Have you ever heard the term “Chasing the High”? The definition below that I found in Quora today is telling in many ways :
“Chasing the high is doing something that challenges and results in a sense of power, satisfaction, pleasure. eg scaling a rock face, driving at breakneck speed etc. The term was borrowed by substance users to describe their search for the ultimate fix.”
I used to think the best day out there was some combination of moderate to extreme physical exertion (preferably in the mountains) followed by some relaxation and plenty of alcohol the rest of the day. These were always my favorite days. No surprise, that’s how I first started drinking — with my rugby team after games. Chasing the high.
Chasing the high is how my husband and I got to know each other, and later how we spent our weekends and vacations. When I started living alone again, those athletic days followed by drinking were all of my favorite days too. I get a strong dose of those wonderful happy chemicals when I push my body physically. Pile some booze on top for some extra artificially induced happy chemicals, chasing one high with another, and we’ll call that a day folks.
I always exercised and ate reasonably well but then would pour alcohol into myself like it was water. I was creating such a dichotomy of health and really taking a toll on my body I’m sure, not to mention what this was doing to my mental health. I thought I was chasing the high but I was running toward the biggest low of my life.
Chasing that high became like carrying around a heavy balloon. Trying to reach the sky but eternally weighed down.
I didn’t know if I would ever be able to say goodbye to the friend alcohol had become in my life. I didn’t know that not drinking actually meant reconnecting with living. I didn’t know that the white knuckling of the initial few weeks alcohol-free would soon be gone.
I carried around my toxic relationship with alcohol like a heavy balloon for years. There were so many potential day ones. Days where I realized my relationship with alcohol was non-negotiably, no longer okay, and a change needed to be made. A lot of people are overly hard on themselves, but I was overly easy on myself the last year of my drinking career.
I didn’t know that the initial dull feeling of doing things sober would quickly wear off and that each first without alcohol would be a little twitchy, but it wouldn’t be as hard as I thought.
I would tell myself “As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, as long as I’m not putting others in danger, I’ll change it around one day.” I think there was always the idea in the back of my head. “I’ll stop drinking when I’m ready.”
But the truth was that instead of just getting drunk by myself, at home, alone, I was now overtly hurting people. I drove whilst intoxicated. Not messy, but certainly not safe. I treated patients with a couple of drinks in me. I should have lost my license for that but I got away with it…
I put everything at risk chasing that high because a year ago I didn’t know that I would actually laugh much more without alcohol. I didn’t know that the next year alcohol-free would fly by and I would barely miss alcohol at all. I had no idea how supportive an internet community would be to a random stranger struggling with the same battle.
When I was chasing that high the high eventually caught me and I had to have alcohol with me at all times. I don’t think I’d flown out of town sober in over a year or two. It always turned into having a few drinks at home while I packed, driving myself to the airport, then mixing vodka into my water bottle (ironically, my sport bottle) to finish before going through security.
I’d hide extra drinks while on drinking trips with friends, which was insane and silly to me even then but I did it anyway. No one would of cared how much I was drinking in my crowd, but I think it was that little voice in the back of my head trying to protect the addiction at all costs – because if anyone did start to suspect “I had a problem with alcohol”, I’d have to confront it too.
When the high I was chasing caught me, my relationship with alcohol became like a heavy balloon.
I used this song as my alarm in the morning for the first 4-5 weeks of recovery. It was a reminder – of where I was, of what I didn’t want to go back to. And it made me feel like I was on my own little mission, my fight song waking me up each day to accomplish my one goal – remaining AF.
People like us we play with a heavy balloon
We keep it up to keep the devil at bay but it always falls way too soon
People like us get so heavy and so lost sometimes
So lost and so heavy that the bottom is the only place we can find
We get dragged down, down to the same spot enough times in a row
The bottom begins to feel like the only safe place that you know
-Heavy Balloon, Fiona Apple
The anthem of my early quit days. It helped starting each morning with a reminder of what I was trying to escape. A desperate attempt at escape, because I certainly wanted to keep drinking, but I also wanted to regain some semblance of control in my life.
My drinking didn’t become overtly, acutely dangerous until a year or so before I finally stopped. For many years before that when I probably would have fallen into the “gray area” drinker category (for the most part). While chasing that high I thought I was still living a pretty desirable life. Now I think I was bonkers. THIS feels like living. Crutch-free. Anchor-free. Alcohol-free. FREE, free.
I didn’t know living alcohol free wasn’t a punishment. I didn’t know that I would get used to sitting with uncomfortable feelings and be accepting of tears. I didn’t know that my friends and family would be supportive and non-judgmental about my decision to remove alcohol from my life.
In the beginning, when I first went alcohol-free, I went through a few days of good cries. I think I started truly gaining compassion for the me that had been stuck in a cycle for years.The younger me who had no idea what she was doing when she started drinking more and more. The slightly older me who started feeling really lost but continued to drown everything in alcohol. And the more recent me, who felt wholly consumed by managing her drinking but couldn’t imagine wanting to be alive without it. The tears felt cathartic. And now, here I am! One year alcohol-free!
This time last year I was about one year out from a tough separation. I was struggling, and about to be struggling even more. I was about to go from having a semi private space in a shared apartment to an apartment of my own, for the first time ever.
If we’re being honest, one of my biggest motivators to move was wanting to drink freely and not have to worry about hiding it from my roommate. He was sober, and I was embarrassed by how much I drank. So I’d keep beer in a cooler in my room and always make sure to put the cans/bottles/boxes in the recycling when it was full so I could be the one to take it down. Sometimes, I’d crack beers under a pillow to hide the sound. I started drinking vodka and wine more – in part to get drunk faster, and in part just to have something that was easier to hide.
I was eager to be in my own space and not have to worry about all the self-induced hiding! And it WAS great. But it only took 1-2 months before I had dug myself so deep into drinking that I was afraid I was going to ruin my career, my relationships, my life. Too much freedom led to an even more rapid increase in how often and how much I drank. And more desperate attempts to quit. The harder I chased the high the further I fell.
I didn’t know that sitting down at the end of the night cuddled up with a blanket and tea would actually feel relaxing. I didn’t know what being loved for all the parts of you really meant, or that it was even possible. I just wanted not to be consumed by the daily battle of moderating, then not moderating, of feeling like I had a secret life.
Fortunately, I had some very positive influences in my life helping my brain to consider the possibility that a life without alcohol wasn’t the restrictive, boring punishment it seemed. And Boom, of course! I 100% would not have found my way without the learning, connection, and resources of Boom. This ever-present online community, echoing the same message. Alcohol-free IS free. Without those influences, I’m certain I’d just be further down the hole, who even knows how far, rather than chasing the high of loving life alcohol-free. .
I never thought I would want this alcohol-free life, but now I can’t imagine ever going back. I am finally finding a lot of joy in taking care of my body. Grateful for where I am today. Trying not to worry about the future. ODAAT.
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