I think it’s safe to say that many people who misuse alcohol are looking for a “quick fix.” That is certainly true in my case. Uncomfortable emotions? Drink. Messy house stressing me out? Drink. Job not going well? Drink. More bills than money? Drink. Want to have fun? Drink. Of course, we all know how that story ended. The magic pill, er, magic elixir, that I had been using to cure all my woes brought me to my knees.
I used to sometimes think, “If I can just stop drinking for a year, everything will go back to normal.” When I was at my most desperate, surveying the wreckage of my life due to alcohol addiction (usually while drinking, mind you), I started to see sobriety as the solution to all my problems. “If I can just stop drinking,” became a mantra that played on an almost continuous loop in my head. I had a mental picture of my sober life, and in that sober life, all of my problems had been solved.
Here’s the thing: going alcohol free is absolutely the best decision I have ever made, and it has made a huge difference in my life. At the same time, becoming alcohol free has only SOLVED one problem: the binge drinking problem.
I absolutely had to kick alcohol to the curb and double bolt the door. That was step one. Once that was done, though, I realized that I still had a lot of work to do. Stopping drinking by itself doesn’t make a new job appear in front of me. It doesn’t make my son trust me again. It doesn’t make me thinner, fix the floors in my house, or even keep me from drinking again. The thing that does all that is persistence.
I have taken more than one stab at sobriety in the past. Until this time around, I couldn’t make it stick. I think that was due in large part to the fact that I was holding on to the mentality that one magic pill (in this case, quitting drinking) could fix everything. I’d sober up, look around, realize that all of the problems I’d been avoiding with alcohol were still there, and leap right back down the rabbit hole.
Being Alcohol Free isn’t a quick fix, and by itself does not solve my problems. What it does is make it possible for ME to solve them.
Sober. I no longer feel overwhelmed by what needs to be done. I no longer feel defeated by the stuff of everyday life. I no longer expect someone or something else to solve my problems for me. I have built up a lovely toolbox chock full of ideas, strategies, and plans to get to where I want to be, and I actually have the energy and drive to put those plans into action. Nothing changes overnight, but as long as I keep moving, as long as I persist in the pursuit of my goals, I know I will get there eventually.
Ultimately, the power I imagined sobriety holding is power that I hold, and that is a wonderful feeling.
Last night I dreamt of trying to sneak around and buy alcohol, but I never quite managed to do it. I would go into the liquor store and look at the booze, or stand outside and look in the window, but I never made a purchase. I just kept thinking, “What am I even going to do with all this (alcohol)??” I also dreamt of going to a bar I was 86’ed from quite a while ago. Nobody recognized me but I still didn’t drink. I just remember telling myself, “I don’t really want to do this,” so I didn’t. As I recall, I left to get fast food, but Wendy’s wasn’t open.
I think my brain is finally catching up. It knows it used to want to drink, but now I get the feeling it’s not so sure anymore, hence the dreams. They actually sort of mirrored a conversation I had with my son. I told him that while it’s still important to take this all ODAAT and that I can’t promise more than that, I get the feeling that this really is forever. It’s sticking and it’s sticking well. I was honest and told him that yes, I do think about drinking from time to time: when I’m particularly stressed, or remember that it’s the right time of year for a favorite seasonal brew, or when I pass the alcohol displays at the supermarket; however, my next thought is always, “No,” or “Not today,” or “I don’t really want to do that.” Most importantly, those responses no longer feel desperate, or like I’m forcefully telling myself no. It feels pretty much the same as, “I don’t want to see that movie.” Just something I could do, but don’t have much interest in.
None of this is to say that sobriety has magically become easy, or that it’s all full of sunshine and roses. It’s more like sobriety has become another item on the list of stuff I do to maintain my life — kind of like laundry. I like having clean clothes, so I wash them even though I don’t always feel like doing laundry. I like being present and emotionally stable, so I stay sober even though sometimes I think about having a drink.
Six months ago, I never imagined that I’d feel this way about alcohol. It has taken time and consistent effort but the work is paying off, and that payout is getting a little bit bigger every day. Stay the course, friends. It’s worth it.
I will not drink today.
More Reading from our Boozemusings Blog :
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