2 Years! No Alcohol!
January 1st marked 2 years since I quit drinking. To be honest, I almost missed it! I thought it was going to be a couple of days later, but then I checked the ap thingy I have that counts the days. It’s been like no time and a long time! To be honest, overall I haven’t missed it. And, to be honest, at times, I have missed it. Or I guess the idea of it. For example, getting ready for New Years Eve-which does not involve anything as we never do anything and usually go to bed way before midnight! I was kind of menu planning. And caught myself saying excitedly, “Oh! And we can get that French Organic Sparkling Apple Cider!” And realized how times have drastically changed! Even my SO laughed! There have been times of stress where I really wanted a drink. Or times of excitement and celebration when I’ve wanted a drink. Or times, when I want a drink for no apparent reason. But these moments are fleeting. And the reality of it is that I really DON’T want a drink-because I know that it won’t be “a drink”. It may be at first and for the first few times, but I know myself. Jeez! I’d cut out my beloved Gelato a few months back for Dove Bar Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Sorbet Bars-as they are only 150 calories and they do the trick. BUT! the holidays hit and I decided to treat myself! Well, well, well! Guess what! It was all I could do to not finish a carton in one go. All or nothing! That’s me! Although it’s funny-kind of-my SO, as a thoughtful gesture knew I was out of it-which I wanted to keep it that way-brought some home. And, of course I dug right in after dinner-told him not to bring it home anymore. The strange thing is that I have a cabinet of liquor and some wine to cook with and it never occurs to me to maybe just take a swig… NEVER! At parties, I don’t have a problem saying I don’t drink. Or saying that I’ve done my fair share in the past and I’m done with it. But, it’s always something isn’t it?
And so, I feel pretty good. Not smugly good. But overall-y good. I also see and feel that some change is happening-can’t quite put it into words other than to say that while these past 2 years have been great and change has been a constant, it’s different somehow. Maybe it’s taken 2 years to “come out of it” and really move on. Or to begin to re-define myself. I do see even more clearly how EVERYTHING in my life while I was drinking was tied up in drinking-was connected to my drinking. Career choices, friends, pastimes, moods, emotions and reactions-just so much-well, more than that. Giving up alcohol has not created a void in my life. Giving up alcohol has made room for other, different things in my life. Different thought patterns and processes, different desires and needs, different eating patterns-There is so much that is the same about me-but on a deeper, more subtle level it’s all different. Evolving. Slowly with time.
Which brings me to an observation-In reading posts from people trying to quit for the first time or for the tenth time-or even those just committing to a Dry January, one thread that seems to be prevalent is the feeling of being punished. That feeling that there’s a stigma to not drinking. What is it about us that makes us so open and accepting to harming ourselves but when it comes to healing ourselves, many of us feel like we’ve received the death penalty. I remember once years ago my ex mother in law got a very severe case of pneumonia. She was/is a smoker. Well of course no cigarettes during her recovery. Her doctor gave her nicotine gum and patches. One day we were out shopping and aside from the fact that she probably didn’t feel well from the illness, she was really missing her “best friend” as she called it! Here she was, going to the top pulmonary specialist around who was trying to heal her and all she could feel was anger and a sense of loss. Well, that’s addiction isn’t it? Is that REALLY who we want for our best friend?? A bottle of wine or vodka? A pack of cigarettes? Why are some of us so removed from caring for ourselves? Why are some of us so confused between the difference between harm and healing? Why are some of us so scared of our Selves that we want to squash our true essence? Are we afraid that we may be too powerful? Too artistic? Too MUCH? Why do some of us have a zillion day ones and some quit on the first go-round? I read some people that try and try and just can’t stick with it. Why is that? I’m no shrink, but my view is that ANYTIME someone is feeling like maybe drinking isn’t so bad, or feeling ashamed because they have to make excuses as to WHY THEY WANT TO LIVE A HEALTHIER LIFE all of this is the addiction talking- give it a name-tell it to STFU and go back down to it’s hole-or better yet to get the fuck out of your life.
Yes, the first few weeks or even months without alcohol can be an emotional and physical roller coaster. At times I felt that I really needed to go to therapy-often forgetting that my whole physical and psychological body was making HUGE adjustments. Forgetting that I was undergoing a HEALING PROCESS! At times I thought I was slowly going crazy. My moods were all over the place.I felt like shit! Tired, run down-at times like I had the flu. It was with an effort that I would remind myself to be kind to myself. To not put pressure on myself. To not beat myself up for all of the years I spent drinking. To try and not beat myself up at all! I was learning about ME for the first time in my adult life. Yes, many things I’ve kept-but many, I’ve let go. I had to remind myself over and over, that not drinking was/is a conscious choice on my part. It’s something I struggled with FOR YEARS! Sometimes it would really bother me and other times not so much. But I can say that somewhere, deep down, it ALWAYS bothered me.
So for anyone reading this, if you are trying to quit, Bravo for you! You are not being punished. You are being kinder and more loving to yourself than maybe you ever have been. And,maybe, that’s part of where your discomfort is coming from. That’s where a lot of mine came from. I wasn’t used to really, really doing something loving for my Self. I wasn’t used to really focusing on Healing my Self. For so many reasons, I was afraid of me. And now, well, people can take me as they may. But! they are not judging me by how drunk I was the last time they saw me.
I think that so many of us are wanting “Instant Gratification”. And, alcohol will give you that. Oh yes and so much more! Ongoing guilt, mental anguish, health problems- the list goes on and on and on. Quitting doesn’t seem like it has instant, or sometimes any kind of gratification. You feel like shit for awhile- well, you know what I’m talking about. BUT, it’s a long term thing. Please tell me if you’ve read anywhere of someone saying that their life and overall well being did not improve when they gave up alcohol. I’m not saying that things don’t ever go wrong again or there won’t ever be tough times. Of course there will. But, you’ll deal with them differently. See them differently. Get through them differently and not be hung over at the other side of it. One thing that struck me in Oprah’s epic speech the other night (check it out if you haven’t seen/heard it yet) was a point she made. She said that the one quality she found in all of the many people that she’d interviewed that had gone through tough times and ugly situations was “an ability to maintain hope”.
So, I’m asking you to try, try to find that little glimmer of hope that’s hiding behind all of the muck that your body and your mind is throwing at you in the early days of getting sober. Try to close your eyes and see-however faint it may be-that tiny bit of light way deep down inside of you. Give it a chance to come to the surface and shine a little bit brighter every day. If you need to reach out for some help- do it! Make a call, find a meeting, take a walk, start a journal. If you need to go to bed at 5, do it! If it means no social life for awhile, stay home. Do whatever it takes! Take baby steps. Tiptoe if you have to.
Getting sober is so much more than not drinking-or using. It’s a lesson in loving your Self. Getting sober is a lesson in “gifting” your Self. It’s the path Home.