I am 6 months sober today. I used to look at people with 6 months of sobriety under their belts and wonder how on EARTH they managed that. I couldn’t even manage 6 DAYS, let alone 6 MONTHS. I was obsessed with drinking. It seemed impossible to live without it. It seemed huge and terrifying and completely out of reach. Six months may as well have been a whole lifetime. I wanted to grab those sober people and scream, “WHAT’S YOUR SECRET??” until they coughed up the magic formula that would make me capable of achieving such a monumental task.
Ten years. It took me 10 YEARS of anxiety, denial, trying to moderate, making rules about when or what or how much I could drink, slipping, sliding, falling flat on my face, embarrassing myself and others, lying, sneaking, blatantly refusing to stop, hurting those I love, hurting myself, tears, self-loathing, hangovers, benders, one night stands, thousands and thousands of dollars, lost relationships, lost jobs, lost dignity, an extra hour before the first drink here, a whole day there, a couple days here, a week there, 10 days here, two weeks there, that time I made it 55 1/2 days…and now this… 6 months without a drink. 6 months sober!
I am Rejecting the Drinking Obsession!
Drinking Obsession part 1 – Obsessed with the importance of it
I became obsessed with alcohol at almost the exact same moment I was legally allowed to drink. Craft brews were starting to take off in a big way when I reached legal drinking age, and I couldn’t get enough. I sampled everything and came to consider myself a connoisseur. I took pride in being a “beer snob,” and subjected anyone within earshot to more information than they probably ever wanted to know, droning on and on about hops and coriander and who really even cares? I did. And I made sure everyone knew how much.
Drinking Obsession part 2 – Obsessed with the need of it
As the alcohol took hold of me more and more, the obsession changed. I remained obsessed with beer, but rather than obsessing about type and quality, I obsessed about when and how much. I started trying to moderate my drinking, and spent my evenings steeped in misery as I agonized over the amount of alcohol “available” to me on a given night. I stepped myself down from six beers per night to five, then to four, then to three, regretting the loss of each one. It became too difficult to leave half of a six pack in the fridge, so I started to buy 40’s. As I drank them, I lamented how quickly they disappeared. I could hear my brain anxiously telling me that it “wasn’t enough,” while simultaneously attempting to soothe the part of me that was seriously worried about my drinking by reassuring that voice that I was “only” drinking one 40 so it couldn’t be all that bad.
Eventually the “not enough” voice would win, and back I’d go to six or more beers per night, all the while thinking that I should really stop.
Drinking Obsession part 3 – Simply obsessed
Alcohol became my first thought upon waking and my last thought before sleeping, every single day. By the end, I would open my eyes and think, “I don’t want to drink anymore,” then proceed to think about alcohol all day long. If I had to work, I would spend all morning swearing I wasn’t going to stop at the liquor store. Well, maybe I would, just tonight. Yes, just tonight. I’ll buy 15 beers and I can drink three per night, so that should last me for five days. Three beers isn’t so bad. I won’t get drunk off of three beers.
If it was the weekend or I was between jobs, I would most likely start drinking within an hour of waking up. The beer was RIGHT THERE, after all. Plus, it’s not like I’m going to avoid it for long. I’ll just drink the three that are left, then I’ll go about my day. I won’t buy any more until after 5:00. But three isn’t very many, and I don’t even have a buzz. The liquor store is open…nobody else is up yet…I’ll just pop out and grab another case, but I’ll only drink one per hour. That way I won’t get drunk.
It was absolutely EXHAUSTING. All the obsessing, all the negotiating, all the guilt and shame and hope and despair and misery…it just never went away.
Then I learned a very important word. That word is, “No.”
Six months ago I learned that the cure to my drinking obsession was simple.
Since August 29, 2020, every time I see alcohol I say, “No.” Not out loud, and not even particularly loudly in my head, I just think it firmly and decisively.
Every time Snidely peeks his head out of his corner and pipes up with,
“Remember those 40’s? You liked those 40’s.”
I say, “No.”
Admittedly, sometimes I follow that with, “Shut UP Snidely!”
but the “No,” always comes first.
There is no further discussion.
There is no “But.”
