I’m trying to remember when life consistently got easier in sobriety, as in Mrs. D’s point-on description:

Living sober means having an overall underlying state of calm.. interrupted by phases of emotion that are annoying but manageable.

Living sober means realising that phases of negative, tricky or uncomfortable emotion come along and are annoying.. but that they pass…they come.. and they go..

Since I hit 2 years sober later this month, I thought I’d write about the following each week until I get there.

  1. The overall process of the last 2 years
  2. Why I stopped drinking in the first place
  3. The many gifts of sobriety

This post is #1.

Months 1- 5

Meetings and vietnamese iced coffee

I remember going to a lot of meetings my first sober summer, though in reality it was only 2-3 a week. Each night I went, I slid into a metal ย folding chair, still dressed in work clothes, and inhaled the smell of floor polish and stale books and felt like I’d come home. Mostly I just sat and listened to the stories of other people’s lives – their abuse and recovery, their promises. My real home had people who would never let me stare into space for an hour without demanding snacks or a story or some decision, so this is where I caught the pink cloud and coasted for about 5 months on pure relief plus also smoking too much and iced coffees with heaping tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, aka crack.

Image

Months 5-12

Unleashing the kraken and realizing he only looked 50 times bigger than a pink elephant

Most people report the first 90 days of sobriety are the hardest, but did I mention I’d been on a beautifully numbing antidepressant during that time? Maybe that’s considered cheating, but hey, it worked for me. Around 5 months sober, I decided to switch to another because frankly it was making me fat and killing my sex drive. I remember the doctor asking “Are you sure you want to switch right before the holidays?” I did it anyway.

The antidepressant I stopped taking is well known for its SSRI discontinuation syndrome and the new one I started taking was not at all numbing. I got those pesky feelings back and got angry over everything and cried in my car a lot. Overall this was a tough time for me, but still it was nothing compared to the overwhelming feelings of isolation and hopelessness I’d had at the end of my drinking.

There were many good days in here. I started eating way too much sugar in the absence of any real coping skills, but I also took up running. I lost weight. I quit smoking. I started making better decisions. Baby steps to progress, but slowly life started to feel more manageable.

Months 12-16ย 

The clouds part for longer than 5 minutes at a time

My least favorite kind of beach day is the kind where you can tell the sun wants to poke through the clouds, but it can’t seem to for any longer than a few seconds at a time. To add insult to injury, these tend to be the days where the biting flies are out and you can still get a sunburn.

Some time around the transition from summer to fall of 2012, the clouds parted and I experienced a real breakthrough.

I remember a facebook post that made light of binge drinking and I remember feeling really sorry for myself that I couldn’t drink anymore and that no one seemed to know how hard that was. I told my husband how crazy annoyed that made me and he said something like “why do you care what other people do?” Although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s strange to connect and harder to explain, but that time of longing and self-pity was immediately followed by the removal of my obsession with drinking. The realization that I didn’t need to worry what others thought about drinking or not drinking was very liberating.

Months 16-23ย 

The second act

People warned me that the second year sober is hard, but in a different way than the first. The good news is the second half of my second year got a lot easier! By now, I’ve learned that the rough spots still come, but they pass quickly if I do what I know works to get through them (see above, re: Mrs. D). Sometimes that means eating ice cream and going to bed early. Still not convinced there’s anything wrong with this approach, though long term this does not seem a sustainable coping mechanism.

My moods leveled out more in this time. I went off the second antidepressant. I kept running, literally, but not as much figuratively. I started journaling and writing more. I gave up sugar and then went back on sugar and now I’m cutting back again. Sugar is a little fucker!

I don’t know that my process is anything like others’. I think I’m a late bloomer in many respects, so I probably hit my rough patch later than most. Just want to stress again that even during the hard times, everything about being sober is better than anything while I was still drinking.

I’m just as grateful to be off the sauce as I was at Day 2 because let’s face it, Day 1 I was pretty sure I was going to die. I’ll write a little about that next week.

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24 thoughts on “The last 23+ months in a nutshell

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  1. Congrats on the two years… Any day sober is a day to be grateful for, although the longer away from those last dark days of drinking I can sometimes forget that!

