06:54 Feeling really happy and relieved about this milestone. I feel like if I’ve made it this far, I can easily make it to five months. And if I can make to five months, I might make it to one year. And if I could make it to one year, maybe, just maybe, I could make it for another year. And maybe even another year after that… But this feeling of accomplishment, wonderful though it is, also means I have to be careful.
Last year, around the same time and season, in fact, four months of sobriety was a tricky time for me. Once again, I’d just come off the spiritually-reinforcing high of having done the same mindfulness retreat I attended just over a week ago. I was starting to feel confident and even less lonely — I’d just met so many kindred spirits at the camp, so I knew I wasn’t actually alone in the world, much as I may often feel that way. I figured I had my dipsomania/winoholism completely licked; I had a lot of physical energy, I suppose, as well – so now I could tackle other goals.
I wanted to “be a writer.” (Never mind that I *technically* already was, since by definition, writers *write,* and I had been writing daily for years already. Now, as one does, I wanted the world to know it.) And on a whim, in the midst of this newfound and astounding personal confidence, mostly brought about by my sobriety, I challenged myself to write and hit “publish” on a piece of creative nonfiction writing every single day, for 31 days straight. Under my own name.
Publishing daily may not sound like a big deal, depending on what kind of blogger or non-blogger you are. For me personally it was a huge deal. I was absolutely TERRIFIED of hitting publish. The exercise served its purpose — in that it finally helped me overcome my fear of being exposed as imperfect, average, even “a failure” — but in the end, I believe the pressure of my self-imposed ambition killed the spiritual strength I had managed to store up over the previous months of introspective journalling and internal personal development work. Also I had not a clue what I was doing back then. Except that I wanted to “be somebody.” But who the fuck? I did not know.
The craziest thing was that I started the challenge — on a whim, as I said — in one of the toughest periods of the year possible. Summer holidays, renovations (well always), children home from school 24/7, newly sober, AND an impending family group holiday that included my family of origin, followed by a week-long visit from my parents. I had no idea, then, how much I *needed* private writing to stay sober, at that time. Hitting publish on what essentially amounted to private writing — making decisions about what to leave in, what to take out — in unavailable amounts of time, and in the midst of sometimes extremely stressful situations (family stuff) — meant I was losing sleep and simultaneously feeling a lot of guilt.
I realized what a selfish act my publishing exercise was, yet I was driven to complete it. I know we need to be selfish, in some ways, in order to get ahead at anything (including sobriety), but my focus had shifted from sobriety to — what? an experiment in truth? in self-exposure? let’s just call it blind ambition.
Afraid to write anything but my best attempt at the truth, I witnessed the manifestation of the fears I had always had about hitting publish — that the printed and published words would alter my reality in situ. What started effectively as my first sobriety blog (though I had not at all the big-picture vision to name it that way, then) fizzled out into a fulfillment of my 31-days publishing goal with “whatever subjects got the job done.”
Halfway through the self-imposed writing challenge, I accepted a drink. It was the most beautiful drink I had ever seen — and it was presented to me on a yearly weekend away with my husband, in a lovely, romantic environment. I thought I had “control over alcohol” mastered, and that perhaps I could indulge once in a while, on special occasions. And I wanted to please my husband.
(Not blaming him. It’s just a fact. I like to please people. And he did not think — and still does not think! — I ever had a problem with alcohol, though I have been honest with him about my habits and feelings on the subject.)
Within a few days of that time, in spite of my thinking I would indulge only socially and moderately, on special occasions, I cracked a bottle of bubbly one evening, alone at night. To be honest, that night, it felt great. I felt *connected,* to myself, to the Tree, to the world at large. Funny how it feels so different, the next day…
I had started drinking alone, prior to trying sobriety, because I thought that this way I was safe, the children were safe, and I couldn’t say or do anything to embarrass myself in front of others. Again, this habit raised no alarm bells with anyone in my vocal entourage, though I was honest about it.
I suppose it’s a common enough thing to do these days, especially as a parent who can’t or doesn’t get out much, especially in the remote countryside, especially if one’s spouse works away from home, especially considering the fact that so much socializing now happens online. I would start on my own, communing with the Tree (my own personification of god-energy), who would share with me her answers on life, but I almost inevitably I would end by going on social media or drunk-face-timing relatives and old friends. Half the time I would not remember all that I had said. And I would die a few small deaths agonizing over it, in the morning.
