When I first stopped drinking I was troubled by the idea of sober forever. I hated the thought that I would have to attend AA meetings and work to stay sober forever. At the time though, I was actually thinking about drinking every day from sun-up till sun-down. I went through most days regretting how much I’d drunk the night before and thinking about whether or not I would drink that day, when I would drink, what I would drink and why it was actually ok that I was about to drink even after I’d promised myself that morning that I would not. Thinking back now, on the absolute obsession I had with drinking then, is surreal. It was like a spell that I could not break. And no matter how often I tried and failed to stop drinking I seemed stuck in the same frustrating loop.
One of the first books that I read as part of my early sobriety work that broke that spell and shifted my thinking about drinking to thinking about not drinking was Don’t let the Bastards Grind You Down – 50 Things Every Alcoholic and Addict in Early Recovery Should Know. It is a terrific little book but I almost wrapped it in brown paper when I took it out of the house because of the title. Alcoholic? Addict? Me!? Those were words that I could not own. Certainly not in public.
I was high functioning. I was what is now called a grey area drinker. I never hit a public rock bottom. I never missed work for a hangover. I never neglected my children in a way that wasn’t normalized by every Mommy’s Wine Time meme on Facebook. But so much of what I read in that little book spoke to me. So much of what the author described as an alcoholic or addict reflected me.
Reading Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down was my first experience with someone bravely telling their story and reaching back with tips and lessons that they had learned and I am so grateful to the author for getting me started on sober. But reading that book was also my first experience with knowing that something about the language of the twelve-steps and Alcoholics Anonymous was not going to work for me.
Even though I knew that I had no choice but to stop drinking and stay stopped, even though I knew that I needed to surrender to sobriety forever, I could not surrender to the stigma of the traditional attitudes about what an alcoholic was and how an alcoholic should work their recovery. And reading that book and understanding from it that recovery or sobriety would be a lifetime of work … was the first time that I had found myself thinking …
I have to work on this forever?!
I have to stay focused on sober Forever ?!
I broke the wine o’ clock spell by joining an online community that was an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. I joined an online community that I could reach on my computer and my phone so that the work of rethinking my drinking was easily added to my already complex schedule. A community where we talked about not drinking without using the stigmatized vocabulary. Rather than focusing on the disease of alcoholism we focused simply on the cure of not drinking.
There was no shame involved in trying to stop drinking simply because we had decided that we needed to stop drinking. Stopping drinking as a choice is empowering. We talked about all of the different ideas and approaches and theories of addiction and recovery and shared tips and tools and support but the focus was on each individual finding their own way which in the end is what the work to stay sober everyday forever is about for me.
In the beginning the work of staying sober was about replacing my obsession with drinking, with an obsession with NOT drinking. The whys and hows of not opening a bottle today. It was quite simple and repetitive at first. Like grade school study. But as I evolved past early sobriety into years and years sober, that work continues to be more and more empowering, more and more creative and more and more about finding my way as an individual and flowering into a freedom and empowerment that continues to surprise and delight me.
And I continue to do that work on my computer and on my phone. Easily accessing my online community whenever I have time to lend support to others or find that I need to express my own sober evolution.
It turns out that sober forever and ever and ever… can be a fantastic adventure!
If you’re “sober curious” …
If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break…
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