Sparkles once more

The comments on my earlier post were so helpful. This one, in particular, from karymayhickey, instantly helped…

“As one of my friends on the message boards pointed out today to another person who had broken her abstinence streak, “How would you have felt 9 weeks ago if someone had told you, you’re going to go 9 weeks without drinking and then you’re going to have 3 glasses of wine, but then you’re going to go right back to not drinking.” What would that scenario have looked like 9 or 10 weeks ago? Impossible? Well, now you’ve accomplished the impossible. You can do it again.”

If I went back in time to the morning when I woke up and knew, deep in my bones, that I had to stop drinking, and held my sad face in my own hands and said “you will not drink for 65 of the next 66 days”, I would have been ecstatic. I am ecstatic. I’m also so proud of myself for getting right back up on the horse before it bolted away again.

Maybe I’ll never be one of those people who gets to 15 years sober or some such. But if I can get 15 years down the track and say “I’ve been sober for 15 years aside from 3 occasions when I drank”, I will be fine with that. I’d be overjoyed with that, in truth.

This is not a pitch for moderation in the slightest, but a recognition that my path is my own and it may not be perfect. I’m raising my chamomile and lavender tea to imperfections, to life-affirming slips, to sober internet friends, and to keeping on going one day at a time. 


One more lesson learned

I had three glasses of wine on Friday night. I’m not planning to have any more.

Friday would have been day 63. 

I felt off all last week. A constant headache and low mood for absolutely no reason at all, which was a rude shock after feeling so fabulous for so long. Looking back, there were a few things going subtly wrong. Too much work, not enough exercise, definitely not enough sleep, miserable weather, a really stressful situation where a friend has gone completely off the rails with alcohol and drugs and has a tiny baby thrown into the mix. I didn’t actually think about drinking at all until I got home from work all tearful and frustrated and poured it before I’d really had a chance to think about what I was doing. 

I’m often a mess on Friday nights. My job is emotionally exhausting – let’s face it, nobody needs a lawyer when everything is going swimmingly. There is a disproportionate number of high conflict personalities – because nobody needs a lawyer if both sides are reasonable people who can compromise. And I am still learning what I’m doing in a lot of ways, which is totally frustrating, because by 33 I imagined I’d be CEO of the universe and not clinging to the bottom rung of my career ladder. As a result, I often come home with none of my self-soothing resources left, and if I don’t drink then I smoke a bunch of cigarettes or eat a stupid amount of chocolate or get into an argument about something I don’t even care about on social media. 

It’s not like I don’t know what the solution is. Or solutions. There are heaps of them and they have been working for nine weeks. Making plans to do something  which involves being totally sober – like ice skating or pole dancing. Or retreating to the bath to slather my face in a mud mask and read a novel and drink tea. Gosh, it’s not rocket science.

I didn’t realise how annoyed I was at myself until I sat down to write this and started crying hot tears of frustration. Three glasses of wine isn’t the end of the world. For me, though, it was enough to bring back the awfully painful gastritis symptoms I get from drinking, which don’t exist when I’m not drinking. I’d forgotten how puffy I get from drinking  – my socks leave elastic marks around my swollen ankles and my sunglasses leave marks on my face. These are more things that don’t happen when I don’t drink. And those are only the physical symptoms – if I was feeling flat before the wine, I felt downright miserable after it.

I liked that my sobriety date was my birthday. I liked how strong and brave and a little bit smug I was feeling. I liked myself, even. I have experienced too much of how great being sober can be to throw it away at this point.

Week 8

The highlights:

Falling asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow each night and waking up eight hours later.

Gorgeous almost-Spring weather.

Being inspired by the Olympic gymnastics to start a new back flexibility challenge and noticing results already.

Starting a new knitting project – legwarmers for pole dancing warm ups based on this pair I found on Pinterest.

Getting a much-needed haircut, including a hot towel hair treatment and glorious scalp massage.

 Figuring out how to connect the TV to the Internet so this household can step in to the 21st century.

The mundane:

A lot of work and occasional stress about how to do it all without spending 12 hours a day in the office.

A highly emotional 5-year-old.

The usual never ending  cooking, cleaning, washing cycle.

The weird:

People trying to convince me I didn’t have that much of a drinking problem and that quitting is a significant overreaction. My brother came to visit and I though it would be a good opportunity to speak about it.

Him: But you didn’t have a problem like Dad or so-and -so.

Me: I don’t want to end up with a problem like Dad or so-and-so. I was binge drinking 1 to 2 bottles of wine at least twice a week, drinking more than the recommended amount most other nights and the last time I drank I fell over and gave myself concussion for a week. I would go out intending to have two drinks and wake up the next day with no memory past the sixth drink. I think most reasonable people would call that problematic.

Him: yeah, but you could just cut back.

Me: that’s what I was trying to do when I fell over and knocked myself out. Didn’t seem like a spectacular success.

Another friend has also been questioning whether the quitting is necessary. These conversations aren’t not making me waver, I just figure they come from a place of literally no understanding of what it is to lack control over your alcohol consumption. 

I continue to love not having to try and exercise that control. It has freed up so much space in my life.

A disturbing new development

Pink clouds come and go. It’s not a problem when I fall off one. In fact, it’s something of a relief to not be so crazy-ridiculous happy. Like last night, when I was leading my dance students through some stretches and I started giggling like a mad woman in child’s pose. I told the class I was remembering something funny from the day, but really, I was just happy to be alive and feeling good and not hungover. 

I still have problems. Some of them are pretty huge. I have not had the time or inclination to write about them. They all involve external factors. Me? I am fine. Better than fine. Kicking myself for not figuring out that alcohol was my biggest problem sooner than this, but fine. Absolutely no inclination to drink and ruin this. Day 48.

Distance and perspective

When I was lurching from one blackout night and miserable hangover to another, I did not fear the next time. In a remarkable similarity to childbirth, I forgot the pain almost instantly. I guess denial played a big part in that. If I could have recognised how much damage I was doing to myself, I would have had no choice but to stop. It wasn’t until that terrifying head injury (which still hurts a little when I reach up and touch the ridge where my skull cracked, 44 days later) that I was unable to deny it any longer.

In a complete reversal of the childbirth-like loss of memory of pain, I can now see what my life was like, stuck in that cycle, in excruciating detail. I can close my eyes and feel it. I am terrified of going back there. Every step I take away from the last three years is a step in the right direction.