It’s hard to believe that I am one year sober today. One year ago when I stopped drinking, I couldn’t imagine where I would be now. I felt so guilty then, and ashamed of the draw alcohol had on me. I didn’t realize its grip until all of a sudden I did. It was very uncomfortable to let go of the thing that I thought was my comfort. In order to get through this first-year sober, in order to finally be free, I had to start by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I had been drinking one bottle of wine every night for at least five years. Some nights it included a shot of something. Some nights it was margaritas. Some nights it was gin martinis. I could not get anything done. My mornings were filled with coffee and news or Facebook. I’d barely make it to work at 10:00 am. Why? Because I didn’t really have the desire to go. I was allowed to work 10-2…how cushy is that? It’s our business and I really didn’t want to work anyway but I did. But my brain was mush. I would get home at 2:00 or 3:00 and climb into my recliner and nap. I was waking every night at 3 am due to “hormones” or so I thought. I would start making dinner and start drinking…every single day at 5 o’clock. When I write it out now it seems selfish, boring, rude, and indulgent. Privileged, too. Oh, wait…spoiled!
Alcohol seems to promise to make everything all better in good times and surely in bad times. It does drown away bad things and light a party on fire temporarily. But it is also inflammatory on the other side…a vicious cycle keeping success and contentment at bay. In fact, alcohol deters success even in good times because of the time it steals away.
I found myself drinking to fit in, to drown sorrows, to forget grief, to have no anxious feelings, to have any feelings, to relax in the pool…all the reasons and all the feels. But it was stealing my success in so many ways and becoming the only activity I cared to accomplish every evening. I was using it to make me comfortable when, in fact, it was silently making me more uncomfortable. Not a good uncomfortable when you’ve worked hard on something and are about to be successful but a bad uncomfortable like I don’t know how to do even the next thing.
When I was drinking, I was on a really uncomfortable merry-go-round that wouldn’t stop and wouldn’t even let me off. Until I decided enough was enough and it was time to get really uncomfortable and stop it myself.
So I did. I quit. I jumped off the merry-go-round and skinned up my knees and it hurt like hell.
Those first few days and weeks sober were awful. I didn’t like feeling uncomfortable at all. I didn’t like feeling my emotions at all. I didn’t like the uncomfortable mental battle it took daily to not drink. Society would tell me, well if you don’t like how you feel fix it. And there I was standing at the gate wondering which ride I should choose next…the familiar merry-go-round again or the speed car of sobriety. I chose the speed car and I’ve never looked back. I couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t. But one year later, at the end of this first year sober, the uncomfortable is turning out to be rainbow magical sobriety. I wouldn’t know this if I was unwilling to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the beginning.
Not everything in my life is comfortable. Fight through the uncomfortable to be comfortable no matter what. Being uncomfortable when quitting drinking is temporary, but comfortable in sobriety can last forever if you’re just willing to be uncomfortable for a bit. Swinging on the comfortable sobriety rainbow has no risk and is comfortable forever. I like that.
By the way…. It’s okay to shed tears along the way…even once you’ve jumped in the driver’s seat of the speeding car. I cried a lot during those first 24 hours.
I asked my therapist if I was an alcoholic. “I can’t answer that for you,” he said. “What!?! Just give me answers! Make me better! Make me different! Make this go away! And, also, I know exactly how much I drink and when and it’s all controlled and I drink at home and I don’t always get drunk and and and….” I whined my way through those fifty minutes. He told me to put down my pride about it all. How did I get in this position?
And then he said, “Why 5 o’clock?”
I didn’t know why 5:00 pm was such a draw to start drinking. Now I do thanks to lots of quit lit. I did it to myself every day at five. I wore that damn path into my brain. I did it. I chose it and it took hold.
“I don’t know!!! I don’t fucking know,” I screamed in my head! “And what am I going to do during football?” I whined pathetically. “ And my son is getting married and I can’t drink at the reception?” I whined some more. I whined so much that morning and for about three weeks until I started to see new, and started to see new’s potential.
I told three friends and my husband I quit. The embarrassment and shame I felt speaking it out loud was brutal. I was a private, secret, bottle-a-day or more drinker. I slowly told my sons. And, oh wow, did I whine my way through those first days. I found a sober counter app. And, then, I found the Boom community and a whole bunch of people just like me! I thought I was alone on this boat! I thought no one drank like me…how can I do all the right things all day long and then drink all night? Is that an alcoholic? Don’t alcoholics just drink all day? Don’t they end up in ditches with DUI’s? Alcoholics don’t seem to be so secretive about their drinking like me. My brain spun with thoughts and more thoughts, stinkin’ thinkin’, and moment-to-moment thoughts about how I can’t drink.
Those first three weeks sober were tough. I was NOT comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Alcohol use disorder, alcoholic, binge drinker, addict or whatever it is called doesn’t really matter… In fact, I don’t even have to call myself an alcoholic if I don’t want to. But I definitely have a broken off-switch when it comes to alcohol. It was my drug of choice for any emotion. But, from that point the learning new took flight. I started posting and writing out my thoughts on Boom. I continued with therapy. And I took it all one day at a time.
Yes, I have worked hard. I raised five sons while my husband worked and served in the military for 28 years. I have worked outside the home in lots of part-time ways. I ran my own home daycare when the kids were little. I have my teaching degree and substitute taught for a number of years. I also busted my ass waiting tables and bartending in a sports bar for 13 years. Mostly…I have done what I wanted. But none of those things justify me drinking.