I didn’t have a “rock bottom” this time around. I’d had what I considered to be one, in June 2017, but I drank again three days afterward. The longest time I’d ever remained consistently alcohol-free before now, was last year’s stint of four months and three weeks. This is why five months will mean something big for me, if I achieve it.
I have faith this time, that I will make it to five months — but only if I continue as I am.
This time, I’m putting sobriety first. Before ambition, before people-pleasing, before marriage, even, and yes, even before the demands (but not the needs) of my children.
My kids have been pestering me repeatedly through this writing session. The door has been burst open (yet again), computer passwords have been demanded and refused, I’ve been shot with a nerf gun (thanks, visiting kid friend who left it behind at our house) repeatedly by the monkey circus. I’m still going.
This blog is, I feel, one of the main things keeping me interested in practicing sobriety. This blog currently has no other ambition besides sobriety. Mine, and who knows, maybe yours. It’s selfish and selfless at the same time. Or at least, it’s my best attempt at being either and/or both of those two things.
But it’s only working for me because of you who respond in some way, no matter how small. Your “likes” (the genuine ones), your encouragement, your moral support, your own blogs, if you have one, which I love to read; and/or your helpful comments. So thank you!!!!
Sober Tips/Things to Remember:
- Sobriety first. This is the most important one. It leads to a lot of other good things.
- Drinking water and/or herb tea helps your body feel great. (I really don’t do this often enough.) Same with mild exercise and fresh air. And having a creative outlet (writing, music, crafting, art…) — that is major.
- Find a sober community. I’ve (happily) learned it doesn’t have to be face-to-face; it can also be online. I have tried a few, but WordPress has by far been the best experience for me. If a particular community doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean sobriety doesn’t work for you. Find a different sobriety-practicing community.
- Having alcohol-free beers/wines on hand can be really helpful for some of us in getting through the most challenging craving times.
- Saying “no” a lot. Saying NO to attending certain social events where there would be a primary focus on alcohol, is/was one of the keys to my early sobriety. Also saying no to doing anything else that taxes energy. I don’t mean breaking commitments, though that is ultimately possible too, as a last resort, if your sobriety depends upon it; rather I mean *don’t make other commitments in the first place.* Commit to practicing sobriety instead.
- Doing household tasks can feel overwhelming before beginning, but feel great after you start by tackling one little thing (much like writing, or anything else, for that matter). It also gives you introspective time to contemplate life. Repetitive simple actions can provide the easiest form of meditation. Meditation releases endorphins.
- Sobriety first (again, this time when figuring out when to stop doing things, and rest).
- “One day at a time.” Though yes, of course I may hope for more, I only promise myself to remain sober this one day. Big difference from last time. (Last time, and the times before that, ended in a drink. Which led to another, and another…
- “Sober momentum” — hang on to it. Day after day after day. Inertia — it becomes easier and easier to not break the pattern.
- “Sit” with negative feelings. “Be still.” Talk to god, higher power, Tree, guardian angel, Universe, whatever you like to call it… God-energy has whatever you need to feel fulfilled. Most of us (certainly including me) don’t tap into it often enough. When you feel like having a drink, or whatever else your go-to addiction is, sit (or stand, or lie) still, look inwards, and think, what is it I *really* need? Sometimes “god” tells me something very simple, such as “go to bed.” Do what god says.
- Sobriety-affirming mindset. This is the mindset I nourish: “I cannot moderate to my own satisfaction. Tried, tested and true.” “Alcohol is a known toxin and addictive drug, in fact, the drug responsible for the most violence and deaths on the planet, more than any other drug. Scientifically proven. No matter what others think, *I* am not the crazy or afflicted one, for abstaining. I am sane.” (Note: “Sane” comes from a root word that means “healthy.”) Also, in general, “I like myself better when I practice sobriety.”
[08:31 monkey madness. absolute madness. off to go jump in the lake.]
* * *
“Take it easy.” I don’t need to have a master’s degree, nor an amazing career (just yet, at least). I *can* be *just* a mom and a housewife, for now. (Sidenote: I NEVER thought I would use the term “housewife” to describe myself, when I was a young thang. But this is the reality. And I’ve learned that coming to terms with reality is good.) That’s more than enough important work, no matter what society thinks. And to do the best job possible at any of those things, not to mention other things, in the future, it really fucking helps to be sober.
So, I’m doing my best to nurture this seed.
Post image source: oilpaintingfactory.com