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Lessons From the Middle of the Lake in Year 3 Sober
Long-term sobriety is still not without its significant challenges and temptations and I need to write them down for myself.
Today I participated in a 10 km swim – one that I started doing annually with a group of friends a few years ago. We all showed up at the lake at 5:00 am. Just as the sun was breaking. And, we found ourselves faced with a snarling and angry lake. Lots of wind, lots of current and the water was jumping and jiving every which way. I knew, like sobriety, it was not going to be an easy swim today. To be clear, 10 km swims are never easy. And they take you to dark places sometimes. Today, for me, proved no exception.
I jumped in and began the long trek. My husband was kind enough to get up at 4:30 am and kayak beside me and guide my way. The first half the waves were just brutal. I felt, like in early sobriety, that there was no progress happening. I kept asking myself – where am I even going? It feels like I am not going anywhere, just bobbing up and down here and it hurts! But Mr. Jones kept calmly assuring me I was, indeed, making progress. And, like sobriety, we all need to hear about the progress from time to time. Thus, checking into our community from time to time to just simply ask –
Am I getting anywhere?
Am I making progress?
We sometimes need others to just say “yep, steady on, this sucks, but you are moving ahead.”
The second half got even harder. I got lost in the lake a bit. And so did my husband. I got angry – like really angry. And, so I wanted to take it out on him. But I tried really hard not to because rationally I knew it was not his fault. He had done nothing. This swim, like my sobriety, was my idea. The anger surprised me. I don’t know where it came from. Frustration I suppose. And that anger reminded me of times in this sobriety journey where I for sure have felt angry – frustrated.
Why can’t I just drink wine like everyone else?
Why can’t I just enjoy it?
Why do I have to know and understand that it will deeply mess me up if I go back?
Why can’t I live in ignorant drunken bliss?
I know the answers to all those questions, just like I knew it wasn’t my husband’s fault I was angry. I was just angry because the swim was hard. And sometimes I’m angry because sobriety is hard. And I don’t want it to be.
A few days ago my truly beloved husband was hitting the sauce again and talking about how delightful his glass of wine was, talking about how hard his day was, talking about how wine was a wonderful respite, etc. etc. etc.
The wine smelled good. I was tired. And, its hard always living right next to my drug of choice. So, I said to him, ‘you know, you sometimes make it really hard for me to live here and not drink. It makes it difficult to stay stopped.’ his instant retort was
‘But babe, you make it look so easy.’
The conversation ended there. I walked away and read a book.
Here’s what I wanted to say tho… I make it look easy??? Seriously??? That’s only because you are really fucking lucky you cannot see inside my head, you can’t see the soul searching, you can’t see the powerlifting I’ve done in my head around mental reorganization. You have not been awake with me at 3:00 am while I toss and turn in anxious frustration. You turn to your wine, while I take myself on another fucking walk around the block, find another podcast, read another quit lit book or write another blog, all, in a bid to quit the insidious habit that was ruining our lives. Now, my friend, it is only ruining yours.’
I don’t want to burden him, or anyone frankly, with my sober journey. I’ve always been fairly selfish about my journey. My triumphs are mine, and the challenges are mine. I don’t want this circle to be any bigger. But I really wish sometimes that he could see that I really was ‘that bad‘ and that I only make it ‘look easy‘ because I continue to work my ass off at building a new and better life for myself.
Back to the lake –
I kept pushing forward. But close to the end, I felt emotionally drained, physically drained and disconnected. And, at one point I just wanted to stop. I told my husband this from a few feet away. Me bobbing in the water, he bobbing in his kayak. And he said
“Do you want to just hold on to the boat for a few minutes?’
‘Of course not!!!!” I shouted back. ‘That is cheating!!!! Don’t ever ask me that again!!!!’ (Poor dear husband).
Any long-distance swimmer knows that touching the boat gets you immediately disqualified in a race. It is considered cheating. And, we swimmers also know, that if we touch the boat, we might very well just give up. The temptation to quit the race would be too strong. So, not touching the boat is essential for our mental balance. And I think ‘touching the boat’ is a bit like slipping in later sobriety and letting yourself have a drink. If you let yourself ‘slip’ and ‘touch the boat’ there is a good chance nothing more will come of it, but there is an equal chance that you will give up and give in. At least I worry that I will. And then, I would happily (at first) let myself be pulled along and just give in.
All to say, I’ve been facing temptation here and there these last weeks. And some of the temptation has been strong. But I’m not going to ‘touch the boat’ and slip. Instead, I am going to remember how great I felt today after that damn swim was over. How good it felt to be onshore congratulating my fellow swimmers and to see, that, in spite of the waves and water madness, we all made it across the lake and back today. Long-term sobriety and I’m closer to shore, but I’m still in the middle of the lake too. I may be for quite some time. But I think, for today, I am ok with that.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be almost 28 months out in this sober game. I’m not going back. It has led me to some amazing resources and on some amazing paths But its not easy. I think its just that its important.
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