drinking alcohol, not to mention being raised on meat being a part of virtually every meal, and yet I was able to stop finally. I don’t “test” it anymore, or wonder if someday I might start eating meat again “in moderation.” No. Eating meat is something I just don’t do. Even if a thought flits through my head about having a taste of something, it just as quickly is ushered right on through and out again. Nope. Pass. No thanks.

So all of that build up to say that this week I had a date that I had built up so much in my head that by the time I finally was about to meet the guy, I was so incredibly, beyond rationally nervous, that I couldn’t imagine layering the added awkwardness of saying I didn’t drink on top of it. I was completely worked up. I skipped rowing(!), and I tossed my own self-care aside and made this date the top priority.

Of course, I set myself up. I didn’t mean to, but I did. And so, I had a couple of glasses of wine and all I accomplished was making myself tired. That was it. I had something in my hand (which I could have accomplished in other ways) and it made it actually more difficult to engage with him.

And insult to injury, it wasn’t even a good date and I’ll not see him again! Jaysus.

Now, this isn’t tragedy (except blowing off rowing and breaking my AF streak, that’s a bummer). I’m not back to drinking and I’m completely in control. I don’t know what that means, but it’s true. I’m OK and not drinking today. But I am back to DAY 1. I can’t deny it. If counting days of continuous sobriety is what is important to me (and I’ve decided now that it is, and I’ll tell you why), then I have to start the clock again. This isn’t back to the beginning, but it is back to Day 1.

Here is what I’ve learned:

  • In the last month or so, I found myself questioning whether I might just be able to drink every once in a while. You know, being one of those people who hardly ever drinks, but does on rare occasion. I know some people like that; you probably do too. I was thinking, maybe I could choose that. (ha!) But while I *might* be able to manage that (maybe, not sure, questionable, doubtful), I realize now, I DON’T WANT TO. It has never been so clear as it was in the moments when I was actually drinking the glass of wine. I didn’t like it and it didn’t like me either.
  • I didn’t enjoy it (I’ve said this before, but it just doesn’t taste good anymore…I’ve UNacquired the taste), and while I’m not exactly feeling compulsion to drink today, I am noticing the chatter is a LOT louder in my head again. I think this is what I forget and is one of the most important lessons to remember moving forward. I had begun to get used to and really savor the peace in my head. The freedom from the chatter. I have begun to really look forward to my evenings with tea and a book or a project, without any of the mental conflict, and with all the time! While I’m OK and not feeling like I need/want a drink, I am uncomfortable that the volume of irrational background noise has increased a bit. I know it’s the wine goblin, who I clearly poked and gave some nourishment. Shit. The only way to kill him is to suffocate the fecking life out of him. I knew it, but I REALLY get it now. I do. The only way to kill that MoFo is by not having a single drink. Ever.
  • When I don’t drink I just feel happier and lighter and more free. It’s hard to explain and I would never have expected it, but I feel an old familiar sad angst in the pit of my gut today that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I’m convinced (not to get woo woo) it’s the demon that is alcohol. The poison is not just of the body, but it is of the spirit as well. There’s a heaviness of my spirit today that I realize now is the scrim that alcohol layers over our lives.
  • Remember: **Avoid overwhelm** and if I find that I am super stressed or freaked out or WAY too worked up about something, I need to do whatever I have to do to defuse the situation — and protect my sobriety. I choose this now, and it is just taking some time to adjust my mind to my new lifestyle. This also happened when I quit drinking caffeinated coffee. For months, part of my brain still felt like I wanted to “try” caffeine, even though rationally I knew I was better off without it and I was actually fine with that. It’s like my neuro-pathways of habit and emotional attachment need time to be rewired, and they are just always behind my rational mind. I guess that’s the definition of addiction. Normal.
  • When I drink, my eating habits go out the window, in the present and for the next day at least. This makes me feel bad and goes against my priority of self-care. I’ve been feeling great and eating well. Drinking is out of line with my values for self-care there as well. No bueno!
  • I will practice and accept sitting in the occasional discomfort of not drinking (which has become easier and easier, especially in social situations), because I’ve decided that alcohol doesn’t work for me anymore. I am almost allergic to it in the way it makes my body and my mind feel terrible. That’s a pretty simple message to get one’s head around. “No thanks, I don’t drink. It doesn’t agree with me.”

So, I did this to myself. I threw caution to the wind and lost my way. Belle even told me: “Sobriety first, dating second.” I think hormones got the better of me. 🙂 (What am I, 15?)

Like I said, this isn’t a tragedy and I’m not loading shame on myself, which is a risk as a person who has been blogging about my sobriety journey. It’s easy to want to hide and not admit when the journey includes a couple of drinks, as I continuously work on the landscape of how I want to live my life. I so admire those of you who have (finally) been able to get months and years under your belt alcohol-free. It’s something to be so very proud of.

Some day I will have had my last drink. Maybe it was yesterday. I hope so. I can only promise today and tomorrow, but I am newly committed to the next 100 days as an accomplishment in and of itself.

Because another thing I’ve learned is that for me, counting days is motivating and feels great, and is something that I’ve been really proud of, also to a degree I didn’t expect. Part of it is how happy I’ve felt lately, and attributing that to having gone weeks and weeks without a drink — something that I never would have believed I could do.

AND…I finally caught glimpses of the BLISS everyone has talked about, and the mental freedom, and it was incredible.

I want more of that.

And I can have it.

Here’s to the next 100 days without alcohol. It feels so much easier than ever before. It’s not without its challenges (obviously), but I’m not bored anymore (yay!) and it’s truly not a struggle anymore the majority of the time. And that’s awesome.

Oh, and I’m going to make sure I don’t wander too far from all of my supports, like the blogging community. We’re all in this together, and it matters.

xo Rachel.

Day 1.

ps., I still plan to get my first tattoo at my 1-year mark. That just may have to be end of January, 2017. That’s all.

9 thoughts on “…It’s a thinking problem

  1. “accept sitting in the occasional discomfort of not drinking “…This is such an important lesson to learn! I am working on that too. But, oh the JOY, the next day when you wake up and realize that you conquered the awkward part and you are still sober 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Rachel, great post. Thanks for sharing. Today is my day one, again. Got home last night and just decided I was going to drink a little. I have to admit, it was really good. Good taste, good buzz, etc. But today, ugh! I feel like crap! I slept through the night but I was groggy most of the day. I had a headache and was pretty shaky as well. It’s a no brainer. I don’t enjoy feeling like crap. Drinking makes me feel like crap. So don’t drink. 😉
    I only made it 3-1/2 days (I’ve recently decided to quit), but that was 3-1/2 days longer than I’ve gone without drinking in a long, long time. So, I think that was pretty good. 🙂
    I’m planning on a completely sober weekend.
    Thanks again for sharing your ups and downs. Yep, we are all in this together. And we can make it.
    Blessings. John

    Liked by 2 people

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