I don’t think I ever fully understood the phrase “the work of sobriety”. Sobriety seemed a passive process. By its very nature – you don’t pick up a drink. You’re NOT doing something. That’s passive. Maybe that’s why sober didn’t stick last year when I first tried to stop drinking. I don’t think I fully understood “the work”.
There are a few inspirational quotes, cute little sayings that I’ve heard often in reading other people’s sober stories.
“Be the Hero of Your Own Story!”
“Nobody’s coming to Save You”
“Face Your Fears”.
Doing the hard things alcohol-free is easier said than done. The siren that calls me to drink is soft and incredibly seductive. Her song wafts in from nowhere…
she is the voice of reason
“You can be done with this sober experiment now … you’ve proven that you can go without alcohol. Now let’s relax.”
she is comfort
“Wow a drink would go down nicely and burn a couple of hours. Bet it would solve the “itchiness.”
she is ease
“You’ve worked hard today. A couple of sips would “tingle” those tired muscles.”
I fell for her flirtatious lies last year.
I honestly don’t remember that first drink last year. There was a storm and we’d lost power for a number of days. It was a logistical nightmare both physically and mentally. I wasn’t strong enough to maintain my quit … but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I learned. It reaffirmed that she’s wrong.
Gray area drinker? Functioning alcoholic? I suck at moderation. I’ve been down the chaotic path. It was functional … I was functional… but I wasn’t happy there. I was existing. Each day mimicked the last … with the slight exception that I was getting more and more hooked on a substance to get through. I’m better than that. Maybe I needed that affirmation to pull me through this time.
Actually, I wasn’t exactly functional. I mean, I got through each day … but in the grand juggling adventure, things were starting to slip. The cracks were starting to show – in all areas. That’s why I went back to day 1 this year and started the “work of sobriety” again.
This is what early sobriety feels like to me. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s terribly uncomfortable. I feel like I’m underwater. Literally. My fingernails are dirty and raw from clawing at the sides, sliding back down into the dark, cold, musty bottom. There’s a light up there … but it’s so far up.
Heroes don’t get to choose to be heroes. They’re thrust in to a position and they do it. They don’t wake up and think “hey, I think I want to face my fears today.” They step out on to invisible bridges because they’re forced to – as a manner of self-preservation.
Enter the rope…
It’s dark down at the bottom. I can’t explain why I didn’t see the rope at first … it’s been there … but it’s been hidden in the shadows. I grab ahold and I begin to shimmy up … reminiscent of the days in gym class. I remember the days in gym class where you’d have a certain few of the kids that would scale that rope on the first shot .. victoriously slapping the ceiling.
LOL my upper body strength sucks … I wasn’t one of those kids. I slide back down again and again …. still desperately holding on causing the rope to chafe my palms more and more raw with each attempt. Attempt after attempt. I’m exhausted but survival literally depends on climbing that rope out of the dark. You start to question your senses.
Is the light even there?
Is the top of the well just the bottom of another?
Then a person wanders by the top of the well. She takes the time to look down. She sees my predicament. I’m at the bottom of a well. She tells me how wonderful it is up there. The sky is blue; the flowers are blooming beautiful colors; the air is pure. Another person stops and takes the time to look down. She again tells me how absolutely amazing it is up there. They tell me that I should join them. I shout back up that I’m at the bottom of a well. I beg for them to pull the rope. They tell me that they can’t.
I get mad at them for not doing the work to get me out.
One tells me to prop my back against the side of the well and use it as leverage to hold some of my weight while I climb. I listen. Another tells me to keep my back against one side and use my legs to counter my lack of upper body strength. I listen. I very very slowly start climbing the rope.
I spend what seems an eternity wedging my way ever so slowly up. The people at the top stay and cheer. I shimmy my way up a little more. They cheer. They again tell me how beautiful it is … which gives me strength to shimmy some more. I look down and panic as I see I’ve only moved a foot from the bottom of the well. I’m tired. My muscles are quivering from exhaustion. The folks at the top call to me and tell me not to look that way – it’s not the direction I want to go. They tell me to look up … that I’ve already gone a foot .. it’s not as quite as cold … it’s not quite as musty as it is down there. They tell me that I can certainly make it to them. I sigh … and choose to shimmy some more.
