Yesterday was my 365th day in a row without booze. By now it's a habit, of course, just as drinking far too much was a habit for so long. A year ago yesterday, I woke up early and planned to quit that day. But I had a day off, and instead I went for a long walk and bought wine, and came home and drank some. Nothing dramatic happened. I'd quit the previous summer, and then tried drinking again after four months away, and it was obvious to me that it mostly wasn't working. Nothing terrible was happening to me. Still, I was miserable. And I knew I'd felt better when I wasn't drinking, before that siren song called me back yet again. The next day, I woke up with the same idea. And that day, a year ago, I really did quit. It stared out as a modest plan: one week, no booze. But I'm still here and I'm staying.
These days booze has no appeal for me. I can't stand the smell any more. I have no interest in the fuzzy mind I know I'd have if I drank. I've figured out how to make interesting drinks that are so good, sometimes the drinkers wan to try one instead of having wine or beer. At this point, no one could convince me that drinking was a good idea. No matter what.
When I was thinking about quitting, I strongly resisted the idea that I had been somehow escaping from life by drinking. Now I see that I was. And I resisted the received wisdom that I would find myself changing once I quit, that without booze, I would change emotionally. But I did. I wasn't interested in most of what people had to say about recovery, and I was always ready to rail against talk about "alcoholism" or "addiction." But I've found that some of it applies to me, and some of it is helpful, and the rest just doesn't bother me any more.
I used to do too much of my thinking about quitting in the abstract, impersonal mode. Eventually, I found that didn't help me much. Instead, this time, I paid attention to myself--what worked for me, what didn't, how I felt, what I thought might help me get through the next minute or hour or day. Mostly I read lots and wrote lots and walked in the park and rode my bike and talked to my partner way, way too much about how it was all going. I fulfilled my school and work obligations, but for the first few months, I wasn't exactly a star in either domain. It didn't matter. When I started to feel stronger, I was able to do more, but I took my time.
A lot of the advice people gave didn't work for me. I tried the whole "treats" thing that gets talked about, but I never did get the hang of it. I did buy myself a lot of books, but only when I saw one I thought I might read, never as a reward for anything. I developed a fondness for the gluten-free carrot cake at the local bakery, and had to put myself on rations on that score. (Once a week is fine. Twice if I'm on a big deadline. Any more than that, I figure I'm just escaping into cake instead of booze, and I eat some yoghurt with honey instead. Which isn't so bad, you know!)
This was supposed to be a big happy celebratory post about how happy I am to be sober, and here I am writing about what didn't work for me! What gives? The thing is, I am happy. I feel a whole lot better without booze in my life. My mental health is better (and it was really pretty darn bad a year ago). I avoid doctors, but I think I'm physically healthier. (I hardly ever get colds now, and I didn't get my annual December bronchitis, but winter isn't done yet!) I used to be pretty twisted up with anxiety, but these days I feel so much more clear and calm, and even when I do get anxious, I work it out without spiralling into the Pit of Despair. It's not all perfect all of a sudden, and it's been a lot of work. But I am figuring out how to live in the world, and I sometimes even feel at home here. That's new to me, and I'm holding onto it.
I guess what I wanted to say was that most of what I thought about getting sober was wrong, and a lot of what I believed about it when I started didn't much matter. But I was able to figure it out as I went, day to day, by being attentive to myself, and listening to others, and by leaning very hard on the support of the fine folks online who read and comment and write their own stories about getting sober, or trying to get sober. We're all in this together, and what a beautiful thing that is. Just a whole lot of people who used to drink too much, finding a better way to live without booze. Thanks for all your help and support and humour and friendship. I'm deeply grateful for it all, and for my life. It's been a great year. Tough, but worthwhile, and often wonderful.
Peace and joy to you. And many thanks. xo