    For me the first 6 weeks weren’t that hard – to stay away from the drink that is, as I was locked up in a treatment centre! Haha! Now the group therapy sessions however were not easy or fun. However I was lucky to be there and it was really a great start to my sobriety. So when I came out that was when I really had to struggle to not drink, the first 9 months were awful – the obsession did not go from me for those months. Then only gradually after that. A year in and I thought I was getting it, but then there was another dip or plateau (can never figure out which) I seemed to go in 3 month cycles at the end of each I’d bottom out and question is all again.

    Now looking back it all seems obvious but it wasn’t then at all, learning to slow my head down, not think all the time about what others might think of me, think that being unable to drink was the worst thing in the world and petrified at times that I’d have to start again.

    These days life in my head is better, generally much calmer, I really genuinely most of time not worry too much about life and others etc. Slowly it gets better every day I stay away from the booze.

    Again – thanks for a great post and congrats on the journey so far

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    1. Thank you!! I won’t have 2 years until later this month, but getting close.

      The learning process feels obvious looking back, but it has been just that…a process.

      It is always nice and helpful to hear from others like you, with much more time, that it keeps getting better. Thanks, G!

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  2. A bowl of ice cream and then bed has gotten me through some hellatious days!

    Totally agree that drinking never helped make things better. Especially what my drinking had evolved into. Being sober through the bad shit is so much better than being drunk through the bad shit.

    Everything passes…. So true. I’m grasping that in the much bigger sense now. Everything in the universe passes, comes and goes comes and goes. It’s humbling indeed.

    Love the post and love that your past and now sobriety have brought you here to us today!

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    1. There is something comforting about that cycle. Maybe the thought that it’s normal or somehow predictable in a mind-numbing algorithm kind of way. Or maybe just because it will pass yet again.

      Thanks for your sweet comment.

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  3. Wow, congrats on the upcoming 2 year celebration. And thank you so much for the post. Being a newbie, it’s just so great to hear from those who have been where I am and are still happy they made the decision to remain sober. Great post. Can’t wait for the next. D

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  4. I think eating ice cream and going to bed early is a COMPLETELY sustainable long-term approach, but, then again, that is why I had to write the post I wrote yesterday ๐Ÿ™‚ Congratulations on 23 1/2 (or whatever fraction) years of sobriety! I think your timeline is probably spot-on with many, myself included. I am at month 17, so I re-read the “second act” as a spoiler alert to myself!

    I remember having to go to a family party relatively early on in my sobriety (up to this point I avoided anything connected with alcohol, but I could not get out of this event). I was standing on the back deck with my relatives, talking and laughing about something, and it hit me like a thunderbolt… I am doing the exact same thing as every person at this party: eating, drinking, talking laughing… the only difference between me and most of the others is the type of beverage in my solo cup. It was such a liberating feeling, much like the one you described having after your husband gave you the “what-for.” It has been one of the many milestones in my own journey towards recovery, and I am so happy you shared yours. I am going to hear your husband’s words in my own head the next time I am obsessing over what someone thinks of me!

    I can’t wait for next week!

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  5. Feelings, anger, and crying in the car during months 5-12. Understandable. And I know you’re kinda into the feelings thing so I am picturing the crying jags something like the below video. I probably have that wrong.

    Thanks for this post. It is interesting because I keep thinking, OK, this is it, I’ve stopped drinking, that’s done and life is now this. But then it changes in some unexpected way again, mostly and eventually for the good. You know we’re just blazing through this new sober life and the next minute God says, “I’ve got it, relax, I know another way, I’ll get us there.” I suppose it takes a while to hand over the wheel. Baby steps is right. You are doing great. Glad you’re leading. We’ve got your back. Keep smiling.

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    1. I didn’t even go back to the college years, oh the things I could still cry over! Also impressed her mascara didn’t run.

      I like your description of each new phase being revealed. I’m learning I wasn’t driving in the first place, so much nicer not to back seat drive now.

