Nineteen months sober and I finally got around to reading Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. I have no idea how I missed it in early sobriety, when it would have helped immensely, but I’m glad a friend recommended it now. Maybe I gleaned more wisdom with some context. Knapp had incredible insight into her own motivations for drinking, and I could relate to many of them.
One of the quotes towards the end of the book bothered me, though. She was describing the dangers of alcoholic thinking and how it continues long after we put down the drink:
If it feels warm and fuzzy and comfortable and protective, it’s probably the alcoholic choice. If it feels dangerous and scary and threatening and painful, it’s probably healthy.
Who would stay the course in sobriety if it felt scary and painful? Who would choose anything healthy if it always felt that way?
Then I noticed this quote just above it (both were lines Knapp heard at AA meetings):
…with each decision in sobriety, you are faced with two possible choices: the alcoholic choice or the healthy choice. The alcoholic choice is the self-sabotaging one, the one that makes you feel self-pitying or resentful or somehow defeated. The healthy choice is the one that reinforces your vision of yourself as a better person, more in charge of your life, equipped with options.
Boy, I needed to hear that.
Sunday night I had about as close to a meltdown as I’ve had in some time. After a day of housecleaning/yoga-meditation class/taking the kids swimming, I decided to tackle two recipes that were beyond my skill level. I was hungry and tired and definitely angry and probably thirsty as well, so I was all the things I know better than to let myself get in sobriety. When my husband suggested ordering takeout, I brushed aside the offer in stubborn pride, which is kind of my thing these days. Self-sabotage much?
How did I get to this place of taking on more than I can reasonably handle? Is it part of the same masochistic mechanism that has me buying bags of adorable heart-shaped peanut butter cups for the freezer and obviously not me this month? Am I pushing myself so close to the edge to feel pain or the after-effects of relief? If it’s the latter, I can tell you the high is not worth it.
The lesson I learned is to force myself to scale back. The whole reason I’m taking meditation class in the first place is to learn to fucking relax, so next time I won’t pack so much into one day. I will note those recipes beyond my skill level were totally worth it, but I have no business attempting two at the same time, no matter my state of mind.
This is what the right choice probably looks like, and it did wind up being painful and uncomfortable, though it should not stay that way. Recognizing those attempts to self-sabotage, however curious and maddening, helped me understand what I need to do differently. This is the better vision I have of myself, someone who recognizes when I’m stewing in frustration and self-pity and scales back and accepts help. Ultimately my goal is to stay far from the edge in the first place, and this too feels possible.
Note: Day 22 of the sugar-quit and still holding. A little crazy(er) and beaten perhaps, but still holding.