There is no, “Maybe”
There is no, “What about…?”
There is no rationalization, there is no conversation, and there is no negotiation.
There is only, “No.”
I reject alcohol. I reject it the same way I rejected unwanted advances from the creepy dudes I met in the dive bars I loved so well.
“No.” End of story.
That is simple but it is not always easy . There is a bit of magic behind that “No”. The magic formula I used to make it 6 months without alcohol, here it is:
I will do whatever it takes to make sure I do not drink today.
I will go to bed early. I will sit in the shower until the water turns cold. I will eat an entire bag of candy, a pint of ice cream, and so many french fries I feel like I’m going to puke. I will lose myself for hours in video games. I will chain smoke cigarettes, even though I quit smoking cigarettes in 2017. I will obsessively clean my house. I will read post after post on BOOM. I will read article after article on Boozemusings. I will scroll social media for far longer than is healthy. I will go for a walk as long as I know that my feet won’t take me to the liquor store. I will give my debit card to my aunt and tell her to lock it up until I’m not worried I will buy alcohol. I will smoosh my face into my cat’s fur until she starts grumbling. I will hug my son until he starts complaining. I will do yoga videos. I will do sit ups, push ups, and squats. I will fall down the YouTube rabbit hole. I will cry. I will scream. I will do anything and everything I can to distract myself, because I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make sure I do not drink today.
At first it was really hard. Every day was a battle. There were times when just getting from one minute to the next took everything I had. I was always, ALWAYS thinking about alcohol or sobriety or both. Always. I had to stay distracted all the time.
Now, at 6 months sober it’s not so bad. I don’t often have to fight to maintain my sobriety. I’m used to it. Sobriety feels normal most of the time. Triggers still pop up from time to time. I still have bad days here and there. They always pass. It helps that I don’t have cravings like I did at first. I don’t have all-consuming battles with anxiety anymore. It feels great to be over my drinking obsession. I don’t typically think about alcohol or sobriety or both all the time. I don’t constantly have to keep myself distracted. Not usually, anyway. Most days are fine, if a little boring. I’ll tell you what, though, after everything I went through to be able to say I’m six months sober, I’ll take boring any day of the week. Boring is EXACTLY where I want to be.
And do you know what?
I feel better.
At 6 months sober all the mental space and emotional energy I used to spend on alcohol is now being spent on living my life, and let me tell you, even my crazy life doesn’t use up as much bandwidth as booze did. When I was drinking, I was constantly emotionally overwhelmed. I went to pieces over the smallest inconveniences. I couldn’t cope with anything. Everything was just too much, because obsessing about alcohol was consuming every single resource I had. These days, I’m….fine, for lack of a better word. I’m pretty even keeled most of the time. I have my moments, as we all do, but now I have space to work on that stuff. I have breathing room to handle problems that arise. I have the mental space I need to process things, and I owe it all to the power of one tiny word.
Six months sober and I owe it all to, “No.”
I feel settled and calm. I feel quiet and content. Earlier this evening my son asked me why I was whispering…I wasn’t whispering, I was just speaking without the loud, look at me projection my voice usually has. It feels so weird. For nearly ten years, my life has centered around anxiety, and alllllllllll that anxiety was either directly about alcohol, or was indirectly related to it in that I was anxious about all the ways alcohol was messing up my life (read: in every way possible).
All of that anxiety stemmed from my drinking obsession. Now that feeling is just gone.
I used to read about people in recovery, people who were 6 months or a year or 10 years sober and wonder how they got to the place they were in. I tried everything under the sun to find a way to “feel good enough to stop drinking” so I could get there, too. Turns out, the only way to get there IS to stop drinking. The way you break the drinking obsession is to live alcoholo free.
To those of you who are struggling, to those of you still wrestling with your Snidely, to those of you who are frustrated, embarrassed, or just plain fed-up, I say this:
Try as many times as it takes. Feel the feelings that come with the struggle, but whatever you do, do not let them stop you. Quit over and over and over again. Quit as many times as you have to quit. One day, that quit will stick, and you’ll be so glad you picked yourself up, put the bottle down, turned around, put one foot in front of the other, and never looked back. If I could do it, so can you.
I believe in you.
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