Yes, Sobriety Keeps Getting Better
I got through that tough spell.
It took five months, but I’m back and happy to report that my spring-into-summer tough spell did indeed shift as I knew it would. Mostly, it took patience, faith, and willingness to tolerate some discomfort. I’d love to say that’s all it took, that there was no “figuring it out,” because I can get so stuck trying to “figure out” and often, for me, the thing to do is get off the hamster wheel of rumination and stop chewing on whatever it is.
In this case, I kept up my self-care activities and meditated a lot, and in between I was able to think it over without obsessing. I discovered that while things were generally going well, I had been anticipating several stressors culminating at the same time in mid-June—wrapping up the school year, my in-laws’ arrival for a long visit, and getting ready for a camping trip. None of them were particularly stressful by themselves, and in fact point to blessings—being able to go camping as a family, having parents that are alive and well. It just felt like a lot to manage all at once.
Part of me felt silly, and with everything people are dealing with in this crazy world, I feel that way again looking at that little list of non-problems. But there it is. I felt overwhelmed in anticipation of that week coming up, and remaining unconscious about that was giving me alcohol cravings and making me pissed off that I couldn’t just take the edge off nicely like all the normal people. As soon as I discovered and accepted what was bothering me underneath, I was able to plan for some ways to move through that time with more ease, and my desire to drink disappeared.
It has come back, very briefly, twice since then. Both times it was in response to conflict and I thought, “Yeah, I could really use a drink right now.” I don’t deny to myself that yes, it used to help in a certain way, and I don’t have access to that kind of instant, easy relief anymore. That makes getting through those times harder. But you wait it out, and it passes, and you’re clear and you feel better anyway even if it took a little longer, and you have no regrets and you can wake up feeling good the next morning. Way better.
How sobriety gets better: Weddings
When I was five weeks sober, my sister got married. Here’s what I wrote about it in a previous post:
I so wanted to rise above the struggle and simply be happy for my loved ones, untainted by this beast. I wish I could say I was grateful to be fully present and alert for every moment, focusing only on them, not my own inner drama. Nope. It absolutely sucked not drinking. That’s the plain truth. The ceremony was beautiful. Then, the cocktail hour was of course ALL ABOUT THE BOOZE, and I felt deprived. Instead of focusing on the occasion and enjoying the lovely people around me, I was having my own little personal pity party about my seltzer with lime. I scolded my kids harshly for getting their clothes dirty rolling down the hill. I never get uptight about that kind of thing—I like my kids to have fun and get dirty—even at a wedding. I was trying, trying, trying, but I was so tightly wound. The dinner was hard. The dancing was hard. I love to dance, and I made myself get up there for a couple songs, but I didn’t really feel it. The whole day and night, I felt raw, shaky and awkward and like I was on the periphery of it all. I simply had to soldier through it. I did the best I could and I didn’t drink. Everything went perfectly for my sister and it was a beautiful wedding. I’m sad that I couldn’t be present in the way I would have liked to be, but I guess I wouldn’t have been if I’d been drinking, either.
Fast forward two years, to my best friend’s wedding. I had a blast, and it wasn’t hard. Like, at all.
I had the honor of doing the first toast at the reception. I fear public speaking big time, so I was nervous about it. You would have thought I’d have wished I could have a couple drinks beforehand to loosen me up, but I felt grateful that wasn’t in the picture even though I had to feel the full extent of my anxiety. If I had been drinking, I would have been focused on having just enough, but not too much before the speech. I would have been preoccupied with managing my drinking and my anxiety instead of focusing on my friends’ happy occasion. Then when the toast was over and the tension release happened, I would have gotten smashed.
Instead, I managed my anxiety about the toast by accepting it and being willing to tolerate it. I was fully present for the ceremony and the reception, in the way I wanted to be but couldn’t for my sister’s wedding. I felt relaxed (once the toast was done, anyway) and happy, and talked to everyone with ease, perfectly happy with my club soda.
And I DANCED. Not for a couple songs, going through the motions. For most of the night, with freedom and abandon. If you’re newly sober and not seeing how that can happen, I’m here to tell you that I didn’t believe it either, but it happened!
As we approach the holiday season, I’m wishing everyone sober days that keep getting better.
© Copyright Soberfire, 2016, all rights reserved.