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Tuned-In to the Kaleidoscope of Life at 4 Months Sober
When I was a “life of the party” drinker, I spent a lot of time at bars and house parties. I had a particular fondness for dive bars. The darker and divier the better. I spent all my free time drinking with the same boring people in the same boring places and behaving in the same boring, ridiculous ways.
I didn’t look for anything new to do, because once I found a place I liked, that was where I was every single night. I would pass up opportunities for other activities because there was only one place I wanted to be. After my son was born and I started doing most of my drinking at home by myself, life became even more boring. I just sat there alone and drank while I watched the same shows over and over again on Netflix. That was it. How gross is that?
I realize that our society markets drinking as a wonderfully fun activity, but if the companies that make alcohol advertised the truth about alcohol, they’d never make any money. Alcohol robs your world of its color. It takes the many amazing facets of life and sands down the edges until it’s nothing but a smooth sphere. It’s like looking into a kaleidoscope only to see the world through a blurred, monochromatic lens: disappointing, and not particularly interesting. Every day that I live life sober, by calming myself without using alcohol, slowing down, breathing, and rethinking – I can make a different choice. Alcohol-free I am present and connected. Tuned – In rather than checked out.
When we tune in a station on the radio, it allows us to hear what is being broadcast, to listen to what is actually happening. If we get too far from the station it starts to fade out, or if we are driving beside power lines, there can be interference. I think my decision to live alcohol-free is like the station I choose. Things that happen around me in my life, things that used to trigger drinking are like interference. Can I stay focused on what is actually happening? My feelings, work situations, and life situations? Being AF gives me the opportunity to hear the real message and be alive and present. Getting too far from the signal can cause the station to fade out. I need to make occasional adjustments, stay attentive, stay tuned in.
We also tune an instrument, adjusting an instrument so that it makes the sound it was intended to make. When we adjust our brains into the alcohol-free frequency, our brains can function the way they were intended to function. Before going sober, I would drink to make my brain calm down, be quiet, to sedate itself. I never realized my thoughts were happening because something else wasn’t right. I was out of tune and unaware of my feelings. My thoughts were running rampant.
I stopped drinking alcohol in November 2020 so I had a head start this year on Dry January. This is not my first attempt at sobriety but it’s the first time I have been happy with my choice to live alcohol-free. When I tried sobriety before, it was because I knew my drinking was causing trouble, but I always thought I was missing out on something when I gave up alcohol. After a solid Dry January 2021, I’ve now started my month 4 sober, and while I’m struggling less with cravings, I’m thinking more about what it means to be tuned in to life, rather than checked out. Present. Connected. Rethinking my drinking has finally allowed me to change my station. If I don’t stay connected, my AF station could fade into my old drinking frequency.
I think one of the things that makes going Alcohol-Free so scary is that you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. During my first serious attempt at sobriety a few years ago, I distinctly remember thinking, “The days sure are long when you’re sober.” That first week was incredibly difficult for me to fill. I ended up spending more money than I would have spent drinking because I HAD to get out of the house and find something to do. I think this is a big part of why relapse is so common. When the only activity you’ve engaged in for years suddenly goes away, it becomes very hard to fill your time, and very easy to fall back into old habits.
When I was drinking and people asked me what my hobbies were, I struggled to come up with anything because all I did was drink, and “drink until I pass out every night” is not, in fact, a hobby. Now I read, write, work on puzzles, try new recipes, go for long walks with my son, work on home renovation projects, play video games, do yoga, knit, meditate, and more. I didn’t discover that I enjoyed all of those things overnight, and some of them are hobbies I returned to after going Alcohol-Free, but my list of hobbies is now ACTUALLY a list of hobbies, and I truly enjoy doing every single one of those things.
It is a slow process, but the longer you stay Alcohol-Free, the more interesting the stuff of “regular life” becomes. The color comes back into the world, and you start to notice it. As you work to fill the hours you spent drinking, you rediscover lost joys, reignite old passions, and start to lose yourself for hours in activities that truly delight you. You’ll try new things because new things start to seem attractive. That boring, smooth sphere begins to change its shape. It develops many sides and entirely new angles. The kaleidoscope becomes a kaleidoscope again, and it’s actually fun to look through.
It’s no secret that alcohol isolates us. The more we drink, the more we lose our connection with those around us, with activities we used to enjoy, with ourselves…with everything, really. By the end of my drinking career, my life consisted of me sitting alone in a recliner in the living room with my case of beer next to me and my phone in my hand. Days, weeks, months, and years went by while I sat there by myself pounding beer after beer while I binge-watched Netflix and completely disengaged from the world around me. I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t do anything, I just drank. Alone. All the time. If any of the people I live with (including my son) came into the living room to talk, I would do my level best to keep the conversation as short as possible. I just wanted them to go away so I could keep drinking. The alcohol that I had once used to help me cope with a sense of isolation had become the driving force behind it. It was my only friend, and my friend was killing me slowly.
After a few failed attempts at sobriety on my own (including a 55 ½ day streak), I decided it was time to try AA. I was trembling as I walked in the door and sat down for my first meeting. I felt embarrassed, awkward, and uncomfortable. But the people at the meeting were so friendly and so welcoming, I couldn’t help but feel heartened. I was able to relate to them. I didn’t have to hide anything from them. I could connect with them on a level that was unavailable to me with others. The experience encouraged me to reach out to a former acquaintance who had gotten sober by working the steps in 2011 and ask her to be my sponsor. I started connecting with her regularly, and we even set up playdates for our kids. I was still struggling to maintain sobriety, but I was able to do longer stretches at a time. I was connecting with other people, and with the world around me again.
The meetings didn’t last, primarily because attendance dwindled at the ones I could make and I got tired of trying to fill an awkward hour in a dark room with two or three other people, but they were the beginning of some big things. Things like truly understanding that I am not alone on this journey and that there is a whole world of people out there ready and willing to take my hand and walk with me for the price of simply asking them to. I stumbled upon the BOOM community while reading articles about being Alcohol-Free, and it is one of the best discoveries I’ve ever made. The fact that it is a global online community means that no matter what time of day or night it happens to be, there is always someone here, ready and willing to connect with you. You do not have to do this alone. Alcohol will sure tell you that you do but remember alcohol lies.
In these 4 months sober I have learned through posts and readings that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety… it is connection. I need to stay focused on what I have to do to keep my alcohol free choice close enough that I don’t fade back into drinking. I have to stay connected with others making the same decision. One way I do that is with the community support I’ve found.
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The Opposite of Addiction is Connection
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