When I think about all the things that helped me get and stay sober, the no. 1 was Curiosity.
You see, in 2015, at the age of 62, I have to admit I’d never done this before: never quit drinking, never considered I had a problem, never done a dry January (beyond my wildest imagination!). I thought about alcoholism as someone who drank 8 pints of beer, or 2 bottles of wine a night (there’s a lot more alcohol in the wine, btw!) Not my 2 glasses of wine 3 week nights, and a bottle on Friday and Saturday nights. I was a lightweight, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I? …..
Anyway, it was my deep depression, the war zone at home AND curiosity about who I was behind the glass that got me working on getting sober. Curiosity led me to buy-alcohol free drinks to try in the early days in 2015: Becks Blue. I didn’t like it, as I’d occasionally enjoyed Becks in my drinking years. Instead, I tried different teas and lots of cordials. Cordials helped with the sugar cravings.
I was also curious about sitting in my favourite armchair, and resisting the urge to drink. I found it appeared like a wave, rolling towards me, obliterating me in it (the height of the craving) and then collapsing behind me as I rode it out. The craving would last for 20 – 30 minutes, and then disappear. Drinking anything eased it, I found.
I was curious going into pubs (after 3 months) and ordering AF drinks. Still such a poor choice – that sucked! Like I was 10 again. But staying AF was the most important thing as I must not trigger the wavering neural pathways expecting their reward! At any cost! So I downed soda and lime and orange juice and soda and sugary soft drinks with soda – anything to reduce the sweetness. I was able to chat happily with drinkers, tell them my drink choice and not feel I had to explain why I wasn’t drinking. When pressed, I’d say “I’m on antibiotics.” I used that excuse for another 3 months.
Curiosity took me to yoga which I’d often practiced in my bedroom in South Africa, back in the 60s. It took me to more peaceful places and tears which my soul needed. It eased me out into a more flexible body and person: the body becomes the mind and vice-versa, I found. I continue it weekly, as a wonderful practice.
Curiosity took me traveling in 2016, when I spent 2 months in Ethiopia to get away from my critical husband who was so disappointed he’d lost his drinking buddy. There, I found nothing but love and laughter in a non-drinking family (wow, what a revelation!) and a great dog, Bobby , whom I cared for daily. I loved our walks together.
Curiosity took me to therapy to unlock the deeply held childhood trauma, which I realised I was blocking out/running away from. I found an incredible therapy called Open Dialogue in the UK, which has been enormously helpful. I intend to use it to help me until the end of 2018.
Curiosity led me to reconnect with many old friends and former colleagues, who had no idea of the tough times we’d had as a family, through grief from too many deaths, where alcohol hadn’t helped at all. Two-thirds of them had the same problem – today, we all turn to booze as a comfort, when in fact it destroys our innate capacity to cope with tough times, and support one another through it.
I WAS bigger than the drink, I was becoming ME again.
Curiosity helped me set up a social club in 2017, just aimed at getting lonely people together, in our local town. I posted on Facebook, and within 1 hour I’d had 15 yeses ; 55 in 24 hours – wow! Today, we’re 70 members, although just 10 are really active. I don’t care, as 10 is better than none. Numbers no longer matter, as long as a few enjoy and enrich their lives.
Late last year, curiosity culminated in moving home to the west of England, close to where my father was born, and well away from the hyper-competitive South East. My soul loves the wide open spaces and the laid-back locals.
I was curious enough to experiment with 1-2 drinks 4 times a year, and then ditched all booze, because my mental health is wonderful: zero depression and just tiny bits of anxiety, which we all get from time to time. I’ve emerged from hell into utter and blissful peace! And best of all, we’re happier as a family.
Be curious about how each day will unfold, rather than “same old, same old” or even “one day at a time.” Be curious – look for the small news around you (nothing to do with world events.)
We were all curious as kids. I recommend it as a life-saving/enhancing strategy.
This post was shared with the Boozemusings Community by Annette Allen, an active member of BOOM Community Rethink the Drink and the author of An Ethiopian Odyssey
Find More from Annette Here
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