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Climbing Mount Sobriety One Step at a Time
Yesterday I faced my fear of a hike that I was worried would be too hard for me. We were invited on this hike by a couple we had never hiked with before. They don’t know how alcohol has damaged my body and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up. At first, I wanted to come up with an excuse and then I thought about that saying that sometimes the fear won’t go away so you just have to do it afraid. I am so glad that I went for it and said yes. This is one of the biggest reasons I love sobriety so much. Sobriety gives me strength.
The elevation gain was very challenging and my legs and lungs burned as I climbed. I had to take breaks to catch my breath and beg my legs not to turn to jello. Just like I approach my sober journey one day at a time, I approached this mountain climb one step at a time.
Through all my huffing and puffing I was amazed at how strong and capable my body was and excited at how much healing progress I have made so far since I stopped drinking. Standing at the top with gorgeous views all around and breathing the sweet scent of mountain fresh air I felt very aligned with my authentic self. ♥️ On the way back down I even jumped in that alpine lake. It was ice cold and took my breath away but made every cell in my body feel incredibly alive.
Today I feel so grateful to be on this sober journey. Just like my mountain climb, there are times when maintaining sobriety is hard and the climb feels impossible, but meeting that challenge is so worth it! ✨
But coming down from that monumental mountain-climbing- high? Well… today I was reminded that sometimes it’s the most mundane things that make this sober journey hard.
Monumental challenge to sobriety #1 – The mundane trip to the grocery store
I just finished my weekly grocery shopping trip. As I walked around the store I counted 11 different end caps or center aisle sections that featured various alcoholic beverages all stacked up looking pretty and on sale. I didn’t even count the established alcoholic beverage aisles. These displays of wine, beer, and spirits were in the meats, cheese, veggies, bakery, pasta, and even at the end of the toothpaste aisle.
Haha! The toothpaste aisle?! It was like they had so much booze they were running out of places to put it.
I know my brain is extra tuned in to these drinks displays, reinforcing why I am working so hard to be free of the desire to drink. As I came across each one I felt a little mix of emotions. I could feel part of my brain starting to drool just a bit but another part of me wanted to growl that the alcohol was mixed in with the healthy foods my body needs to heal from the damage drinking has caused.
I decided that every time I encountered one of those pretty sections of neatly stacked bottles with the large sale sign I would practice by telling it “no thanks, I don’t drink.”
I repeated those words in my head all 11 times and by the time I had finished, I was starting to really feel like a non-drinker! I felt a mix of pride and laughing to myself that maybe I should take another lap to practice some more.
Someday further down the path on this alcohol-free journey, I imagine a day where I won’t zone in on these displays or even notice them. Until then I’ll keep practicing my mantra “no thanks, I don’t drink” and count today as a win.
Monumental challenge to sobriety #2 – Facing my fears
These mundane daily challenges are tough but sometimes the thing that makes maintaining sobriety hard really cuts to the core of who I am.
Realizing I have an alcohol problem and struggling to quit has to be one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced. My husband and kids know I’ve stopped drinking but it feels like a dirty family secret. I am so embarrassed to be sober that I hide it. My family keeps my secret. I know they love me but maybe they are embarrassed too.
I think my fear of people’s future judgment and expectations keeps me a prisoner in these chains. I hate the idea of being tip-toed around or excluded. The shame of hearing someone say “She fell off the wagon again” keeps me in hiding. I really want to say “hey I have a problem with drinking and am working hard to get better but if I slip and fall that is on me. I don’t want to hear whispers or be hovered around by concern. Let me just get back up so I can stand honest once again in my truth that one is never enough.”
The hardest part of this sober journey is facing my fears. Fear of failure. Fear of judgment.
My fear is pretty big.
I have never been to an AA meeting because I fear I might run into someone that recognizes me. I used to check out sobriety books at my library but ever since Covid, which now means having to meet my librarian at the door to be hand-delivered my books, I have been too embarrassed to ask for them. Google knows, lol, but I don’t have to make eye contact there.
When I think about telling people that I am now sober, I always want it to be once I am further down the road and more successful on my journey. Once I no longer fear the slip-up shame and can trust myself. That is a little of a chicken and the egg thing though as the fear keeps me in hiding and alone making it so much harder to get down the road.
Somehow telling people that I’m taking a break and not drinking right now is not the same as telling them I am sick and silently dying from a disease that I’m too scared to be honest about.
The fear seems based in shame that goes back generations.
Monumental challenge to sobriety #3 – Coming to terms with the truth of what alcohol is to me
I grew up in a home with parents that never drank. They both came from homes with large families of alcoholics and realized that they would never be able to control it either so they committed to never drinking. In all my 41 years they have never had a drop of alcohol. My Mom never knew who her real Dad was and the only thing she was ever told about him was that he was an “alcoholic”. We moved several states away but when we would visit their families it always seemed that my parents’ decision to break away and live a clean life hiddenly annoyed them. They almost drank more just to prove a point. It always frustrated my parents and so we planned our visits to be short.
Alcohol was an issue that even as a kid I could see hung in the air.
My parents tried to shield my brother and I from it. Still, the message was felt, alcohol was bad. That messaged was reinforced through my whole life in lots of little ways. We would camp and the next site over would be puking up last night’s fun, alcohol is bad. So and so did this, he was drunk, alcohol is bad. Your relative is dying from a disease tied to their life of drinking, alcohol is bad.
But I found that alcohol was good, fun, downright magical… before it became bad. I loved it! It unlocked a part of me that cut loose, sang all night, danced in the sprinklers under the stars, and felt deliciously wild and free. I knew that I had a lineage of people with addiction but drinking was so fun I didn’t care.
My husband grew up in a family that drank every day but not usually too much. They like to party too. He loves me and looks at my drinking problems like a puzzle to be solved. Over this time we have tried a lot, and I mean a lot of things to help me moderate my drinking, all while keeping my secret from the world that I have a problem.
To the outside, I still look like that girl that is just having fun. People don’t see the me that comes home and keeps drinking after the party, or the times I’m secretly taking swigs trying to chase the magic feeling. Only my family sees the ugly mornings when I am filled with self-hate and only going between my bed and the bathroom.
I am 41 now and it’s been about the last 3-4 years since I realized that that alcohol magic is just too strong for me. Sadly the magic is still there but the price I keep paying is too high. I told my husband – “hunny, I know you want to fix me but my puzzle has some missing or damaged pieces and will never come together like the picture on your box. The picture on the cover of my puzzle box was meant to be sober.”
My fight for sobriety and the strength to stand in my truth that one will never be enough continues. The secret shame, fear, and hiding keeps me chained to the dark but the keys to freedom are available if only I have the courage to reach for them. 🗝️ One drink would be like putting my leash back on and going back to being controlled. I like being free, so I’m doing whatever it takes to navigate each day to stay that way.
When the alcohol lies start to slither into my brain I combat them by remembering all the horrible ways drinking made me feel. I have a day 1 photo on my phone. I pull it up and look into her face. Her eyes are swollen and sad, her face bloated, her skin blotchy, her mouth downturned. I remember the horrible moment I snapped that desperate selfie, how my stomach hurt and churned, my head throbbed, and I was too weak to stand long.
I hang onto that feeling tight and also think of the beautiful, vibrant self I am working hard to uncover. I am cultivating a new spark and just beginning to see the joy dancing in my eyes again.
So, I plan, I prepare, and I set my life up to give myself my best chance. I look backward, I look forward, and I keep going. 🐢
One step at a time up that beautiful mountain!
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