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.
- The overall process of the last 2 years
- Why I stopped drinking in the first place
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.