09:48-ish. So here I am writing much later than is my usual morning habit. Perhaps that makes it the perfect time to give a little advice to anyone starting out or even just contemplating a sober journey. That advice is “go easy on yourself.”
Last night’s post felt amazing to be able to write, with that “done” list accomplished. But please know that I am not operating on high-functioning mode at most times, nor do I plan to, this time around.
I started my first seriously-attempted sober journey nearly one year ago. Like many others, I’d been trying to come to terms with the fact that I did not like booze much anymore; or at least, I sure didn’t like the negative side effects of it.
For a couple of years before that, around the time that I went through menopause, I’d been studying my drinking habits and comparing myself to others, thinking to myself, “but I’m not an alcoholic. I’m just like ‘most’ adults in the western world. So I should be able to just drink occasionally, even if that means over-indulging a bit every now and then. Nobody’s perfect, and we’ve got to have fun in life. That’s what life’s all about. Right?”
Then one day early last year, there was an evening I got really quite drunk. I can even justify that right now, as I sit here typing, in every kind of which-way: “But my husband stayed sober that night (to look after the kids).” “But so-and-so was even more drunk.” “But I’m a happy drunk.” “But I never do anything really awful when I drink.” “But, but, but…”
And all of those things might have been true. But: Why on earth was it, then, that I felt such horrendous shame and self-loathing after a night of drinking?
The reason, I think, is 1) I do take things pretty seriously and 2) because I made choices that I would not have made sober.
- If I’d been sober, I would’ve gone home from that dinner party when I started to get bored, rather than accepting that next drink…and the next drink, and the next drink.
- If I’d been sober, I would’ve left when the scene turned to gossip and negative speech, rather than arguing against it and finally joining in myself.
- If I’d been sober, I wouldn’t have denigrated myself in my own speech, to the point of self-oblivion.
- If I’d been sober, I would’ve read a story at home with my kids, and/or I would have gone to bed, instead of going online, trying to connect with people but instead leaving drunk comments on their posts. Or I would have gone online, and left sober and aware comments instead, and I would have remembered them all the next day, and felt fine about it. Because it would have been the “aware, care-full, conscientious” version of me doing the commenting.
- If I’d been sober, I would not now be wasting my entire day feeling such intense shame shame shame shame shame.
It amounts to shame.
One of my favourite songs about this is Sia’s song, Chandelier.
Sun is up
I’m a mess
I gotta get out now
Gotta run from this
Here comes the shame,
Here comes the sha-a-a-ame.
1-2-3, 1-2-3 drink
1-2-3, 1-2-3 drink
1-2-3, 1-2-3 drink
I throw ’em back, till I lose count.
Sia is an incredible singer-songwriter. And sober journeyer herself, by the way.
OMG – I just went to double-check the sobriety part of that, and found this:
She was eight years sober last September.
And then I found this!
I’m a huge fan of Glennon Doyle (mommy blogger-turned-book-author and social activist extraordinaire) ever since another mom forwarded me a link to her viral 2012 “Don’t Carpe Diem” post. I bought and loved both of her books (Carry On, Warrior, and Love Warrior), which turned out to be about addiction and relationships and her own path to sobriety. And now I see that her wife Abby Wambach (an American retired soccer player, coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and committed partner to Glennon since November 2016) has been on a sobriety journey for the past three years as well. (As you can see, I’m not that great at keeping up with celebrity news.)
All very inspiring.
Small interruption. My youngest kid just came in and announced that he wanted to write stories and have a blog. I have set him up with a blank page on his computer and told him to start writing a hundred stories first. He seems content, for the moment.
Anyway, got a little side-tracked there. This is supposed to be about self-care and going easy on yourself. (And that is actually exactly what I was doing, in that last paragraph…)
Long story short, one morning in February last year, I searched around for an online AA meeting, and I found one.
I’d had nearly zero online chatroom experience prior to that, and when I clicked the “chat” button, expecting a meeting, unbeknownst to me I’d come in during the pre-meeting warm-up and the people were chatting about nearly anything but sobriety—
— [Youngest kid calling from his computer:] MAMA? I MADE ONE! (A story, that is)
— OKAY WELL I’M BUSY MAKING MINE RIGHT NOW TOO, SO KEEP GOING AND I’LL LOOK AT IT LATER! YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!
As I was saying, the folks in the sobriety chat were talking about just about anything but sobriety, and I felt really lost and alone and scared and ashamed and confused and like I probably didn’t even belong there… and then some kind soul “whispered” (where you speak to someone as an aside privately) to me to go into another side-chat where he basically told me to read the Big Book. That person’s username was Scotty KA and it was on AAonline.net. I mention it because I’m grateful for people like that, who take the time to look out for another.
