One of the craziest things about being sober is being caught in some sort of time-space continuum. The first few sober days are horrible. I can still remember that feeling of clinging onto the edge of a cliff by my very short fingernails: the awful cravings and the sleeplessness. The sleeplessness was the pits. For me, it lasted about 2 weeks. I used to sit in bed taking photographs of objects in my room. I got to know my wallpaper intimately discovering patterns in it that I had never seen before. When the sleep deprivation stopped, my body started getting better so I swore that I would never go through that again. I’ve been lucky. So far, touch wood, the wine witch hasn’t seriously come a- calling.
The weirdest thing about not drinking is that once you get through the initial withdrawal your physical health shows improvement which has a knock-on effect on your mind. Yes, you may go through a period when the toxins are expelled and your face explodes into pimples. Yes, you may catch every bug going and you may feel as though you will never be well again, but you feel BETTER. Then one day, the pus-filled pustules disappear, your eyes shine, your hair ( if you have any) gleams, your step springs and people start to comment on how well you look and you feel fucking great. You congratulate yourself that all of that healthy shit like running up mountains and swimming 50 lengths a day has started to pay off. So you find something else to beat yourself up about some other irrelevant shit to punish yourself for. The trouble is that fighting an addiction to alcohol is a mental battle fought in the head. It takes an awful lot more than exercise, healthy eating, taking up a hobby that you’ve always fancied and shagging a new partner ( or reconnecting with your existing partner in a shagging sort of way) to get to grips with, vanquish and eliminate from your life.
Drinking fucks up your brain. Drinking causes brain injury that has a significant effect on the way that we perceive ourselves. It takes a lot of hard work to step away from the old you and build the new you from scratch. Yes, the brain is plastic; its plasticity enabling us to learn new things and build new habits, but in order to do that we need to be prepared to really part with the old, not just paper it over with distractions and achievements and that takes time.
The shittiest thing about being sober is learning to face and overcome the periodic depressions that beset us. The medical profession calls them PAWS. I call them growing pains. Much like teenagers, ex-drinkers can go through and do some seriously crazy shit to prove that they are actually back in the real world. However, if you look at it objectively, who else other than a fucked-up ex-drinker writes a 50,000-word novel in 19 days, does 8 years worth of musical study in less than 3 and a whole other host if shit that other people think is amazing but you still think is pretty ordinary, then has the temerity to complain that they are bored and life is dull?? See what I mean about brain injury? I had never before witnessed such amazing feats of human endeavor than since I became involved in this site. All of them performed for one reason and one reason only: distraction.
I think that at an early stage those people who make the decision that they will never drink again decide that they have to run harder and faster than the booze does thereby throwing themselves into an alternate universe of over-achievement that they think of as being pedestrian.
Think about it. Think about the crazy shit that you have done. Think about the crazy shit that you have read that other newly sober people have done. Think about how you still in your heart of hearts think that you are a loser and that other people will notice if you’re not careful. Thinks about the way you still judge yourself and lack self-compassion. Think about the heavy weight of perfectionism that you place on your shoulders. Then take a step back, take a deep breath and say to yourself: I am a human being and I am doing the best I can.
Here are some of the lessons that I have learnt along the way that I try to stick to, although I have to admit that sometimes my patience is sorely tried and I have to bite my fingers until they bleed to stop them from typing what I really think.
Try not to judge: you were there once otherwise, you wouldn’t be here now. Try not to blame: we all have crazies and sometimes they come out the crazier than others. Try to be kind especially to yourself.
We are all very fragile here, even the old warhorses. They may seem tough and sorted, but they need a kind and loving word or two too.
And it’s OK to sit on your ass and do fuck all. The booze won’t come and get you if you stop and sit still, but it will come and get you if you go looking for it. You have in your possession a bigger and more powerful drug that will give you all that you need and more whenever you need it: Your sense of humour.
This post is by MrsP. You can find more of MrsP’s writing Here in Boozemusings
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