And, I know I won’t. For now anyway. This post is mainly for others, to shore them/us up in the face of those continual cravings. I’m not proud of it, but almost a year later and I still have a LOT of cravings. Then again, I’ve made a lot of big changes, am trying to resolve some important decisions (to have kids or not, to move back to the mainland or not, to go back to school this fall for another master’s degree or not), and feel at odds between the two! Before I quit drinking, I don’t think I would’ve been so easily able to articulate exactly what is triggering my cravings, so that, I would say, is DEFINITE progress. Go, me. (I think?)
I remember the first many months (six?) of getting sober, and they weren’t easy at all. And, for some reason, I’ve been having trouble putting thoughts into words (gasp!) the past few days, so here’s a numerical list of some of what I’ve learned since last June about the ongoing process of choosing not to drink instead of drink:
1. I always want to drink. And, when people at AA meetings, or on the blogs, say that “the urge to drink has left them” or “being sober is so fucking awesome,” I CANNOT reflect that. It just does not gel as true for me. OF COURSE I WANT TO DRINK. Duh. Yes, I like drinking. Yes, I want that first glass or three. Yes, I like feeling buzzed; I want that feeling of warmth, of place, of lack of struggle against my existential issues. I LIKE feeling nothing, sometimes. And, frankly, a part of me thinks that wine was a good solution, at some point in my life. And, damn it, sometimes I really miss it.
2. In general, hating on oneself is PART OF THE DRINK. Once I got sober, I realized that all that self-loathing and self-ruminating was, in fact, not necessary to hold on to. The longer I went sober, the less sad and depressed I felt, the less I was beholden to the past, the less I felt the need to say I was sorry about the horrifying things I had said or done. I learned that it was not only OK to let it go, but also that I needed to. No more apologies. No more beating myself up. I’m not saying that amends aren’t needed, but when you continue to remain sober, you start to let it all go. And, if that includes friends and family members who choose to either hold onto their grudges or be fearful of your newfound emotional maturity, well, they CAN go; they’re not worth fighting to keep.
3. Getting sober (at least getting a handle on it) BEFORE hitting AA meetings is the way I would advise myself to do it. I found, personally, that going to AA meetings was a HUGE stressor. All these “steps,” all this “ideology” that I didn’t know whether or not I agreed with (I don’t); it was all Way Too Much. Some of the time, I had to uncomfortably defend myself against the “AA bullies” at the meetings, saying repeatedly, I need to take my time, I need to do it in my own time. Looking back, I can now say that it’s this, simply: Getting sober comes first, getting “right with God” comes a distant second. My refusal to cave in the face of everyone at the meetings pressuring me to “do it their way” was by far, the best foot I’ve ever put down. Getting sober does NOT require any kind of spiritual epiphany, in my opinion. Getting sober requires your acknowledgement, slow as it may come, that the reason this is so hard is because addiction changes your brain circuitry. Getting sober requires you flexing your sober muscle–which is you not drinking when you really want to–over and over and over again.
I’m pretty sure that *if I had not run into severe consequences,* I would have kept drinking. For sure, actually. Yet, with crippling hangovers and the inability to predict what I would do when I was blacked out, it was simply no longer an option. It was like, drinking wine could be as dangerous as drinking toilet water. It might NOT be, but it COULD be.
All that being said, I can say that I like being sober. And, here’s what I like specifically:
1. Not giving up my power.
2. Not feeling trapped by the desire to drink away my social anxiety.
3. Not revealing my anger, especially in its raw form.
4. Being able to see others for who they are.
5. Being able to make choices based on real information and real emotional feedback.
I go back to these things in my mind, and like others, play out the horrifying–and possible fatal–video to the end. I think a LOT about how drinking would take away my power, how it would expose me, how I’d make bad choices based on really bad information. I just can’t. I’ve come to care about myself way too much to do that to myself anymore!
What I’m saying is, you can still really want to drink and not feel like a noncommittal failure because of this. Wanting to quit (action based on higher brain planning) CAN COEXIST–does, I bet in 100 percent of the “cases”–with wanting to drink (desire based on inner brain reacting). Take a deep breath, then, and know you are on the right track.
(And, then she hit “delete.” Oh, yeah! The best part about being sober? Being willing and able to simply think all of the above and then…let it go. All these thoughts came, they will all go, and I don’t have to either react or care about them. Huzzah!)