If you are going to stop drinking, you quite simply have to stop drinking, but stopping is not easy. I think the hardest part in my early days of TRYING to quit drinking was the self sabotage, and lying to myself. I remember waking up hungover, full of shame and self-loathing, and thinking to myself as I brushed my teeth:
“You are better than this. You deserve to be SOBER”
… scary anxiety….
“OK, don’t worry about sober so much but you DON’T deserve this hangover crap! How about laying off the booze today?”
And as I would look at myself in the mirror, with tired eyes but fresh breath, I would promise myself,
“Okay! No booze today!”
And I thought I meant it, at the time – before the coffee and the stress of the day kicked in. Sadly, as the morning faded, the promise to myself faded, too. At some point between lunch time and dinner time, I stopped guarding the “OFF Switch”. I quietly convinced myself that the morning wasn’t really “that bad”, and the wine witch quietly danced in my brain, because she knew that my commitment to myself to quit drinking was half-hearted and bullshit.
I stopped protecting my quit. I KNEW in my brain that I planned to sabotage my sobriety, and I would open a bottle before dinner…. now, I just needed the “excuse”.
Bad work meeting. Or Good work meeting.
Unexpected good news. Or Unexpected Bad News.
Shoot, anything could be the “excuse”, if I’m being totally honest. After the first sip of betrayal, there was invariably a twinge of regret, and a promise to the person left behind this morning that I wouldn’t “overdo it”, and that it would be “just one”….
Another bullshit lie.
The only person who knows about your true bullshit meter is yes, you.
I always need to be vigilant to the little lies that can justify sabotaging my sobriety. There’s also a chicken and the egg scenario that often happens in my life, in retrospect, that I am more aware of today.
For example, I didn’t feel like myself, so I went to the doctor and got a prescription for antidepressants…. after a period of time, I felt better and figured I didn’t need them anymore, as if I was “cured”, so I took myself off of them…. and gradually became depressed again. It took me a couple of these loops before the AHA lightbulb flickered – the medicine was doing its job, so don’t toss it away.
I fell for the moderate drinking trap in 2015, after hitting one year of sobriety! Literally, I had “just a glass” of wine one year to the date, because my alcohol starved brain convinced me that I didn’t “have a problem”. Within weeks, I was back to where I had been before, if not worse. Three years later, I recognized the trap that I set for myself.
The fact was I stopped Protecting my Quit. Why?
My Dad passed away in 2014, and as the earth continued to rotate, my brother gave me the password to my dad’s email, as it was going to be disabled…. what a beautiful gift from the otherside: to read my dad’s conversations with his brother. In one email he wrote to my favorite uncle an update about my mom. Mom, at age 78 years old, had suffered a stroke… went to rehab, and was able to return home. My Dad wrote this:
“She continues to get stronger each day. Others are mentioning how good she looks. The difference is remarkable. I worry now that she won’t go to meetings and accept the help they offer. Wish she would have watched Oprah with me the other day. They made it so clear that alcoholism is a BRAIN disease and almost impossible for one to defeat by themselves. It is persistent with its patience and strikes back when a person thinks they have defeated it and are feeling so well and good about themselves.”
My Mom never went to meetings- she never looked at alcohol as a problem, or acknowledged that there was ever an issue…. but my Dad was so right. Alcohol IS persistent with its patience. It strikes back again, when you think you’ve defeated it.
Sadly, as soon as she got her strength back, Mom resumed drinking, and we were helpless to stop her. Chicken and the Egg… she felt better because she wasn’t drinking and then rewarded herself with “just one”. She didn’t have “a problem” because she never acknowledged it.
I remember after her next stroke, my oldest brother scoured the house to find the little mason vodka jars that Mom had stashed to support her non-addiction addiction, angrily dumping them all down the drain… one of the few times I’ve seen my oldest brother cry. And yet, after she recovered and returned home again, she still managed to get to the store to get those poisonous jars refilled. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been if my mom had quit drinking when she hit her “rock bottom”…. but as David Clark once said on a podcast, the only true rock bottom happens when you die.