My first alcohol-free day was Sunday, June 27, 2021. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a moderate drinker. I have no off switch. Those two statements are facts. I don’t have to like them … and my siren might want me to believe otherwise … but they are facts. I will not drink today.
“Why should I stay at the bottom of a well, when a strong rope is in my hand?”
The work of sobriety?
Now that I am out of the well there is a choice that needs to be made. I am standing on the edge of a chiasm and I am deathly afraid of heights. There are two paths forward – down or across.
Down is the easy path. I let gravity take control. I will not win that battle. I will not survive that journey. There will be SO many reasons to justify drinking … and it will be SO accessible.
The path across involves crossing an invisible bridge. I can’t “see” this bridge. I don’t know where it leads. I need to have faith in strangers that have stepped on to it before … and made it across. I need to fight every fiber of my being that tells me that the bridge isn’t there … I need to face my visceral fear of heights and put one foot in front of the other even though I don’t know where that bridge leads and I’m not 100% certain that there’s even a bridge there in the first place because I can’t see it.
I will be courageous enough to try the new path. This is not easy. Life is not easy. But I can do hard things. I can do this. I am not now, nor will I ever be, a moderate drinker. That voice is a liar. She is wrong. I can not moderate. I would LOVE to be able to. But I can’t. That is fact. I have no off switch. That is fact. One is NEVER one. One is the first course of more. I will not drink today. I don’t have to like it … but it’s fact.
Here are 4 steps to start across that bridge.
Step 1 – Remember patience. Both with myself as well as with the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day … that means my jumbled thoughts, emotions and feelings don’t need to be either.
Step 2 – Identify emotions.
Step 3 – Don’t drink in response to identified emotion. Breathe … and realize that emotions might wallop you and knock you on your ass because you haven’t really given them a chance to speak up in quite awhile.
Step 4 – Acknowledge and attempt to provide an authentic response to said identified emotion. Don’t put on a mask that’s not authentic … to patch the problem instead of address it. I think it finally caught up to me how inauthentic I’ve become … and then used alcohol to “numb” the conflict that arouse in me due to the clash of action from core value.
I’m a little scared. I take a little comfort in having gone that far last year. I don’t know what’s beyond that … and that’s a little scary. Emotion identified. Labeled. And accepted.
During my morning garden meditation this morning a gentle voice whispered in my ear, “darling … no one is coming to save you.” It wasn’t dire. It wasn’t like straight out of a horror movie. It was just a simple, gentle fact.
No one is coming to save me. I need to do this on my own. People can cheer on the sidelines … they can shout words of encouragement … but in the end, I need to take that step … I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Only I can cross that bridge. No one else can do it for me. No one can make it easier. No one can take away that primal fear or battle those voices in my head shouting at me that it’s impossible. I don’t know how to do this. I have to have faith in those strangers whom have been there. I have no other way across that invisible bridge because no one is coming to do it for me. I’ve been reading people’s stories on BOOM. I’ve been reading the articles. Putting blind faith in people besides myself. Relying on their information and accounts. That’s new to me. Trusting someone besides myself.
I am not now, nor will I ever be, a moderate drinker. I have no off switch. Those two statements are facts. Let me type that with a little more certainty for that stubborn lil siren in the back who sings so beautifully … I am not now, nor will I ever be, a moderate drinker. I have no off switch. I’m no longer craving the taste of alcohol. In truth, I don’t think I ever really liked the taste. I crave the numbing effect. I crave the quiet it brings to my very crowded head. I crave the muzzle it gives my insecurities and self doubt. I listened to that siren for ten years. I believed her songs. I believed she was beautiful. It’s time to leave her on the edge of that chiasm and continue stepping, one foot in front of the other, across that invisible bridge.
I will not drink today.
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