I suppose it’s fitting that tonight I pigged out on fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls and french fries. That last day I posted (3 months ago), I was raving about the cures of heart&soul a good mac ‘n’ cheese can bring.
Since then I’ve been on a little journey, a philosophical, introspective, exploratory walkabout, you might say. I think I was looking to get to the source of any lingering doubts about whether I should go completely AF, so I could be sure. Sure as a person can be.
I’ve heard it said, that while we’re driving our car, building our brick wall, walking our path, bobbing along on our proverbial sea — choose your favorite metaphor — as long as we are sober we are learning and growing in ways we may not even be aware of. We may not feel it’s happening, but OH, YOU BETTAH BELIEVE IT’S A’HAPPENIN’.
So here’s what I learned: I started to think maybe after all the months (since last summer) that I had gone with very little alcohol, maybe I would actually moderate. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe I really didn’t REALLY want to be that person who doesn’t drink EVER. I’d learned so much and I thought my patterns really had changed…maybe I could seamlessly merge back into the flow of all the other cool and happenin’ humans I know who could drink without it taking more than it was giving. Maybe, I’d reset the clock. (I’m going for maximum metaphor numbers here.)
But then I went on a business trip to Italy. I met a fantastically intoxicating Italian. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sexy and exciting and alive. There was fun and fantasy and Italian wine and I was swept away in a very fast current. I suppose I can thank my addictive tendencies for this too, but there was nothing and no one that was going to get me off that pleasure train.
It was a short short ride.
When I was ripped back to reality like Christopher Reeve when he finds that damned penny in his pocket in Somewhere in Time (did anyone else see that movie? OMG I loved that movie…), where was I then? I was basically back to where I’d started…and it had happened in no time. Flat.
It wasn’t horrific. I wasn’t off the rails. There was no Leaving Las Vegas and I’ll not be writing a fantastic and inspirational sober memoir about it (although it sounded like there was potential, no? “Rachel’s Roman Holiday: One Hot Italian and 20 Gallons of Red…”) But I was back to where I’d started in many ways, only this time, I had a perspective I didn’t have before. I could see very clearly that the sadness I was feeling, the fatigue, the flabbiness mentally and physically…it was all stemming from the wine.
I had finally started to see that the only way I was going to quit for good was if I started to connect that this — leaving alcohol behind — is about something greater than this very moment. For me, for the briefest of moments, being sober had brought me closer to coming in touch with my higher purpose than I may have ever been. I know this for sure.
I say that, and even now, I sit here with that clarity just beyond reach. I don’t even feel like I’m writing about it nearly as vividly as I experienced it. It feels like it has when I’ve woken from a dream that I saw so clearly, only to struggle to remember what it felt like by the end of the day. I close my eyes and try to feel it again, to find the words, but…all I have left is a blurry memory of how it felt, and the faith that if I stay the course this time, that sureness, that purity of contact with the Universe(?) that I absolutely had glimpses of before, will return. I apologize for sounding a bit woo woo. I honestly think my ham-handed vocabulary here is also a symptom of having moved too far from it to even describe it well.
So here I am, back at Day 3. I can’t bear to read my earlier blog posts right now, knowing how many times before I’ve been so sure and then changed course.
I know it won’t be easy. But this time I’ve seen what three months of drinking again feels like, and none of it was worth how I felt before finally quitting again. I dare say, even the time with the Hot Italian. He’s long gone (many lessons learned!) and here I sit, back on Day 3, very sure that my life is meant for more than this. I’m meant for greater things. The love of my life is out there somewhere. My mind and spirit have the potential for so much more. My higher purpose is yet to show itself, but it’s not far. And the choice I have to make — every day, perhaps — is all of those things over red wine.
THAT is what I have to remember, when I go on a business trip or I’m on a summertime patio/boat/cabin with friends or I’m in Italy with a fantastically handsome Italian.
I choose the rest of my “one wild and precious life,” over red wine.
I’ll be leaning on ALL my supports — and you are a huge part of that. Know that I’ve missed you. And I’ve missed the me who was emerging. It’s a super uncomfortable place to be in the swirl of it all. If you’ve been there (or are still there) you know. Our addict minds are such negotiators, and man, they can be persuasive. That can be a painful process. Fucking Wolfie.
I’ve been loving Sarah Hepola’s 5-part Series in Jezebel, “Ask a Former Drunk.” I really loved the entirety of this #2 piece, How Do I Keep My Sobriety From Being the Thing That Defines Me? End-to-end. So. Good.
But the first in the series, When Do You Know That You Have a Problem? had a bit that particularly resonated with me too. I mean, probably for many/most of us. It really so often is (or was) the crux of it in the beginning. The letter-writer asked this:
I want sobriety and all that comes with it, but I just don’t want to stop drinking. I mean I do, but I don’t. Does that make sense?
And Sarah answered:
Right? I’ve even said that on this blog. I want to maintain my sobriety but still get a huge wine buzz. WTF?
But then, a bit later, Hepola says this:
…Having no idea what else to do, I made a new bet. The bet was that if I could stay sober for a year, or even three months—maybe things would get better.
They did. The change was neither fast, nor easy. Like you said, quitting drinking was “the ultimate struggle.” But six years later, I can tell you that quitting drinking is one of the smartest things I have ever done for myself. It has enriched my friendships, deepened my writing and my empathy, made my sex life more electrifying and profound, and given me a peace in my own body I did not even know was possible. I thought sobriety was the end of the road, and I had arrived at a dead end, but it’s more like a door that opens up to a thousand more doors, all of them in Technicolor, all of them stretching into the horizon.
All of them in Technicolor, all of them stretching into the horizon.
This is what I want my life to be. And my bet, my hope, my faith — thanks in part to so many amazing people who have been through this and have written about it in books and blogs — is that the glimmer of connection to the Universe I felt before was truly a pinhole into this future she describes.
It won’t be easy. It won’t always be good times. But it’s the only way through.
So, day by day. Day. By. Day.