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Learning to Feel the Feels at 8 Months Sober
I’ve been alcohol-free for almost 8 months and that means having to face a whole lot of things that I once drowned out with excessive daily drinking. I am in much of the same mindset that I was when my son was born 18 years ago. Nothing in my environment had changed back then except the addition of this little human, but just like now at 8 months sober, everything had changed from my perspective. I was starting a new chapter in my life with a million questions, bumping up against challenges that I had never experienced, questioning every move I made. I had no idea just how different the world would look through my new mom eyes, and I learned something new every single day.
A new perspective – everything – and yet nothing – is the same.
Acknowledging that drinking was a way of life that I thought was normal for so long gives me a bit of solace as I feel like the struggle continues. 8 months sober after a 30+year drinking career is a drop in the bucket. As I travel along this sober journey, facing the feelings I once drank away, really awake and present for the first time in years, I’m finding life full of realizations and revelations. The path to these realizations is not always fun. Stopping drinking did not make me instantly able to deal with daily nuisances easily, wisely and with sober serenity. These “revelations” tend to start bubbling under the surface, nearly undetectable, and then explode.
Feeling the feels in early sobriety ? I liken it to cooking Jiffy Pop…do you remember Jiffy pop?
This is how we made popcorn when I was a kid. You take off the top wrapper and the pan is covered with aluminum foil. The popcorn is sealed inside. To pop the corn you place the pan on the stove and have to shake it back and forth constantly over the heat, otherwise, it will burn. You can’t really see anything happening but you can hear the kernels rattling around in there. Shaking, shaking, shaking back and forth all the while waiting for something to happen. It seems to take forever.
A crabby spouse, miserable workplace employees, stupid people in traffic, for me are the tally marks I used to keep track of to justify “rewarding” myself with a drink after work. The minor nuisances in everyday life.
All those little annoyances
As I’m shaking that popcorn back and forth over the heat to keep it from burning, the center starts to rise, and you can hear the popcorn beginning to pop under the foil lid. This is what I equate to the few days prior to the explosive “realization”, as evidenced by my short temper, flying “F-bombs” that I have a hard time controlling, generalized anxiety, and agitation.
I can’t drink the feels away anymore so now I take extra walks in an attempt to soothe myself. Before these explosive realizations I often find that I’m feeling extreme fatigue that warrants going to bed early. If I need to I let myself “check out” as much as possible in ways that do not include alcohol, which for me is being glued to games on my phone.
A couple of minutes later the Jiffy Pop looks like this, that’s when you know it’s about done.
This is the day or so before the “realization” explosion, as evidenced for me by:
Extreme itchy, scratchy feelings
Fleeting thoughts about drinking that are more frequent
Major miscommunication and arguments with the spouse
Feelings of not being understood
Noticing people being extraordinarily rude
Desperately attempting to soothe myself with anything that I think might help besides drinking.
The last time this happened I reached into my sober toolbox and found a “Bubble Hour Podcast” with BetsyByler. As Betsy Byler told her story, I realized what I was experiencing was anger. I was incredibly angry at my work situation, my marriage situation and at the core, my situation that I have put myself in as I had fallen victim to Alcohol’s control!
And then, release!!
Letting myself feel those feels comes with a great reward at the end.
I have an image in my head of the Jiffy Pop going all over the room like a pinata. This is kind of how it felt once I had that recent “realization” that I was ANGRY!!! I finally was able to put words to it, and I cried….and I cried….and cried…on and off until I had an appointment with my counselor and cried through the whole session. But after that…AHHHHHH the release. I felt so much better, and what I realized is that there are a lot of these emotions that I have been stuffing down and pouring alcohol over. For years I have been in that stage of shaking, shaking, shaking, the popcorn to keep it from burning without ever going to the next stage. All that my drinking did was to put off dealing with my emotions to another day. It kept them trapped which kept me trapped.
Alcohol had trained my brain to do this, even in its absence. At 8 months sober I’m still learning how to deal with my emotions.
This was the first time I was able to actually go through this process and realize what had been happening over the course of the week or two prior. What a revelation!! Because now I feel like I will be able to better prepare myself for this in the future. I can see the small signs that there is something building, and hopefully, I’ll be able to take a step back and look at what’s really at the core of it, before it builds and builds and explodes all over the kitchen.
And since this happened, I feel like I have yet again crossed over some invisible threshold into the AF life. Since this happened, I am even stronger in my resolve to live life sans alcohol, I’m able to see it for what it is, and I want nothing more to do with it. I am determined to reclaim my life back from alcohol, and teach myself to live life as an AF adult, dealing with issues and people with maturity, patience, grace and ease. I am more willing to give myself a hall pass on things that seem stressful and daunting at the time. And I am looking forward to having more fun, and planning fun things, because it’s ok to feel good, in fact it is crucial to a life well lived.
“Here is what the scientific research is finding about happiness: we are wired to experience happiness, but we keep hitting the wrong buttons in our efforts to turn our happiness on... Happiness comes as a by-product of the “life well lived.”
from The Law of Happiness by Henry Cloud
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