Today marks seven months without alcohol.
I’ve had a few dreams lately…but I know nobody wants to hear about another person’s dreams, so I won’t go into it.
All I’ll say is they’ve been of the variety where a) I drink accidentally because I “forgot” I quit drinking, b) I’m thinking about drinking and I’m stressing over how I’ll explain it to all of my sober friends…or c) I have super sexy time with someone I really shouldn’t have been doing it with (but clearly really wanted to), and then I just lay with them, skin on skin, for hours…
I like those dreams best.
My recent work trip experience (when I nearly drank) has caused me to do some serious thinking about what I *really* want, what’s most important to me, what place alcohol had in my life that last 5-10 years before I finally stopped drinking, and what I’ve been learning since.
I keep saying: It’s really amazing what you can learn about yourself when you quit disappearing into a bottle of wine every night…oh, and it’s amazing what you learn when you quit drinking and you ramp up the therapy to several hours a week. 🙂
It’s a recipe for some warp drive self-discovery.
But I think the best part has been that unexpected feeling of being more firmly rooted in the ground than I think I’ve ever been. And if I were to try to break down how that is happening, I think it partly comes from a growing self-awareness (thanks sober therapy!) and partly from just feeling better physically and having gone seven months without regretfully saying or doing anything booze-fueled. There’s something in the regular cycle of self-recriminations that has a way of eroding one’s confidence.
Of rotting away one’s chewy center.
So, here I am. Day 215 or something and I’m committed to going a year without alcohol before I revisit what this all means to me — and yes, by that I mean, whether this is really forever or not. Some days I think it probably is…and some days…some days I still wonder.
Last night I was feeling a bit lonely and needing something.
I felt that old pull of wanting to just bliss out (or blot out). To satisfy that soft sorrow with a fast hit to the central nervous system.
But here’s the thing: I’ve learned enough now to know that the whole “escaping into a bottle” thing may have felt like it was working for those painful years, but it turns out, drinking when I could have been feeling what I was feeling was just delaying the inevitable. Drinking was a symptom of my pain. And unless I wanted to stay drunk all the time (which, fortunately, I didn’t), I wasn’t actually escaping from anything. Not for long, anyway.
And p.s., I was fucking up my brain’s ability to produce dopamine in a normal way. Whoops.
“You did what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better.” – Maya Angelou
So I give myself a break. My path is my path. Drinking the way I was drinking was my “dangerously misguided self-care,” and it worked for a while, when I needed it. Now my work is to get at the root of the WHY so I don’t go back there. I think we can all agree, I don’t want to do that.
What did I need last night? Here’s what I came up with:
- Despite having a great couple of days connecting with some amazing people (including lots of non-drinkers, whom I adore), by last night I was feeling lonely.
- I wanted to feel held.
- I was working through some new realizations about what having a “partner” in life means, what it doesn’t mean, and what I might want in a partner. This brings up a lot of old stuff, of course.
- I wanted to tap into my joy and pleasure. On demand.
- I wanted to feel sexy and beautiful. (?? I have no idea where this came from, but my subconscious told me it needed to be included…)
- There was a nagging anxiety coming from a little bit of work stuff that I wanted to soothe.
- Joy and pleasure. Impatience.
- Joy and pleasure.
I’m not going to drink about any of this.
I AM making it a priority to find sources of joy and pleasure in ways that don’t include wine or food. I am going to get curious about that and see where it leads me. I am looking at how I spend my spare time, and begin practicing using that time for things that bring me joy, or make me feel like I’m working on things that are in line with my life goals or values. Like my writing. Or my activism. And building my home. And loving my dog.
And moving my body. Moving my body needs to be a priority in all of this .
So there it is. That’s the honest truth of where I am at seven months.
And one more thing: I’ve also realized that I might need to scale back a bit on listening to podcasts and reading the blogs of sober 30-somethings whose lives have “changed 180 degrees” from where they were when they were drinking and are now AMAZING and FANTASTIC. Because as inspired as I was by their insights when I first began this process, and I’m so grateful they helped me get woke, I’m beginning to see that the promise of “attracting” a completely different/renewed/better life in sobriety may be a bit counter-productive for those of us whose choices weren’t “QUIT DRINKING or DIE.”
Because for me, the “miracles” of living alcohol free look more and more to be a quiet process of newfound self-love and -awareness. Of confidence and connection. Of perspective and possibility.
Mine isn’t a story of the Phoenix ascending from the ashes into a glistening new life of career, relationships, fame, and so on.
Mine is a story of figuring out what I have to offer the world, what brings me joy, how I can be of service and how I can love.
We shall see.
“These are the days that must happen to you.” – Walt Whitman