Getting sober is hard

I’ve been on this journey for 2 years and I have 4 days of sobriety. Every time I have drank again, I have thought, this doesn’t matter. I didn’t lose anything, I can drink and if I want to get sober, it’s easy, I just stop again. I know what tools are out there. Part of this is true, I do have tools, sobriety is always there if I want it. But, I think I’m doing myself a disservice to say that it has been easy. If I let myself accept that getting sober is hard and it does matter, I can keep it close and fight for it.

When I was a kid, everything felt like life or death. Just living was hard. I was such a sensitive kid, I had no control over my emotions. But somewhere down the line, I convinced myself that life was just one big game. I know it was self preservation. I couldn’t handle the weight of the world, so I made a decision that none of it really mattered. At the time, this decision made my life a lot better. Even my mother noticed and would tell me even as an adult how as a young child I made a change in myself and she was so impressed. I’m not impressed. I never learned how to deal with my emotions, I decided that they just weren’t that important. And now, at 34 years old, I have to reteach myself that they are important. I’m never going to get better if I continue to believe that nothing matters. Life isn’t just one big game. The hard part is that it isn’t black and white. I shouldn’t take myself so seriously, but I do have to take some things seriously. Sobriety does matter, I matter, the decisions I make today matter. Intellectually I know this. But I know my deep rooted thoughts from childhood are still way below the surface and they can come out at any time. It does matter that I stay sober. Drinking that bottle of wine mattered. It was a slip, a stumble, it doesn’t have to define me, but it still matters, and it was real. It really happened, I can’t pretend that it didn’t.

My goal today is to take sobriety seriously and to tell my sponsor about my slip. I called her last night but she didn’t answer. It doesn’t get me off the hook. I will call her again today and tell her.

Again and again and again

postit

I had ten months of sobriety. Then I didn’t. For the last seven months I have been stumbling. The first time I took a drink after ten months, I was four months into quitting zoloft. I had been taking it for anxiety. The first few months, I felt great, but then the anxiety started creeping in. It was spiraling thoughts in the middle of the night keeping me awake. Then, the drink started calling to me. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the rooms. I felt like the more I thought about not drinking, the more power I gave it. I felt suffocated by AA. I felt like I could take away alcohol’s power, by taking a sip and taking back my control.

In truth, I felt worse at ten months of sobriety, then I did while I was drinking. Each day kind of just ticked by. I had a sponsor who I really liked, but I didn’t want to call her if I felt like I would disappoint her. I hated telling her no, I hadn’t hit five meetings this week. I know most of this guilt was all in my head, but it was consuming me. I didn’t want to go to meetings. They felt like a punishment that I had given myself. It really messed with my psyche. Like there was never anything wrong with me until I decided to get help. I realize now that I was a victim of stigma. When I was drinking, no one told me I was drinking too much or that I should go get help. In a moment of clarity, I thought that there might be a better way to live. But, after ten months of sobriety, I thought, ‘what the hell did I get myself into?’

So, I picked up a drink. And another. The sky didn’t fall down. The mountains didn’t crumble. But I also didn’t feel like I had taken the power back from alcohol. I drank, then I got sober for a month, then drank again and over and over again. I don’t even know how many times I did this dance in the last seven months. It might sound tiring to anyone that reads this, but it didn’t feel that way. Every time I picked up and then put it down again, it felt like part of my journey. Each time felt a little different than the last. Like I was moving closer to something. Long term sobriety? Maybe. Only time will tell. As I’m writing this, I only have three days. But three important days that feel closer to the real me than those ten months did. I don’t want someone to read this as an excuse to drink again. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone’s journey is different. Someone else might pick up a drink and never come back.

So, I don’t feel guilt or shame about drinking again. It is in our stumbles that we really get to know ourselves, when we dust ourselves off and get up again. But I do have a lot of fear. Fear of disappointing my sponsor that I lost almost three months of sobriety. I haven’t told her yet. I’m afraid that things will change between us. That she’ll feel like she needs to do more. I don’t want her to do more, she’s doing enough. Nothing she could have done differently could have changed what happened. I’m afraid she’ll want me to do more. I am already doing more, but I don’t want to do more AA. I’m doing more writing. I’m reading more sobriety blogs. I’m trying to figure out what should go into my sobriety toolbox. I’m still going to meetings. I think they’re helpful. But I don’t want to go to more meetings. I’m still calling my sponsor every day. I’m going to tell her tonight. If she has time to talk. Part of me feels like this is my secret to tell, and it’s okay to wait until I’m ready. But, the other part of me knows that I have to let it out, that my conscience won’t allow me to pick up dirty chips. So, I have to tell her. I am not in control of her reaction.

I’ve made a promise to myself to stay sober for one year. I will figure out the rest when I get there. I have gotten up again and again and again. I have learned so much from every stumble. I’m hoping that these lessons will help me get there.

Dear John letter

Dear Alcohol,

I have loved you once and I suppose I still do. You were with me through good times and bad. And just like an ex-lover, I can’t seem to quit you. Old habits die hard. Know that in the beginning, you were just what I needed. As a shy kid with no friends, you helped me make some. And oh did we had some good times together. As I look back on those good times, I can’t help but romanticize you. I still want you sometimes. In those first couple of glasses of wine, you are like a warm hug. I miss that. But, the longer I am with you, the more suffocating you can be. That warm hug becomes a noose around my neck. The hardest part of leaving is that I know I can still enjoy you sometimes, but it’s best to cut ties. Our love is toxic. I know it’s going to be hard at first. Each day I think of you, I wonder, how bad would it be to just take a sip? But, I am hoping that if I hold out, one day at a time, there will come a day that I don’t think of you at all. That I will make it to the other side.

I had so much fun with you. My inhibitions would vanish. I could do wild things that I would be too shy to do without you. You were my muse. You and I, we had a great group of friends. Actually, everyone was our friend when you were around. The mundane became interesting, the interesting became amazing. The way I felt with my friends when we toasted to you is indescribable. I had a tribe. With you around, I had something in common with almost everyone. Strangers became sisters and brothers. You were a magic potion. The world felt so big and available.

Somewhere down the line, you changed and I changed with you. You wanted me all to yourself. I kept up my obligations reluctantly. But it was you who I longed to come home to. Our old friends were still in the periphery, but it was only you that I really wanted. You whispered into my ear that it would be better if it was just us and I agreed . So you and I would quietly rejoice when plans were canceled or we would make excuses to stay home. And it would just be us.

Over time, you became my dark passenger with a gun to my head. I still had my hand on the wheel, but it was you that had control. I hardly recognized myself anymore. On the outside, I still looked the same, but it was the inside that had changed. My life became shallow and meaningless. No one on the outside seemed to notice and why would they? Nothing really changed, but I felt empty inside. It started as such a subtle shift, that I had hardly noticed at first. But my sadness would creep up in unexpected places. A night out with you would start out incredible but would always seem to end in tears. A night in with you began to take on a darkness that I can’t even begin to describe. We could stay together longer, but I know I will lose myself in the process. I have decided I won’t wait until I lose all of myself before I leave you.

So, I am saying goodbye, my love, my first love. I have to let go of the darkness to let in the light.