What seems to be working this time around? Last time I tried to stop it was Dec 27. I lasted 50 days, then dropped by a neighbour-in-law’s place with a birthday gift and was offered a celebratory flute of champagne (poured the “correct” way, i.e. a small amount) and I thought, a) what’s the harm? and b) I don’t want to draw attention to myself in this small, so-proper party. I don’t want to have to face the questions, the stigma…
But I had been planning to drink before that already. I had given up on my goal of being sober for one year. How could I manage my own birthday? My husband’s? My friends coming over for dinner?
And maybe life was not worthwhile lived sober anyway. I would be too boring, too lame, too uninteresting, too… even-keel.
So I had that small amount, and determined I would have a small amount again, on other special occasions, and perhaps a bit with my husband, on the weekends.
But it didn’t work out that way. I had a thirst for wine, and that thirst could not be satisfied. When I left the tiny party, all I could think about was how “good” I was for *not* opening a bottle of my own, for not continuing the party when I got home. All I could think about was “I can’t wait till Friday, when I will open a bottle for cocktail hour with my husband.”
Then, there were at least three nights, when I found myself just throwing up my hands and joyfully, steadily drinking down a whole bottle to myself. What surprised me was the speed with which it was gone!
I would assume that I had been up past midnight, but would check my journal and see that I had gone to bed around 22:00 or 23:00.
The first time of the three times, I was at a friend’s. I drank at least a bottle there (didn’t keep count, there were several bottles open and four of us adults, then staggered home. The report from my friend later is that I wasn’t too drunk at all — and yes, sure, I remember everything — even weaving my way home in a zig-zag walking pattern, even posting a wine-sauced video on Instagram. It’s comical, I thought to myself, right? I’m like one of the main characters in my favourite movie. No harm done! Fun fun fun!
But then, why? Why did it feel so crippling, later? Even with though I didn’t black out or do anything terrible, why do I even have to wonder what others thought of my behaviour? To me, it’s partly because my behaviour was not on par with what I’d like it to be. I feel I’m not really being true to myself, in the end.
But it would take at least two more tries like that to make sure. And yes, conclusion:
For some reason, alcohol does not work with my particular brain chemistry, at this stage in my life.
During that 50-day stretch just after boxing day, last time, I found it very hard not to drink. Yet this time, I have no urge. Why not? Let me try to document it.
Things that seem to be working this time around:
- ODAAT (one day at a time). This works much better for me than “sober for a year” — which was what I had planned just before that failed 50-day stretch. I know this works for many people but perhaps due to my inherently self-sabotaging tendencies, it did not work for me. I like “one day at time,” not only because it’s much easier to know that I won’t drink for this one day; and plan accordingly, but it’s also less final in my mind, less goal-oriented, and thus more meaningful. I am terrified of failure, and ODAAT eliminates that fear completely, because the segment of time is reduced. If I fail tomorrow, I won’t beat myself up. The only day that matters is today.
- Self-acceptance in this moment. Being accepting enough of myself to say, it’s okay if you don’t fit in with this or that model of alcoholic, it’s okay if you just prefer not drinking. It’s really okay. It was accepting myself enough to say, no matter what anyone else around me thinks my problem is (i.e. OCD etc.), I KNOW that my problem will be reduced by not drinking. EVEN IF I CAN’T EXPLAIN WHY.
- Being okay with my life not being okay. I don’t know why I feel depressed. Logically I have “no right” to be. I’m lucky. I have all the base levels of the pyramid fulfilled. I should be a constant ray of sunshine, in theory. But I’m not. Giving up alcohol has not changed that. But it has given me potential. It’s helping me so much in this one way: I don’t have to think about THAT anymore. One less thing to feel awful about. No matter how “standard” my drinking was, or wasn’t, I thought about it and wondered about it too much. Not having to worry about that has been a huge relief.
- Being happy with the idea of “No.” You know when you have this tendency to do things others ask you to do, and there’s this thing you just really don’t want to do or participate in, and you know, if you look at it objectively, that whether you go or not go ultimately it won’t make much difference to *their* lives, but it will make a big difference to yours? For me, allowing myself to be alcohol free was like that. I’m not “opting in.” I’m saying no to a lot of things here. Notifications suddenly disappear. And I like it.
- Having a plan of what I will say at a party when offered a drink. No. “Why not?” “I just don’t like it at all anymore.” “But what happened?” “Basically a slowly-dawning realization that for whatever reason, alcohol was not making me feel better anymore, but instead worse; and I am happier without it.” (And this is 100% true. Even though I might have enjoyed alcohol in the moment, that joy did not make up for my neurotic suffering the next day. REGARDLESS of whether I had done nothing wrong in other revelling friend’s eyes.) “Happier without it” being a key phrase, and one I believe I first saw on Sober and Well’s blog (soberandwell.com).
- Being okay with losing relationships that may turn out to have been dependent on alcohol. Perhaps this was the most major thing. I was sober for 4.5 months once, and 50 days then next-longest time. Neither of those times was I ready enough to feel that I was okay with even my marriage dissolving if necessary. This is pretty major. Of course, I don’t hope that my marriage dissolves. Of course, I hope that it will evolve into something new. So far, it already has. I can’t say it’s better, except in my own books. I’m no longer living a lie (i.e. drinking when I don’t truly want to, but because I feel others want me to). To me, that’s better. If being more real makes me less desirable, or less fun, well, for now, I’ve decided that’s not my problem.
Sorry this was such a rambling post. One thing I love about this sobriety blog is that I feel less inclined to worry about the writing itself. I love this community too, because we all have this thing in common that makes us so understanding, and, I truly feel, loving to one another.
Perhaps that’s in fact the biggest help of all:
7. Found an interactive sober community. For me, that’s you all, here, now, on WordPress.