For what it’s worth, I thought I might write about some things that I’ve learned and experienced since I’ve quit drinking-which was just about 2 1/2 years ago. Or 904 days as of today.
That last sentence, the number of days without alcohol might as well go into the first thing. I don’t count days anymore. To be honest, when I looked at how many days, I really didn’t know what was going to come up. I just don’t give it much thought in that way anymore. I suppose the whole counting thing comes from AA. How they give out chips for each milestone of sobriety. In some ways, I can see that this is a good thing.. However, as time goes on, the fact that I don’t drink anymore just isn’t at the forefront of my consciousness. However, it does lead me into another point I’ve been thinking about. Overthinking.
I am definitely into trying to be as conscious as I can be. Always looking at things from several angles, analyzing, processing. All of that. But from my own experience as well as what I’ve read in various blogs, I think there may be a tendency to “overthink”. Look, I get it-I am/was a pro at that. That’s part of why I drank-to medicate that away.. To dull the whole overthinking thing-which in turn, kept me from truly being conscious. The drinking, whether I was actually under the influence or not, totally played a part in every decision I made-in every aspect of my life. Always lurking in the background. Then when we quit! Well, everything comes up-in spades! It’s almost as if we/I had been “bad” for so long that I had to correct it all at once. No alcohol. More exercise. Better diet. More this-less that. Blah, blah, blah..That whole quest for and expectation of perfection. In many ways, it’s like changing one burden-the alcohol- for 100 others. Sort of like all of the things that we don’t like about ourselves and have kept at bay by the use of alcohol have been unleashed and allowed to run rampant in our psyche. It’s crazy! It’s stressful! It’s a mindfuck! It’s that voice saying “okay, you’ve stopped drinking (for like 1 day) now you have to get your act together and fix every single thing in your life!” Right…It’s also a way of not feeling good about yourself. As I’ve mentioned before, for some crazy reason, quitting an abusive habit feels like punishment, when in fact, it’s one of the best kinds of self love we can give to ourselves.
So, here’s one thing that I can say. STOP! Just Stop It!!! Try to quit doing a number on yourself. All of that yammering is you telling yourself that you’re not good enough and that’s just not true. The single most important thing to do when you first stop drinking-and by “first stop drinking” I don’t mean the first day or week or even month-I mean as long as it takes-just don’t drink. Don’t worry about your diet. Don’t worry about the gym-although I would recommend light exercise- just get through the day the best you can without finding reasons to beat yourself up. If that means coming home at 4 and going to bed, just do it. If it means coming home at 4 and eating 3 scones with jam and cream-go for it. If you need to make some sugary “mocktails” to get through wine-o-clock-, go to the store and stock up on the supplies for this. If your significant other still drinks, do not buy their alcohol if that’s going to pose a problem for you and make you struggle with not buying some for yourself. Take care of yourself. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE! I do understand that children take a priority, of course! But don’t use them as an excuse. The biggest gift you can give them is the same one you can give yourself-sobriety.
The first 6-8 weeks that I went without alcohol, I really thought that I was in the middle of having some kind of breakdown. Not like DT’s or anything like that-although I was really tired. But, I was mentally fragile. Oh, I could keep it together at work and with clients, but I felt like I was hanging by a thread. I thought that I was going crazy. I had absolutely no patience (not that I ever have much under the best of circumstances:) and I felt like I had developed some form of Tourett’s Syndrome because I was cussing an unbelievable amount-even for me! I just tried to stay as even as I could. While I didn’t want to, walking my dog was an incredible therapy-just being outside. To be honest, sometimes we only walked to a nearby bench because I couldn’t handle anything more and just sat there, enjoying the energy of nature. Me trying to hang on. At times, even though I wasn’t fighting the urge to drink, I would have to remind myself that the rollercoaster of emotions that I was experiencing was my body and mind trying to balance itself out. In writing this I get the picture of a ship in a storm that’s leaning on it’s side-almost to the point of going over-but it doesn’t. Eventually, the storm abates and the ship rights itself.
What I’m trying to say is don’t be impatient with yourself. Give yourself time. You can always start a new diet or a new workout regime. In my case, things just evolved organically, over time. While things may not move as quickly as you or your ego would like, they will move. As you become more grounded in living without medicating yourself, I think you’ll find that things will even out. As your body changes and adapts to living without alcohol, your tastes may change. You will certainly become more aware of things. In my case, I’m just not as focused on my weight or working out as I was when I was drinking. I don’t know why- maybe it’s because when I was drinking I was so out of control that controlling my food and working out like a maniac made me feel like I was in control. A false sense of control that was, as my whole existence was dictated by how, when and what I was going to drink. Now having said that, I will say, that I eat a healthy diet overall-but when I don’t, I don’t beat myself up. I just let that boat right itself and go on. I am much easier on myself. I can forgive myself. Speaking of things changing-even my taste in clothes changed somewhat. Well, not my taste but my color preference. I discovered black in 1986 and that’s about all I wore for “donkey’s years”. Sometimes, I’d throw in something purple. But for the most part, my closet was one big black line of clothes. I still love black and it’s definitely the dominant color in my wardrobe. But, I’ve also started incorporating cobalt blue and a few other shades of blue and other colors as well. I doubt I’ll ever wear pastels-I’d need a total lobotomy for that! But I’m letting more color into my life-in many ways.
You know what else? When I look in the mirror-at any time of day-it’s not always my first reaction to hate what I see. I mean my first reaction when looking in a mirror previously would be “Ick!” No self love there! But, I don’t do that anymore. Okay, sometimes, but nowhere near as much. I’ve gained self acceptance.
Another extremely important component is to reach out. Find someone you can really confide in-without shame. This could be AA or another type of support group, a good friend or even reaching out to a fellow blogger. And, while I know that I’ve said this before, dig deep and do the work. By “the work” I mean some kind of therapy. I know this may be hard or foreign, but it’s so important to not only share what you’re going through but to dig down deep for the reasons behind the behavior. Scary, yes I know. Painful. Yes, it can be. BUT-once you do it, you will know so much about yourself. You will be able to let go of so much needless shit in your brain. Remember my recent post, where I met that guy who was a mess in a public place, even though he’d been sober for like 20 years? He hadn’t done his work-or program as they call it in AA. To be clear, I’m not pushing AA. It’s great for some and not for others. It’s about finding what works for you and how to go about it. Find the way that fits for you. You know the whole “body, mind and spirit” thing? I believe in that. It’s important to have and develop all three of those components to make a whole. To develop them in a way that is comfortable and works for you. Find an outlet-journaling, breathing exercises, meditation, yoga. Just try something, for say 10 minutes a day-see what may work for you. In 1987, after finding out that my ex had been having an affair (he wasn’t my ex then!) I went to a therapist who suggested that I start keeping a journal. I have continued that for the past 31 years! Sometimes I write pages, sometimes one line, sometimes I skip several days. But, I always go back to it-it’s become my silent witness so to speak. And, just so you know-I don’t use a fancy, leather bound thing-just spiral notebooks, college lined.
The world is so crazy right now. So much going on-so many things to be upset about. However, in the midst of all of the mess, all of the injustices, there is still beauty to be found. There is still joy to be had. Keep reaching. Keep reminding yourself. Keep evolving. Believe in Your Self. Keep on putting one step in front of the other. It will change.