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Feel Like You Can’t NOT Drink?
When I first stopped drinking I recall endless questions and scenarios racing through my head : “What about Christmas? I can’t NOT drink?!”
“My birthday is in a few months, maybe I’ll wait and start “sober” after?”
“Crap, summer months: I drink A LOT, and with our hotel customers, what will happen? These people bring me my favorite wine!!! ARghhh…”
“How will I survive Happy Hour? Man, I love my wine at night!”
“How will it be when Mom visits? Gosh, we enjoy our vino at lunchtime during our visits and Holidays, those laughs and jokes…”
“If I am stressed or just had a “one of those days“, what do I do? All I know is to reach for my wine…”
“Hubby and I ‘connect’ so much when we have a drink…”.
And my list went on.
Too much, so many situations, all at once rambling through my head, that I often wanted to remove my head from my shoulders and place it on the shelf for it to rest for a little while. Just a little while. Becoming sober for me seemed so ridiculously big, so complicated, so impossible! MIND BLOWING really. I could not begin to imagine gaining any sort of sober momentum. I CAN’T NOT DRINK…
Alcohol addiction was in my face growing up, and not only in my immediate home but on both sides of the family. Events, weddings, funerals, BBQs, birthday parties, baby showers, you name it, alcohol had its place! Alcohol was first on the invite list without a doubt! Alcohol was so normalised that it went unnoticed; it simply blended in with the birthday cake, with the flowers, with the checkered plastic table cover, with the confetti, with the smell of the BBQ, with everything. It was part of the décor.
Why didn’t I learn from this at all? Why didn’t I see the problems with this history before? Before having excessively consumed wine for more than a decade…? I inevitably followed in those alcohol addiction footsteps without even recognising it. I was standing in pretty much the same boots as my parents; I was on that same path, effortlessly progressing along with my daily [increasing] drinking, in an absolutely normal fashion.
Yeah, wine made me chattier, more “bubbly” and “happier” (fake) , it helped me be more “chill” and soften the edges of my anxieties (temporarily). I felt more “in”, more “part of the gang” so to speak. Drinking wine was “my thing”, it was part of “ME”, part of my likes and who I was.
Until I realized that I was losing “me” and snapped out of it two years ago at the age of 40.
That is it!
I AM DONE.
Most of us find that the easiest way to stay sober when we stop drinking is to make staying alcohol-free non-negotiable. My response to that necessary non-negotiability in early sobriety was ….
“Oh my gosh – can I do this?! FOREVER ??….
Easy now I told myself. Switch those two words “can I?” to “I can!”. Trust time, all will fall into place, in its own momentum.
Time… Time can feel like an enemy when you first stop drinking. The idea of never drinking again can feel like an impossiblity, so we often focus on ODAAT (One Day At A Time) to keep it doable. I’ve used OTAAT (One Thing At A Time) and OMAAT (One Moment At A Time) way more often even than ODAAT when the chips are down and I feel like I’m about to break the pledge I made to NOT drink without negotiation. OTAAT/OMAAT, makes the days seem lighter, smoother, and allows less of a bigger picture to deal with, like taking baby steps all day long, dealing with what crossed my path as it shows up, minute by minute, hour by hour.
Have you ever thought about the power of momentum? When I was a child, I always wanted to be a gymnast. I loved watching those young girls on TV so strongly and graciously moving their bodies into unimaginable ways. They seemed so free: so solid, confident and assertive walking on that 4” beam, effortlessly bending like elastics, landing those flips like it was in style, their contagious energy and smile! I saw ME!! Such pure delight!! These girls had this momentum that I craved, that I wanted so bad.
When I was about 11 years old, my parents agreed that my sister and I could join gymnastics! What a joy, the excitement, the adrenaline- the highlight of my week was Saturday mornings when we got to go to gymnastics class!! Thankfully, my sister and I were born natural gymnasts: we learnt quickly, we were very agile, strong, and could easily concentrate. Falling and getting back up just fuelled us to keep going, do it again, and try harder.
“the energy gained by the evolution of a process, or set of circumstances”
We would practice at home in the backyard- we lived in the country, so we had a lot of green grass to run, tumble and flip on! Our swing even became our gymnastics “bar”: we unscrewed the “now useless to us” set of swings from the frame, so that we could swing off the bar like in gymnastics class. I will never forget my father looking out the window shaking his head- he hated watching us do anything “gymnastics” in the back yard. He feared that we’d hurt ourselves bad. Luckily, we had quite the space to practice, and kept feeding that drive we had to be awesome gymnasts.
Over the years, I proudly became a gymnastics teacher with my own program through the city. I taught from 3-year old’s right up to teens, all at different levels. The other coaches and I were a fabulous team: we all had that same driving power and motivation to teach these young athletes who looked up to us on many levels. During each session, echoes “Point your toes”, “get back up- you got this”, “straight back”, “tight tummy, tighten your tush”, “hold it!”, “remember to breathe”, “visualise yourself doing”, “you can trust me: I’ll catch you if you fall”, “good job”. Constant positive encouragement.
My seemingly perfect, beautiful momentum described above gradually changed when my mental health took a turn for the worse. Now I realise that as a teenager, I was way more sensitive to my environment (both past and present) than I could ever begin to understand.
Growing up, my father was a heavy drinker. I was often embarrassed if I had friends over on a Friday night and Dad came home drunk, wobbling everywhere. Mom and dad used to also fight a lot: I would bring my younger sister in my room with loud music and keep her distracted from slamming doors and loud screaming. But why is it that he was “forgiven” in a sense, for some very hurtful choices: Dad was not the abusive type, we had a roof over our heads, food on our plates, clothes to wear, and he never missed a day of work because of alcohol. Does this make his actions pardoned, or alright?
At the age of about 14, I increasingly became very self-conscious of my looks, my weight, my size, what I ate, exercising… I painted my room a dark raspberry color, all my clothes were black. I started crying every night, developed amenorrhea, my nails would peel like post-it notes… I continued to be a straight A student, was in student council, continued to coach gymnastics, work at the hair salon after school, and was a cheerleader… until, one day, I crashed: I wanted to end ALL of IT. THAT drive, my momentum had vanished; it had mutated to another type of drive. That afternoon, had my dog Lady not followed me as I fumingly left the house for a walk, I would not be here today. The next day, I agreed to be admitted in the Mental Health Unit: every other option had expired.
Sometimes our momentum is disrupted, and a shift takes place. We may trip and fall; now and then we get physically hurt, but we can brush it off and get back up, start over again. We may temporarily need a band aid to help heal the wound, or a crutch to help us walk. Other times, we emotionally get pulled and side-tracked: this is tougher, as we may not see it right there and then, unlike a physical wound that we see needs immediate care. These emotionally charged moments are much easier to conceal, to set aside, as they are felt but not necessarily seen with the naked eye. Life events unfold, some pass by like the soft blowing wind, others stick with us like the aftermath of a fierce destructive storm.
My story here is but a small grain of a lifetime of everchanging momentous experiences. So far, my alcohol-free journey has brought to light so many memories and abandoned feelings, some I thought were permanently gone. This fact is tough to digest, grasp and even fathom at times. Thankfully, my mind is becoming clearer and clearer, and I can gradually absorb and decipher what my body, mind and soul are trying to tell me.
“Trust your unique sobriety process; feel and embrace the flow, as trying as it proves to be sometimes, trust that each moment has its own momentum.”
More by this author :
The Battle to Owning My Life at 4 months Alcohol-Free
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