I must be persistent with my dedication to sobriety.
When I look at my family tree, alcoholism is found in my roots, and I’ve known that fact since I was a young child. I am honored when people say I look like my mother, because she was my personal beautiful role model and feisty hero. And like me, she struggled with alcohol. Women from my mother’s era did not have the multitude of recovery resources that we are blessed to have today- the only social network for sobriety available was AA, and that was a predominantly male culture that met in dark church basements, during the evenings. Today’s recovery network is diverse and much stronger. It expands beyond local meetings to web-based meetings, 24/7 chat forums, and blogs. Podcasts, “Quit Lit” books, and even sobriety conferences exist today, removing the cloak of secrecy surrounding addiction.
I feel obligated to break this cycle, to be a living example to my daughters that alcoholism can be conquered, in that I won’t give alcohol the ability to affect my life. I know it’s sneaky, but I will out maneuver it.
Chicken. Egg. No matter which one came first, I’m making new recipes, maybe chicken egg drop soup.
One year ago, I quit drinking. There was no dramatic “rock bottom” that sparked this change in lifestyle – no dark secrets to bury. Instead, there was a week of liberation that prompted me to question my everyday life.
Last year, I traveled through France, Austria, and Germany with my youngest son. I wanted to return to Frankfurt, where 30 years ago, I was a young, carefree mother. Alcohol wasn’t part of my life when I was in my 20s, and as we walked the European cities, I thought back to the younger version of myself.
I missed her. More importantly, I remembered her. And. I found her again.
So I quit drinking. Returning to the States, I continued with my quit. I “took a break from drinking” for a week, and I found my sober sneakers hidden under my bed. I double-knotted my shoelaces, and started my journey alcohol free. I let the little things go.
I let life happen around me, but this time, without a glass in my hand. I found there is joy and laughter that doesn’t need the spark of alcohol to ignite it. I confided in my family and closest friends that I kicked the can, and the love they poured over me strengthened my resolution.
“I am so PROUD of you”.
Hearing these words from someone I love was much stronger than the pull of addiction.
Triggers happen, just as often as shit happens… but I powered through them. Not everything was rainbow sprinkles and unicorn farts. Early in this journey, I was tired and frustrated and yearning for that glass of wine when my son asked me if I needed a hug.
“What’s the fucking point?”, I whined into his shoulder. “The point’s the fucking same, Mom, whether you are drinking or not.”
Kitchen Hugs soothed my soul.
Sober days strung into weeks, and weeks into months.
One year later, One Year sober! my sober sneakers are still double-knotted.
Life is not perfect, but alcohol is no longer part of mine. I had moments where peer pressure to have, “just one and done”, popped into my head. One time, my husband was pouring a drink and suggested, “Want one?” I answered honestly: “Do I want one? Yes. Will I HAVE one? NO. My drinking days are over.”
Life is bigger than a liquid that is officially considered a poison. Being SOBER is a gift, for the present. Being present every day, as a Grandmother (Memere), a Mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, is something I can do for those around me; more importantly, I can do this for myself. And as I stay sober, I will honor my uncle, who dedicated the last years of his career to help those with addictions like mine. I will honor my dad, who unconditionally loved my mom.
My Dad passed away in 2014, but his wisdom lives within my soul today. He reminded me that alcohol is persistent with its patience and strikes back when a person thinks they have defeated it and are feeling so well and good about themselves. I don’t have to wait until I’m 78 to heed my dad’s advice. I now understand what he meant about alcohol being “persistent and patient”, with a deadly intention to quietly strike back. I will NOT have, “just one”, Dad.
I will Protect My Quit.
It’s official, I turned in my drinking card. I’m Sober AF.
Keep trying. Put on those sober shoes, tie them up, and know that you can do this, too. It’s not easy-peasy, but it is SO worth it. Trust those ahead of us that life can be ordinary, or it can be great. Let’s be great together. 💕
Drinking is Fun – Until it Isn’t. It stopped being fun for me a long time ago.
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