In an effort to keep this blog meaningful I have tried to only post when I have some new insight to offer. Some of you have noticed that my posts are coming slower and slower – please take this as a positive sign. Sobriety is become a normal part of my life. I am adapting and honestly, there is little to report.
The new year has just begun, and it’s safe to assume some folks will stumble upon this blog as they try to navigate a January resolution to quit drinking. If I am right about this, someone reading this is mucking through the first terrifying, shaky days of sobriety. Is this you? You are not alone! You are not a freak! You are not strange or even all that unique. You got yourself into something very normal and there is a normal, tried and true process to get you out. My friend, hang on. Stay the course. Keep the carbs and the water and the tissues handy and you will make it through.
You are doing something very, very good for yourself and you will not regret it. Your life will be better, your body will be healthier, and your spirit will be stronger. You will get yourself back.
I’ve spent the holidays at our ski cabin in the mountains, where happy hour starts as soon as the lifts shut down. We gather to eat and drink, visit and drink, play board games and drink, listen to music and drink. Drink in the hot tub then have a nightcap before bed. This year, though, I am drinking pop or tea or sometimes even nothing at all.
I began my journey last year just as ski season ended and I truly wondered how on earth I would survive the season ahead. By the time the hill opened again, I had 9 months of sobriety under my belt and everything has gone smoothly. Everyone around me now knows I don’t drink, though few know all the details. They all respect my decision, but no one seemed to think I had a big problem to begin with. That’s okay, though. They don’t need to know everything. I know, and that’s enough.
I keep equating the experience to running. I am not a serious runner by any means. After I turned 40 I realized it was going to take more effort to stay in decent shape. Running is quick exercise and doesn’t require me to drive anywhere special or face other people. I prefer my elliptical because it’s gentler on the old bones, truth be told, but if the sun is shining I’ll head outside. So let’s establish that I am a runner who would rather not run.
For me, the very hardest part of the run is getting off the couch in the first place. “Just put down the latte and get outside,” I’ll tell myself. The mental bargaining begins – talking myself in and out of going out for the run, all the while knowing I’ll be glad once I do it but still resisting the effort. That’s a lot like it was talking myself in and out of quitting drinking. Half of the battle was just working up to the realization that I needed to change things.
I was very confused and conflicted for a long time over whether I needed to quit drinking because I had mistakenly thought I had to be an alcoholic or hit “rock bottom” in order to quit. I was definitely experiencing addictive behaviour towards alcohol but there was no “rock bottom” in sight and I didn’t truly fit the alcoholic profile. I could see, however, I was drinking more and more and it seemed just a matter of time before things got worse. Everything I read seemed geared towards people who’d hit the bottom. Did I need to wait until I was there in order to quit? That made no sense but then came 4 o’clock and I’d shrug my shoulders and pour a drink.
Eventually I decided not to wait any longer. If I wanted to change my life I could start where I was at, just as someone who wants to weigh 150 lbs can start working on that any time – they don’t have to wait until they are 300 lbs. to start the diet. Once you know where you want to be, you can get up and start heading there. Waiting and falling further behind makes no sense.
When I do finally get out there to run, the first bit is the worst. I constantly check my watch and gulp for air. My body seems determined to convince me it’s a mistake to exercise. I notice every pain and gasp, and time seems to pass so slowly. The first few months of recovery were just like that – I felt every discomfort and the hours crept by. I wondered what I the hell I had gotten myself into. I could not imagine ever enjoying myself again. Marathon runners and sober people all seemed a mysterious lot – were they faking their supposed joy in a miserable existence? Or had they actually found pleasure in the struggle?
A ways into the run, it gets easier. You hit your stride and get lost in thought. Your legs take over and it almost feels like you’re along for the ride. There’s noting hard about it.
That’s where I feel I am at right now – I’m off the couch, I’m through the worst of it. I’m cruising along and now all I have to do is make sure I keep going.
A few months ago, living day after day without the comforts of wine seemed impossible. I never dreamed I could be happy at all, that it would be effortless. It is, though. It’s just who I am, what I do. I am right handed, I wear blue jeans, I drive a Subaru, part my hair off-centre, take cream in my coffee, have crooked toes, speak English (with a Canadian accent, apparently) and I don’t drink alcohol anymore. That’s me, and I am great with who I am.