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  6. Congrats on your upcoming 2 years! I remember that our sobriety dates are close together (I’m Aug. 1). I really relate to the 2nd year being hard in a different way than the first and especially to sobriety being better than anything while I was still drinking. What’s weird for me is how long 2 years feels and how short it feels at the same time. I remember how raw I felt at the one year mark and I don’t feel that way today. But it’s still hard sometimes. I can’t wait to hear more next week!

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    1. I’ve heard Year 2 described as “finding out who we really are” which sounds new agey but is as good a description as any. Definitely not feeling as raw, which is good. I like that we are close in our anniversary dates!

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  7. LOve this post, can’t wait for the next ones.
    I love the feeling of calm. Of sameness of days, being a little bored…that never happened while I was drinking. If it did I had to manufacture something to liven things up, and it was always a mess. Walking through good times, bad times, emotional times has been a process, but a great one. Knowing I can do hard things is a gift, knowing I can enjoy simple and lovely things a revelation.

    Love your blog, thanks for that gift!

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  8. Loved this as well, BBB. I love the divisions and the breakdown…very groovy ๐Ÿ™‚

    I could relate to much of what you went through there. For me there was a lot more anger – a lot of displaced feelings bundled up in resentments and being upset at myself and the world in general. Hated meetings, hated sobriety, hated drinking, hated those who were happy in their recovery, etc. But it passed. I had to, like you, go through these feelings, these crying sessions, these feelings on inadequacy and helplessness. And the great thing is that I realized I could go through them and still be ok. And that was huge for me. I was actually facing the things that I tried to drink away.

    Anyway, I really loved how you wonderfully expressed the stages you went through in your sobriety. A good roadmap for those who are new or newish in their own journeys ๐Ÿ™‚

    Congrats on your just about 2 years!!!!

    Paul

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  9. It’s crazy ….two years this month. Wow how time flies. It’s been such fun to watch you grow. You’ve such a positive outlook on life. I felt at two years that I was finally gathering some momentum. I felt I was in the day, but no longer ‘trying’ to stay sober. It seemed more normal to be sober. Looking forward to your ucoming posts. xo lisa

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  10. Closing in on two years! Well done! I love how you ran through the various phases of the first 23 months. What a crazy journey it is getting sober. You’re right. People really have no idea what we go through. Not that it’s all bad stuff. It’s a lot of great things too. We come upon so many new people and their words and ideas influence and inspire us and we change and we grow. And of course a lot of it is personal or not easy to explain so we don’t really share all of it with those around us. They are living their lives, business as usual and we’re having this crazy metamorphosis, lol.

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  11. Congrats on almost 2 years! Woot woot! Love the break down in your post.. Very cool, I was nodding my head… Yep, yep I remember that! Oh, yes and the crying in the car! I cried in the shower a lot too! Lol! I just cried I think, for a while! Lol! But yes things got leveled and calm. And yes, I alway thought that I was a bit slow in my progress, but who cares, we are her now! Awesome!

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  12. This is fantastic… great idea.. look forward to the next two posts. I feel like I knew a lot of your story from having been reading you for months and months but seeing it laid out all like this is really great. Everyone’s journey is so different and unique.. but then there are so many similarities as well. Thanks so much for your honesty, yours is a very powerful voice. xxxxx

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  13. Love the cloud analogy!! Seems the winter, and now unusually cloudy spring, here in MN has been just that and consequently so have my moods; a glimpse of positive serenity, then that hopeless sinking feeling of dread. Good to be catching up with you friend!

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  14. This was such a great post! So true how we grow in cycles or stages of our sobriety. Just like an infant grows in stages the first year or two of life. Huge transformations! A 3 month old is nothing like a 23 month old!! I realized now after reading your post that at 10 months sober the growing is not over for me and that it can only get easier and ‘more normal’ as Lisa said! Now I am working hard on the things that I used to drink away, just like Paul said. I can finally feel good about how I react to the world, rather than feel bad about how I over-reacted to the world when drinking! Learning that I can only change ME and no one else. Congrats on nearly 2 years! You’re almost a toddler now! ha ha! xo

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