I never thought it possible when I quit drinking but actual days and weeks go by and I don’t think about it at all now. I used to think about drinking, and then not drinking, and then more drinking literally every day! This morning on my way to work I thought to myself “ how the hell did I ever do this hungover ?” Honestly, I don’t know how I did it but I know I felt like shit every day. How insane is that?
Friday afternoon. Three years ago at this time I would have been literally salivating, waiting for that first glass of white wine to hit my lips. Getting ready to drive home, literally anticipating that first drop. I would have had a couple of bottles stocked up for the event. And even though the idea of having to stock up for one night made me feel guilty, it also made me feel secure. I wouldn’t run out. I wouldn’t have to moderate, measure, or think about my drinking.
That fear of running out, and the consequent shame it brings – in recognizing that you can’t just stop or don’t really want to just stop, that you want to keep on drinking until the lights are out – literally and metaphorically – man, that stuff takes a toll on you. At least it sure did on me. It caused lots of anxiety, lots of planning, and lots of self-justification and denial too.
But hey, now, today, 2021…..I’m on year 3 sober and I never run out. I never run out of the joy I have at being sober, even when its hard. I never run out of the relief I feel at not having to make sure I’m stocked up, or that I will have to ‘run out’ in the snow, the rain, the whatever. I never run out of the relief I feel, waking up Saturday morning, feeling fully intact, rested, and real.
It’s Friday afternoon but rather than running out to get wine, I feel kind of ready to get cozy. I’m tired. I can get into my comfy clothes. I can cook a super leisurely dinner. Maybe I’ll rally and get the ice skates on after dinner and go hit a hockey puck around with the kids. Maybe not. But I won’t have any anxiety about running out. Any anxiety about what the need to not run out means. And frankly, that seems to be a much better way for me to go into the weekend.
Today I am reflective on long-term sobriety and how each year so far has felt distinctly different.
Year one sober is the battle royale. The fight to just kick alcohol out of one’s life. And it’s so hard. But so worth it.
Year two sober for me, was about introducing myself to the land of the feels and finding joy again. Finding out the things that gave me joy, (there are lots of things). But also learning that bad feelings hurt, but they pass. And if I allow myself to feel them, they pass faster. And if I talk about them or share them, they become less scary.
And year three sober? I think about how year three of sobriety for me to date has been an interesting exercise in looking back. This reflective space may well be driven by the impending departure of my mom (it’s close now) and/or that we are so heavily locked down that I don’t see people much. But the observations feel valid.
So now, when I look back on the preceding decade before I finally quit drinking I see a lot of examples of how badly I wanted to escape my drinking but did not know it! I never identified ‘drinking’ as the thing I wanted to escape from. I just wanted to escape from everything else.
I took active steps to escape my job, active steps to escape my marriage, active steps to escape or sever friendships, and active steps to distance myself from my kids. I continually felt like I just needed this space to breathe, to find myself, to understand who I was – whatever – just so I could be me. I even tried to convince my partner to buy a house we could not afford in a small Central American country – a total escape from reality – to escape the pain in my life. At the time I would have never thought about these actions as me trying to escape the pain drinking was bringing me. I would have seen these actions as proactive steps to regain control, find happiness and peace…all while walking around with a wine bottle perched on my shoulder, telling me in a few hours, after the sunset, we could spend some quality time together.
I’ve ditched the alcohol now. And I no longer want to escape. I don’t want to move to a Central American country. I want to be right here. With my family. I cherish my time with them. I don’t want a different job. I want this one. It’s hard, it challenges me and it forces me to grow as a person and face down my fears. I don’t need space. I need connection and community, as messy as it is. And I need to feel all the feels, because they help me find me.
As I begin my walk through my 3rd year in sobriety I am struck by how deeply in denial I was about the damage alcohol was doing to ME. To cloaking who I truly was and what I was capable of doing with my life. Its sort of struck me how much I was underestimating the role of DENIAL in my life. I don’t want to do that anymore.
More on Denial from Our Boozemusings Blog :
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More on Running Out and Running away From Inside our Private Community BOOM Rethink the Drink :
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