When I stopped drinking I worried that I would not be able to deal with the stress of life. The biggest surprise to me in sobriety was that I didn’t actually NEED to drink to gracefully tackle my daily grind. My daily grind turned out to be a lot less grinding without the routine recovery from a bottle and a bit of wine hastily gulped the night before. The way I keep from returning to the soul sapping slog of high functioning alcoholism is to stay in touch with, and support, people like me who are working through the early days of sobriety. One of the most inspiring stories I’ve been honored to follow recently is from a member of my community who is enviably high functioning in every way but like many of us could not stop her nightly drinking routine. She finally used antabuse to help her get going in the first month and the result has been well worth waving that white flag and accepting she needed help. This is her narrative at 57 days sober.
Wow. Life hasn’t imploded 57 days in. I CAN do it. I AM doing it. 57 days sounds like nothing but I haven’t gone this many consecutive alcohol free days for many years so everyday I add another AF day is a record breaking experience. In 57 days I’ve learned I can handle much more than I thought… and that when I handle the stress without alcohol, it’s not as bad as I thought it was before. I’ve learned I am a nicer, kinder, more understanding person than the alcohol version. I’m less irritable, more patient, and way less obnoxious 57 days in. I’ve learned I crave sweets a lot more (like almost daily). I have a bag of candy next to my bed and I eat a couple everyday now to fulfill my body’s craving for sugar (much less now) that I was consuming from alcohol. I’ve learned your skin thanks you when you stop drinking. My skin, which was once before rough and gritty, red and puffy, is now soft and smooth, blemish free and looking great. I’ve learned going AF is a diet in itself. The only difference in my eating is I eat more sweet foods like I mentioned before. Other than that, no change to my diet but I’ve lost 12 lbs in two months. I’m already on the smaller side- so literally 12 lbs of that was from excessive drinking. Yuck!
I’ve learned that even though the stress doesn’t go away and sometimes I am just tired of other people’s bullshit (and always of my own), I can handle it a lot better without adding my bullshit from drinking on top of it. I also do a better job recognizing someone else’s bullshit as not mine. I’ve learned I’m a more mature person (not drinking) and I’ve not lost my ability to have fun, laugh, and feel youthful. In fact, I feel more youthful because I just don’t carry around the burdens from daily drinking both physically and mentally. I’ve learned I have a lot of negative thoughts and self-talk about and to myself but I can dismiss all that bullshit chatter easier when I’m clearheaded. I’ve learned I drank/drink to shut that stupid voice up but the real power lies in a clear(er) head, not a numb one.
I’ve learned I’m a better parent (well, not learned, d’uh I knew that part) without alcohol. My kids want to spend time with me but they are more relaxed, laugh more, come to me more with stuff and seem genuinely happier and more stable with this Mom than Mom with the drink in her hand. I’ve learned I’m a MUCH better partner without alcohol. I’ve learned I’m a better listener and I pick up on things I would miss if I were drinking and, frankly, probably wouldn’t care about, sadly.
And maybe most importantly, I’ve learned that when I’m not drinking I’m not making it ALL ABOUT ME. I have slowly been coming to the realization that the action of drinking just forces everyone/thing/else to orbit around the person drinking. I don’t know how to explain this clearly yet but I’m coming to see drinking (at least the kind I was participating in) was/is a pretty selfish act. I mean, when I think about it, no one drinks for someone else- they drink for THEMSELVES. In all capacities, my daily drinking just forced everyone to work around ME. I thought my problems were so bad that drinking to feel better took precedence over everything else. Other people have problems, are suffering- but mine were too important to really be fully there for them because my needs were more important. And that”s such bullshit because the truth is- if my needs were really that important I would take care of myself- really take care of myself. Nope. Now I can see my ‘needs’ were just my excuse to put my wants ahead of others’ and my own actual needs.
I rarely participated in activities that did not have the opportunity or chance of drinking… I made others (just anyone other than me) be the designated driver (I’d happily pay for taxi fare but wouldn’t volunteer to drive. I have hurt others with my words and actions that have been facilitated with alcohol and yet, I still chose to drink. I didn’t really care about what other people had going on in their lives the way I should or wanted to care. I was only really interested in spending time with others if alcohol was present because I didn’t think I really would be interested without the liquid lubrication. Now that I think about it… How shitty is that for the other person? To know, or to even have a sense that the person you’re interacting with really doesn’t care what comes out of your mouth because the only thing they’re paying attention to is getting their buzz on. And when I was buzzing my mind was obssessing about any and everything- how I would work a situation out at work, how I would do this or that, how I would analyze everything, how I would think about what so and so said and how it made me feel… Just I, I, I. ME ME ME. My feelings, my fears, my beliefs, my needs, my wants, my wrongs, my successes, my fantasies, my stories. Drinking just made me in my head too much – and left no room for anything or anyone else. It feels like being underwater. All the sensory elements – sounds, smells, colors, etc. – were all muddled from being submerged in alcohol. I could sense they were there, life was happening, but I couldn’t really experience any of it.
And 57 days in I feel like I can, want to, and live a more purposeful life by, giving more to others. My drinking daily acted as a wall between my growth and maturity. Growth in my ability to be mature and put others before me. Still quite me-centric and not afraid to admit that – but proud to push the scales the other way a nudge. Not all my time drinking was bad… But, for the most part, it was not meaningfully good, anyway.
With the adversities in my life facing my dependence on alcohol is right up there with one of my biggest and most challenging battles. Having those challenges doesn’t automatically make us better people, but how we respond. I’m not the person I want to be but cheers to working towards a better version. -xx
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