Eight Months Sober: Blessings and Curses
I’m a better mom.
My kids didn’t experience direct effects of my alcoholism because I did most of my heavier drinking after their bedtime. But I wonder about the subtle effects of having a parent in an active addiction pattern over those last couple years. And I know they experienced the not-so-subtle effects of my crankiness and irritability due to low-grade hangovers and anxiety. Now I have my patience back. I can be with my kids with joy and ease again.
I’m a better wife.
With my husband, I was cycling between two states: trying to connect and have fun together when I was having a few weeks here and there of “doing well” with my moderation plans, and “checking out”–avoiding him when I was drinking too much. And of course there was the dishonesty of trying to minimize (even to myself sometimes) how much I was actually drinking. He watched it getting worse, and he was afraid for the future and what could happen to our family. That is over. I’m not hurting him and worrying him anymore. I have nothing to hide, and I am present in my marriage continuously. We are together again.
My anxiety has been lifted.
I’ve written extensively about the social anxiety that has cropped up since I got sober. I’m still grappling with some of it (see below). But the really painful kind that has more to do with belonging and loneliness has become so much lighter since I wrote about it. Once I saw the truth of it, where it came from, it transformed.
The true miracle is how my generalized anxiety has all but disappeared. And it happened quickly. Even in the early days and weeks, facing the difficulty of getting through the witching hour without my wine, I felt immediate relief from the backdrop of constant, low-level angst. In the last year or so of my drinking, I knew that I was using alcohol partially to medicate anxiety. I knew that was unhealthy and a really bad long-term solution. But I thought as a short-term fix, it worked pretty well, however ill-advised. I had no idea now much anxiety alcohol was actually creating for me—no doubt the substance itself, but also the internal battle I was fighting daily. I was working SO hard to make it not be true. It was like expending half your energy trying to make the sky green. It’s exhausting, and REALLY stressful! A lot more stressful, to my surprise, than getting sober—at least for me.
I’m healthier and I feel better physically.
I wake up feeling great, every day. Well, almost. I woke up with a regular, normal headache a couple weeks ago and thought, wow, having a headache sucks–I can’t believe I put up with this so often!
I’m more productive.
I’m getting a lot more stuff done. Because better health and more energy. See above.
Sobriety has given me my writing, period. It gave me both the motivation and the material to start this blog. That led to other writing. Some of it is quite shocking to me. Poems out of nowhere. I do NOT write poetry, or so I thought. Once I got started, the floodgates have opened. I see now that writing is part of who I am, and not writing for so many years has hurt a lot. I don’t know all the reasons I sent my inner writer into exile a long time ago, but alcoholism surely is one of them. She is coming home, and I am so grateful. This is a big part of my happiness right now—finally doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I know, with absolute certainty, this would not be happening if I were still drinking.
I can still have fun at dinners and parties. I do still have some issues to work out around this (see below). I may not stay as late. But I CAN have fun. It took some time, but I can be happy with my sparkling water or herbal tea while others imbibe. In fact, I can listen better and focus more on the people I’m with. I am starting to look forward to these occasions instead of seeing them merely as a challenge to overcome.
I see progress. The witching hour is almost not even a thing anymore! In the beginning, I HAD to have my sparkling water with lemon in a wine glass at 5:00. Now, I don’t even think about it. Sobriety is about so much more than not drinking, of course, but part of it is simply getting used to not drinking by getting some time under your belt. It is still strange sometimes when I think about it—wow, I’m a person who doesn’t drink now—how the #&*% did that happen? But for the most part, not drinking has become the norm in my days. I’m no longer thinking, “Here’s me, NOT drinking.” I’m used to it now. It’s OK. It’s more than OK, it’s good.
My sex drive is BACK. Maybe not like when I was 25 or 30. But better than it’s been in years. Alcoholism is a libido killer, for sure. Sobriety is not 🙂
I still struggle with what to say when people ask why I’m not drinking. I wrote about this extensively in this post. I am a bit less anxious over it, but it is not the nonissue I would like it to be. I have a new strategy for dealing with drink offers courtesy of a fellow blogger—the enthusiastic YES strategy: “Oh, yes, I’d love a drink, I’ll take some sparkling water, please!” Still playing with it. I’m not sure I’ll ever be really comfortable with this unless I decide to “come out” as a person in recovery. But I trust I’ll get comfortable enough, with time and practice.
Sometimes I still feel sadness over not being able to drink like normal people.
This came up recently. I had coffee with a new friend and later she messaged me, saying “Let’s get together again, this time with dinner and wine!” Sigh. That hit me right in the gut. It isn’t so much about whether to tell her—maybe a little, but I think I could comfortably tell this person. It is grief over not being able to do that anymore. No more bonding with a new friend over wine, no more loosening up and getting giddy with girlfriends in that way that really was wonderful. Oh, well. I remind myself that there are much worse problems to have. It is a blessing to have friends to spend time with in the first place. Perspective.
I’m not losing weight, dammit! I thought for sure the extra 30 pounds would just melt right off given all the calories I’m not drinking. I’ve replaced alcohol only with sparkling water, coffee, and tea with no sweeteners (no artificial ones, either). I really don’t think I’m eating more. I got faked out because I did lose 5 pounds pretty quickly, but then it came back on and stayed. So this has been a disappointment. But hey, at least I’m not gaining weight!
A blessing and a curse:
I have to feel everything, or, I get to feel everything!
Feelings have nowhere to hide since I nixed my usual escape hatch. This is hard sometimes. Big feelings feel bigger. Sadness, loneliness, anger, regret, shame—it’s all sharper. I feel it all in my body more. But I am learning that I can let it all come, and in its own time, it will go. I’m learning to trust that I can handle it, and it’s always temporary, so I try not to fight it. It really is mostly a blessing, even the really hard stuff, because then I get to see that I can come out the other side of it and be better than fine. And I get to feel more joy and more love, too. It’s ALL bigger.
Looking at these lists, there is really no question which one carries more weight. Sobriety is a blessing.
© soberfire, 2015