As the kids started leaving home my drinking escalated… no responsibilities really I guess. But I remember feeling quite restless and anxious. Where was my time going? I couldn’t quite figure out that alcohol was sucking away my time. I didn’t feel drunk every night. I was fine drinking every night. I don’t know why I can’t get up in the morning. Must be my autoimmune stuff…maybe I just need more coffee? Dang…I can see so clearly now all the excuses I made for the right to drink.
Don’t tell me what to do.
One week I spent writing down everything I did with my time. Calculating. Where is my time going? How many minutes a day/week do I have to spend? Do I like how I’m spending my time? Never once did I consider how much time drinking was taking up. I don’t think I even put it on the list. Because I was drinking wine and doing other things in the house, right? Multi-tasking at it’s finest. What a lie. I would tell myself. It’s good for me. I would tell myself it relaxes and I deserve it. Good grief! Yes, I’m an overthinker…oh, well…and back to the bottle I went.
At the end of my first year sober I’m looking at my enlightenment and awakening as a gift. I’m done drinking for good. Forever. Kaput. Alcohol was stealing my good moments away from me and my time is precious. I am enjoying all of my emotions and being able to recognize them. I am enjoying my tears and laughter. I am using my talents and gifts like never before because I’m not spending the day recovering.
Here are my top five Happy One Year Sober Anniversary to me thoughts:
- Emotions don’t last unless you’re drowning them in alcohol.
- I am so thankful only my washer works hard at wash, rinse, and repeat in this house.
- Alcohol doesn’t fix anything ever.
- I was the only person who could stop me from drinking.
- Even though tomorrow never comes, one day at a time eventually adds up to 365.
And my top eleven gifts not drinking has given to me:
- My smile returned
- Recognizing and handling my emotions..sometimes with help
- Able to spend quality time with my grandkids…even in the evenings and OVERNIGHT!
- Time…I don’t think about time anymore as I have an abundance of time it seems
- Sunrises…I absolutely love seeing the sun come up..who knew?
- My memory is much better ( I was having memory lapses..blackouts even though I wasn’t passed out drunk)
- My blood sugar and health are doing really well
- I’m not afraid to have my knee surgery
- I am not nitpicking and arguing with my husband anymore
- Oh…and the most important one… I have met some amazing people just like me on this great site who cheer me, guide me, and give me things to ponder.
Oh, I’m sure there’s more. These were just off the top of my head. My off switch may be broken with alcohol but it doesn’t have to be broken with life. And guess what!?! I still, potentially, have 30 years left to use!
I am so thankful my therapist, the Boom Rethink the Drink community, my husband, and my friends and family who stood with me while I did the tough work. But, I myself, did the tough work. I am the one who dealt with getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t want to give myself any credit. But ultimately I was the one who held the power to stop. I can see that now and I need to give myself the credit. My faith was my starting point. It needed to become my drug of choice for my emotions. Boom was key for me to get it all out of my head. I’m not sure I would have succeeded with just my therapist and friends. I needed people like me and I needed to hear their stories. I continue to need to cheer them on. It helps me stay sober. I wouldn’t have seen all the whys and what-the-hells and similarities I have with everyone in Boomtown. And Boom taught me to dump it all out and write. Get that stuff out of my head with no judgment or shame and just support. So I did and I keep doing it.
My husband stopped drinking immediately to support me. “I can take it or leave it and you are more important,” he told me. I’m really blessed by him. Telling my friends was crucial in the beginning. If I were to drink again, how would I tell them I had started? I could palpably feel the debilitating shame deep in my soul if I had to tell them I had started again.
Well, not drinking has led to more learning new….
There’s just more brain space available now not taken up by daily movement of alcohol in my life.
And guess what?… I made it through my son’s wedding easily and loved every minute. Football and alcohol don’t go together just like my therapist so bravely told me….and I’m enjoying the game just the same. Turns out I yell just as loud at the TV without alcohol and I even remember details of the game. It is never too late to learn new. There have been so many moments during this past year where I learned new and I’m looking for more.
I’m looking forward to this next year as I can only imagine there is more new to come. I am experiencing a freedom in my thinking I haven’t ever felt before. My emotions don’t last or get drug around by alcohol from one day to the next. I can see new in the community members in Boom who are farther ahead of me. Their learning new seems to be second nature now and I want that, too.
I’m well past that early stage of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and am happily swinging on that rainbow of learning new. I hope you’ll join me and learn new this year, too, as I journey through year two. Journey with me! I’m looking forward to what will happen with even more brain healing, fresh thoughts, and happy days…and most certainly no shame and definitely no alcohol.
How uncomfortable are you willing to be? How bad do you want success at anything? In today’s modern world, we are blasted with images and words encouraging us to do what feels good. If not, change the pathway and trajectory to make sure it always feels good. But this is not how success happens. I have never read a story of a truly successful person who said, “Oh, yes, I have never experienced anything bad and yet here I sit skipping along on my rainbow with everything I need and that’s how I got where I am today. Life is grand.” Have you? I’m sure they are out there but most everyone goes through uncomfortable, even devastating, times in their lives before they are swinging on their rainbow.
It is a lot easier to be uncomfortable with the support of people on the same journey? Join me today?
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