Big Book? All these years of hearing about AA, I’d never heard of the Big Book. And yo, books are my THING!! So I bought the book on Kindle (I didn’t know you could read it free online, back then, but I’m still happy to have put a bit of money towards such a good cause), and I started reading it, and I was kind of mesmerized and blown away and long story short (again), I jumped right into the stories, and into doing the steps, and then jumped right onto a pink cloud (what some folks call that spiritually high feeling that many newly-sober people get), and had four and half months of mostly joyful sobriety, possibly for the first time in my life since first learning to drink.
I’d had longer periods of zero-to-very-light/occasional drinking, namely during my pregnancies and early baby-raising days; but during those times, I (a) mostly HADN’T felt like drinking anyway, (b) DID have the occasional glass, so I wasn’t adhering to total sobriety, and (c) WASN’T quite as joyful. I’d loved being pregnant and mothering (mostly), but it wasn’t a high-on-life feeling. It was an immersed-in-motherhood kind of feeling, which for me was different than high-on-life, at the time. Also I saw alcohol in a more casual, relaxed light back then.
So everything in my total-sobriety journey last year was going beautifully, and I started feeling like I could tackle world peace along with getting an amazing career and looking after my kids and anyone else or anything else that crossed my path. And then… I got INCREDIBLY stressed the f*ck out, and I started feeling like I was one of those people who could juuuuust have one weeee, small drink, especially occasionally, on a date with her husband.
But… I guess I am not one of those people. I feel so much shame saying this.
The one drink became another drink, a couple of weeks later; and then a glass per day with dinner, and then an evening of reminiscing on the sofa with my husband after the kids were in bed, drinking an entire bottle of wine sometimes… at which point I’d basically pass out and go to bed… usually after doing some drunk commenting on social media. Sobriety-rinse-repeat.
And no. It can’t go on like that for me. I guess, as much in denial as I still am, I am realizing, more and more (and once again, and again, and again), than I might not be one of those people who can have an occasional drink now and then.
I seriously feel so sad saying that.
I know what it means. I know that means that some people will immediately think I am one of “them,” whoever “they” are. Whether it’s a club of self-proclaimed recovering alcoholics, or wether it’s a club of holier-than-thou, pitying, “I’m so glad I’m not one of you,” type-people.
And I never thought of myself as a “them.” And I hated the word “them.” I associated it as being used by people coming from a perspective of the utmost privilege, exclusivity, judgement and/or prejudice. In other words, everything I’d been taught practically since birth to fight against. But these very traits we despise have a way of creeping into our own subconsciousnesses, whenever we’re not looking.
And I am learning, more and more, that I’m becoming more and more “me,” in the very act of allowing myself, in other folks’ eyes, to become one of “them” — whoever “they” are. In other words, in the act of letting my worry about what others think slide away to reveal windows of clarity, I am learning more and more what it is to be “me.”
Which, ironically, allows “me” to become more “we.”
And me, myself and I are all starting to agree that we cannot have that first drink.
How ridiculous is it that I actually felt tears prick my eyes as I wrote that?
It’s sad for me – letting go of old images, memories, assumptions, associations. It’s like mourning the loss of a nearly life-long friend (and a bunch of real-life, human good-time friends, along with it). But it is also so incredibly beautiful and freeing.
Check out this other tweet, from Mike Posner, another artist whose music (and Wikipedia bio) I’ve loved in the past. I first saw this in the midst of writing, higher up in the post, because I’d just followed Sia on Twitter, after looking her up just then, and she’d reposted it.
He was talking about how he’d changed his appearance, and people had criticized him for it, and that’d felt awful. But ultimately he realized that:
“I’d rather be roasted for being myself, than praised for being something I’m not.”
“[Sitting in front of a tree, in the snow:] On Thanksgiving day last year, I played the half-time show for the Detroit Lions’ nationally televised football game. Within minutes, the name Mike Posner was trending worldwide on Twitter, and I was being roasted by everyone, mostly for changing my physical appearance and having long hair. Literally [it felt like] everyone was making fun of me, in the world. [Laughs.] And that hurt. It hurt for weeks. But what I realized is: I’d rather be roasted for being myself, than praised for being something I’m not.
“These trees, look how big they are. It’s a redwood. [Runs back from the camera toward the giant tree behind him, gets into a huge crevasse at the bottom of it, stands inside; it’s as though he’s in a cavern:] To give you a frame of reference, man, I could LIVE inside this tree. [Runs back toward the camera, gives a who-hoo! as he slides in the snow, smiling.] These trees are unapologetically themselves. So if someone’s talking foul about you, if they’ve got an opinion about your life — Be like a redwood. Do YOU.
“Peace, I love y’all. Whoo-hoo!” [Transcription by me (sobrietytree author).]
Basically, he’s saying (as many self-accepting, successful people have said, in the past), “you do you, and I’ll do me.”
let’s see what good we can do, feeling so free, shall we? Let’s go LIVE, inside our sobriety, like it’s a big old tree. And remember, take it easy.
One sober tree-lover
16:57 p.s. I just dug up this old photo of me under the drive-thru redwood tree in California. I can’t believe the name of the tree showing on the sign… I had not remembered that.
p.s. Thank you for being here, now. 🙏🌲