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Holding onto the Sober Rope
Often when we are in the throes of drinking, we can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We think that there is no possible way that we can begin to get sober. For some of us, the word sober isn’t even in our vocabulary. The journey of getting sober can be arduous, and oftentimes we try, we fall, we get up again and we fall. Some of us get back up again, we are the lucky ones. This is the danger of alcohol. It lures us back in with false promises that we begin to believe. Promises of escape, of self-love. Promises that we are in control, that we can stop anytime we want. We let ourselves believe this until it is time to actually stop drinking; only then do we realize what lies we have been fed by alcohol, lies that we have swallowed quite obligingly.
When we recognize these lies for what they are, we begin to fight against them, and it is just that. It’s a fight. We battle our way to sobriety, and some of us get there but often it takes time, it takes many day ones, it takes a lot of sweat, blood and tears. It can take days, months or even years. But we do it. We get sober. We manage to string one day together, then two, then three days and so on. Once we acquire some solid sober time under our belts, it can be easier for us to stay sober than it ever was for us to get sober.
I had an image in my head last night of a dark stormy night.
The sober thing was this thick rope blowing back and forth in the wind and rain.
It wasn’t actually attached to anything,
just a big thick rope with frayed edges rough and heavy, hanging and swinging back and forth.
I was thinking that when one of us chooses to let go of that rope, the reason that everyone gets upset is that we all know how hard it is to grab the rope in the first place.
The easiest thing is to hold on once you’ve grabbed it.
The hard thing is to catch it again if you let go.
Grab it as quick as you can and don’t let go again.
Hold on and we will help you climb up that rope to yourself again.
We asked the members of our online community BOOM Rethink the Drink, members who have been sober from a few days to several years, It is easier to stay sober than it is to get sober, what does this mean to you? These are some of their answers.
Clarity is a big one for me. I was never able to get the clarity I needed whilst I was in the throes of my drinking. When I stopped for one day, then made it past day two I was able to think clearly about alcohol and what it takes away from me rather than continue to trick myself into thinking that it was adding to my life. Also, I’ve had to have a no compromise approach that people have suggested. Alcohol isn’t an option anymore for me.
When we stop drinking, our thoughts become clearer. We can recognize who we want to be as a person, and that alcohol no longer has a place in our lives. The longer that we are alcohol free, the more clarity we get around why alcohol is not good for us, and slowly- we stop swallowing the lies that alcohol feeds to us. We realize that we are capable of self-love, of self-control. That we are the authors of our own lives.
It’s easy for me, because I totally value the peace and clarity from not drinking. I can see and accept all that’s around me, and choose how to respond. That choice is powerful. Booze took it away. Never again… I can feel some serenity and clarity of thought as well as periods of better energy breaking through. I don’t want to lose these gains… It’s about trusting myself, feeling whole again now that alcohol is out of my life…
Thinking back, and playing it forward is an important exercise when cravings begin to hit, and in the early days they can hit hard and fast. We can replay past memories of our drinking days and apply that to the present and play it forward. Do we really want to go back to the pain, hangovers, lies, shame, guilt, anxiety or depression that alcohol brought into our lives?
If I am tempted, thankfully very rarely and briefly these days-I go back in time, and remind myself of the carnage that alcohol brought into my life. I also remind myself of the horrible person I was because of alcohol. My mental health has improved since I’ve been free from alcohol, I would not put any of this at risk by drinking… I can think about how disappointed I will be in the morning, not to mention the huge amount of energy it takes to try to stop drinking again…I know that I will sleep badly and that I will definitely feel like shit tomorrow. From experience, I know that it won’t be just one drink, for just one night. Looking back through my repeated history of day one’s, it is easier to resist drinking today than it is to stop drinking again tomorrow.
When we have had some solid time of sobriety, often we can forget how dangerous alcohol is for us. That’s present tense, just because we’ve chosen not to drink it anymore, it does not make alcohol any less dangerous. We can forget that though, and start to romanticize the thought of just one drink after work, just one drink after an especially long day, just one drink to fill the empty space left by alcohol. To negate this, we need to start to build new habits, sobriety isn’t just about being sober. Putting down the bottle is just the start, sobriety is a journey to really knowing yourself without the numbness that alcohol adds to your life.
It means that distancing oneself from abusing alcohol is a task of building sober muscles and galvanizing new habits. It’s about more than the initial change… To maintain momentum, we must not forget the ugly parts of our story, we mustn’t see our stories through rose colored glasses. We should be truthful to ourselves and be open to anything…Take it minute by minute, day by day… If you breach the line that you’ve drawn in the sand, it gives your brain permission to question your decision. I’m not strong enough to survive a broken family, so I made not drinking non-negotiable…
In the early days of sobriety, it is important to protect that sobriety. Treat yourself like an infant. Love yourself through the cravings and accept that they are a part of your sober journey. Eat when you need to, indulge in unhealthy food if that’s what keeps you sober. Try to fill the empty space that alcohol left in your life, but make sure that you have balance so that you don’t get so exhausted that the only thing you think will bring you relief is a drink. Starve the alcohol voice and it will die, it may be a slow death, but it it will come.
Alcohol can be very tenacious when you throw it a bone. It can get quite restless and demanding when you attempt to retrieve the bone. If you don’t throw a bone in the first place, the alcohol voice will eventually go to sleep and you can get a little peace and begin to think clearly about what you really want in life.
Try throwing yourself a bone. Figure out what you want in life sans alcohol, you’ll find that life doesn’t need to be numbed. You deserve to live and to live fully and freely, to feel everything and to realize that life is still beautiful. It is easier to cling to the sober rope once you have caught it, because you will catch it if you want it enough. Once you have caught the sober rope, hold on with both hands and don’t let go.
“In the old days, when there were still real pirates and sailors, there was this thing they would do. They tattooed their hands. The tattoos read ‘hold fast’, one word on each hand. The ‘hold fast’ tattoo was a promise.
The dictionary says ‘hold fast’ means to bear down through the storm. So ‘hold’ on your right hand was a promise to hold on tight for yourself, so that when the storm comes, you can make sure that you’re anchored. You must hold on tight, because the boat cannot afford to lose another man.
Your left hand is your promise to the ship. You need to leave your left hand open because you might see a man who’s not managed to hold on tight. You can grab him by his collar, holding onto him, fast, to stop him from going overboard.
I dedicate my other hand to you. To hold fast.
In Hebrew the word they use for hope is the same as the word they use for rope. It’s something to hold onto. When you come to a place where you feel that you’re at the end of your rope, if you don’t know what to do, make a knot at the end of that rope and hold fast, onto hope.
– From Jo Black – a South African singer
I’m holding out my left hand for all of you. I hope.
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