I’ve been flirting with the idea of sobriety for the better part of three years. THREE years. I put off the decision by convincing myself I needed to first figure out if I am an alcoholic which led to failed attempts at defining alcoholic, so I decided I wasn’t one, and continued to ride the carousel of chaos. The chaotic ride was my routine: stress, drink, numb, regret, repeat.
The prompts I was receiving to quit were coming at me from all sides. I’d discover a writer I loved recently went dry, or had been sober for years. Yet another study exposing alcohol for the drug that it is would find its way to my inbox. My own self-loathing would surface daily, but above all this noise was a still, small voice, inviting me to try living a new way. I knew it would be hard and uncomfortable, but I suspected there was something better on the other side.
I’ve been quietly going dry and today is my 40th day without alcohol. I didn’t bring others in on my journey for fear of the inevitable slip up and having to explain myself or worse, lie. Even more, I feared the accountability. If I didn’t tell anyone, nobody knew and if nobody knew then I could hit the escape hatch any time I wanted. But something about day 40 feels significant – spiritual even. 40 days in the desert, anyone?
Instead of the wilderness though, I feel like I am residing in a technicolor dream.
Initially I simply white-knuckled it. I craved wine desperately and pushed through this by busying myself. At the end of a long day, I would typically hunker down with a glass (or three) of chardonnay. Instead I have refinished a piece of vintage furniture, organized my kitchen cabinets, baked a cake for a neighbor, read two books and finally committed to performing on stage after years of talking about it.
Around day 10 I felt so much more rested in the mornings that the physical cravings subsided and a steady, even keeled-ness replaced the desire to drink. I knew it was anxiety driving the initial productivity and realized quickly I would be unable to sustain that level of Wonder Woman fecundity. After all, I had a job and three kids. At some point, I would need to slow down. But how?
I began listening to my body – especially in the moments I was craving alcohol. It was a re- acquainting to be sure. At the suggestion of a sober friend, I also actively listened to what my soul had to say. To do this, you must pay attention to pain and discomfort when you feel it. My drinking was my way of coping – or not coping – with pain. So instead of pushing past angst-ridden feelings, I had to sit in them and ask what was making me feel this way.
It sucked. It sucked so bad. I had more than one tantrum wondering why I had to sit in my pain while the rest of the world seemed to be out drinking rosé.
Whilst sitting in the pain, I was reminded that we aren’t mean to live pain free. Beautiful things often follow on the heels of pain. I’ve had three children, you can trust me on that one. The feelings can be very bad and uncomfortable. You might realize you’ve been saying yes to things you don’t want to do, or worse, saying no to things your heart wants so much that it’s easier not to feel it for fear of never getting it. Or maybe that’s just me?
Where my sobriety journey is leading, I don’t know. I am truly feeling my way through this. In the world of recovery, I am a newborn baby. I have much to learn and even more to re-learn. I know I don’t want to diminish this bittersweet time in my life where I am feeling things anew. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to share with others what is possibly the most shocking revelation since going dry: I don’t hate myself.
This is going to change everything.