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Succeeding at Taking a Break from the Booze
Today is Day 45 being Alcohol-Free.
For me, it’s actually a day of particular significance. Why? Because today matches the longest AF period I’ve had in the past 20 years or so. But unlike the last time I reached this point, this time feels different.
Allow me to start at the beginning. Or, at least in the middle.
Over the past couple of years, my drinking started to concern me (yep, I was concerned when there wasn’t anything for me to drink! Ahaha! Kidding… but not really). It wasn’t so much the amount I was drinking, I wasn’t going out (or staying in) and getting hammered with any frequency (although that did occasionally happen), but I was drinking almost every night. Tough day at work … have a couple of drinks to unwind. Something good happened and it’s time to celebrate … Have a couple of drinks to add to the good feeling. Whatever the occasion, far too often I found a drink in my hand.
The issue became crystal clear to me one evening as I was having a conversation with my 16 year-old son, holding a drink, of course. As he was talking, I tried to remember the last time I’d had a conversation with him when I wasn’t holding a glass of Bourbon, a bottle of beer, or a martini, or some other “adult” beverage. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d really talked to him when I wasn’t drinking. “Holy shit,” I thought, “what a poor excuse for a role model I am.” Something needed to change.
So, last summer I decided to stop drinking for a while. An “alcohol reset” is how I thought of it. Made it to 26 days and several of my coworkers commented on my willpower during corporate receptions and events. But I quickly slipped back into old habits.
Flash forward to October. The feeling that my drinking has really become unhealthy is growing and I feel even more strongly that I want to go AF again. While browsing through substance abuse and recovery books on Amazon.com, I stumble across a book entitled “The 30-Day Sobriety Solution.” Each chapter of the book (30 in total) presents a new topic and new tool to be applied by the reader / participant in their pursuit of “thriving in sobriety” (their term, not mine). I bought the book and thought it, and the exercises, were extremely helpful and I recommend it to anyone looking for tools to help them cope in their AF life. I worked through the 30-Day Sobriety Solution and went 45 days AF.
Want to know the stupid part, though? I made sure I completed the 30 days worth of exercises in 30 days. Want to know why? So I could drink again as quickly as possible! I mean, if I can go 30 days sober, it means I don’t have a problem, right? I consider myself a reasonably smart guy, but talk about the height of stupidity.
Ultimately, of course, the problem wasn’t the book or the exercises, the problem was me. Day 46 was Thanksgiving and I allowed myself a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. Felt pretty darn proud of myself when I stopped at a couple of glasses and thought, “there we go, a successful alcohol reset for me.”
But, of course, I had stopped the momentum on my “Little Sober Car” (thanks to Belle from Tired of Thinking About Drinking for introducing me to that wonderful metaphor) and, as they say, old habits die hard. I had opened the front door and my drinking habits let themselves right back into my life, once again taking up unwelcome residence.
Flash forward another five or six weeks. I’m right back where I started, having a drink or two every night (or more, let’s be honest), even though I’ve promised myself I am going to take a break. A bit exasperated, I pull the 30-Day Sobriety Solution back up on my iPad. I plan to work through the exercises again and, this time, I will not rush through them. If the “30 Days” becomes 60 days, or 90 days, so be it. I want the change to really take hold this time. So, I role up my AF sleeves and go back to work.
So, back to where I began … Day 45.
Tomorrow is Day 46, which means it will “officially” be the longest period I have been AF since I was in my mid 20’s. Unlike my effort in October, this time it feels different. I really don’t have any desire to drink right now. I’m enjoying waking up in the morning and feeling good (okay, again, let’s be honest, my knees, my ankles, my back, etc. are pretty fucking stiff and sore, I am getting older after all, but my mind is clear. I’ll take the trade-off!). What’s more, is I feel so much more present in my life. Sure, alcohol can help numb the stress and pain and fears that come with life, but it doesn’t stop there. It numbs everything, leaving you in a fuzzy haze that precludes you from really participating in your own life. The hell with that! The truth is we all have a limited number of moments in our lives, which makes those moments very precious. I want to fully live and experience every one of them!
There is a bottle of Bourbon in my freezer which I should have poured out when I started my sobriety journey . I pulled it out of the freezer the other day, pulled off the cap, held it to my nose, and took a deep breath (psychologists would refer to this as “dangerous behavior”). Yep, smells like Bourbon, all right. Other than that … nothing. No desire to have a drink, no desire to numb myself, no desire to start down that path again. I put the bottle back in the freezer and said, “I’m not afraid of you anymore.”
My little sober car has some momentum, indeed. Or. to use a different metaphor, my little sobriety rocket is gaining altitude. I have not escaped the unrelenting pull of gravity, maybe I never will, but I can see the vastness of space and billions of stars above me, beckoning to me. I can feel myself growing lighter.
I know there are hard times ahead of me, times of doubt and uncertainty and temptation. But my little sober rocket is pushing me higher, my job now is to keep that momentum building.
On to Day 46!
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You can find more posts by this author here : Decide, Survive then Thrive
and related posts here: How I Stopped Drinking