Expectations and Surprises
Tomorrow will be 3 weeks into my life without alcohol.
I expected it would be hard. It is.
Sometimes I crave a drink so *&$&^$ badly I want to scream and kick like a toddler in the cereal aisle. I’m more of a composure freak than an actual control freak, but either way it’s unnerving to face how powerful I have allowed alcohol to become within my body and mind.
I expected I would feel better quickly. I haven’t. I had completely underestimated the effect and length of the detox process – most mornings I feel worse than if I’d had a bottle of wine the night before. At least I know the process is temporary, though. Clearly my body was affected by my drinking much more than I had realized. I thought I was “quitting while ahead” of any real damage but my body is now telling me a different story.
I expected to feel triumphant. I really thought that the success of each day without alcohol would make me happy. Instead I am grieving the companionship of a glass (or four) of wine. Rather than grieving the “old me”, my overwhelming sadness is for the lovely bottles and pretty glasses and sophisticated shops and selections and pairings – all the swirling and anticipation and oh, I must stop.
I miss it so much it hurts me physically. My chest aches and I have a lump in my throat. I never expected I would be so sad, and the misery further confirms that I needed to quit. I know that feelings pass and all I have to do is breath and wait patiently.
I thought more people would notice. I thought I would drop a few pounds. I thought I would drink sparkling juice from a wine glass.
No one has really noticed, expect my in-laws. And I haven’t lost weight because eating sweets helps with headaches as the body adjusts to the radical drop in empty carbs consumed nightly. I allowed myself the forbidden indulgences of chocolate and ice cream during the transition out of drinking but now I am weaning myself from those as well.
Instinctively I have stayed away from “faux” or virgin cocktails. I suspected they might be helpful in terms of blending into social situations, but also feared they would weaken my resolve. I posted the question on Twitter (@unpickledblog) and received overwhelming response opposed to drinking fake beer and cockatils:
“You are teasing yourself”
“Those drinks create unhealthy illusions…Very dangerous for recovery”
“A slippery slope”
“I don’t tease my disease”
Twitter has proved to be a most effective tool in my recovery – another thing I did not forsee. At this moment I am connected with 60 or so others who follow and encourage one another. Most are anonymous, as am I. It is an absolute Godsend and I would not have made it this far without the readers of this blog and the encouragement from the other folks on Twitter.
Which brings me to my next surprise:
I thought I was in an unusual situation that would be hard for others to understand. This is just plain willful self-deception on my part. I am amazed by the stories, blogs, webpages, and books devoted to people just like me – overachievers who substitute attention and approval for self-acceptance, working moms whose evening glass of wine evolved into a larger problem, people who drink a little extra before bed in hopes of falling dead asleep before having to be alone in the quiet of the mind. High-functioning. Haven’t hit “rock bottom”. Promising oneself every day not to drink and then later choosing to anyway. All I had to do was look – it is as easy to find online as any other interest you might search.
I couldn’t imagine telling anyone I knew. I have finally made some decisions about this and selected a few special people to trust with the whole truth. My husband only four of my close friends who I knew would understand and be supportive. I have told my three sons, ages 19, 17, and 14, although I’ve spared them the details. Otherwise, I don’t think too many people will need to know or even care. I don’t want to share everything with my sisters and parents, even though we are a close family. They will just realize over time that I show up with a bottle of ginger ale instead of wine. (No one really liked the wine I’d bring anyways. They don’t drink much and so prefer the sweet wines of a “beginner”. I am pretty sure I consumed most of the wine myself that I’d bring to family dinners.)
I thought time would go slowly. It hasn’t – the past three weeks have flown by. I catch myself wondering sometimes if I have really quit or if my mind is playing games on me. I can’t be three weeks already! I thought I would have trouble sleeping – Lord knows I would often have more wine at bedtime in a near-panic that I would never fall asleep without it. Possibly the most delightful surprise is how well I sleep, how happy I wake up – even if a detox headache persists, I know I have made it to another day.
I feared judgment from others in recovery. This has been the sweetest surprise of all to me – the warm welcome and support from the recovery community. In an earlier comment I said I was afraid I wasn’t “broken” enough.
A few years back I attempted to help my mom achieve her weight-loss goals by joining a women-only circuit gym together. We went several times and I was so uncomfortable to be fit and healthy in a room full of women struggling with their bodies. This was supposed to be their “safe place” away from people like me – sporty people who actually “like” working out. I dropped my membership and my mom, I suspect, enjoyed the gym more herself without me.
Forgive me, forgive me. I am ashamed to say I thought the recovery community would be the same – a bunch of sad sack washed-up drunks trying to get their shit together and resenting my utter fabulousness. Instead I have encountered kind, funny, smart, generous souls who cheer for one another and care so deeply about each journey. Fabulous themselves, and sincerely concerned for me as much as anyone else!