I'm back from a lovely, sober few days away visiting my husband's family. Not drinking is so much easier these days. Once in a while over the holidays I had a little pang of wanting a drink. But I am getting much better at talking myself down from these pangs when they happen, or distracting myself until they pass. Really though, that longing for drink isn't all that intense any more. It's more like a tired, half-hearted part of me still chimes in once in a while with "maybe a drink?" but it isn't all that compelling. I know people say that when you revert to drinking again, it doesn't take long to pick up where you left off. Well, that seems to be my experience with quitting drinking for me this time around. I feel I've already reverted the habit of not drinking that I established over the past couple of years. I've already been through over a full year of not drinking, so I don't have all that many "firsts" to contend with. And having gone back to drinking twice after long spells without booze, only to find that drinking wasn't going to work any more as either an escape or a refuge, I simply can't kid myself that there's any point in it for me. That romance is dead and gone, it seems.
Because I start these posts with a tongue-in-cheek "Round 3," I thought I might make a note of what's been different this time compared to the last two rounds of getting sober. The first time I quit, over two years ago, I thought the world would open up and shake in congratulations at my having accomplished 100 days without drinking. In fact, no one cared much. Feeling like I was part of something bigger than me in this sober blog world was so important to me, but I was way too over-invested in needing connection with others, without really knowing how to connect, or who I might connect with. So when 100 days came and went and people who I thought were cheering me on missed what was, to me, an enormous milestone, I was devastated. I'd been feeling like I didn't belong after all, and I know that was a part of me moving away from the blog world, and the letdown was huge. Right now I feel so far from how sad and hurt I was at the time that it's almost hard to take it seriously, but I want to honour that feeling here. Recently, Laura McKowen wrote about the incredible loneliness of early sobriety, and I found great comfort in that. Every trace of friendship and connection in those early days was a lifeline, and every small hurt was amplified as a result. Now I'm relieved to know that many people feel like that when they first stop drinking. And because I know that, I'm more aware that I need to pay attention to taking care of myself and not let myself be too hurt by small slights online or in my day-to-day life. My first response to small personal slights is still, "She probably hates me," but I have got much better at setting those thoughts aside, accepting the feelings that come with them but not getting knocked too far off course as a result.
After drinking for a few months and then quitting again, the next time I made it to 100 days was my birthday. That time I was way more careful about the letdown that can come with sober milestones. I had been in the online sober community longer, so I felt I was developing some real friendships here. I was better at knowing what I needed and working at setting it up for myself. But I was feeling what I called at the time a "giant hole of longing," and it was tough coping with that.
This time, I don't feel so much longing or sadness or alienation. I think I am more mature about what it might mean emotionally to live as an adult. I still often feel disconnected from people, but I am working on making better connections and realizing that the feeling of disconnect is more an old habit than a reflection of how I really am in relation to those around me. My 100 days sober coincided with Christmas Day. My husband and I spent a wonderful day together--we slept late, ate a yummy brunch, went for a long walk that ended at the cinema, where we watched the lovely movie, Brooklyn. (Go see it! It's a beautiful film, one that lives up to the novel in a way that few films do.) I acknowledged my accomplishment with my husband, but we are both used to me being sober now, and we both prefer it. I didn't need to make much fuss over the number of days, nor did I want to spend time online talking about myself that day. The online sober world is an important support for me, but I often get as much support reading and commenting on other blogs as I do writing about my own celebrations and struggles. Still, I am proud of myself for getting hold of the drinking and returning to being sober, and for making it to 100 (now 110!) sober days. Sober suits me, and I am very much planning to stay that way.
Just the same, I'm in a kind of holding pattern about some things, and that means I'm on the edge of enormous stress that I can't even let myself feel right now. Based on some soul searching abut what I'm doing with my life, I've put in applications for a few school programs that would mean a change in direction for me academically. Being accepted into any of them would also mean making a big move geographically. The application process for these programs is insanely competitive, so the next few weeks will be filled with regular email checking to see whether I have been invited to an in-person interview, which will mean plane tickets and massive preparation and a couple of days being on while investigating whether a program and supervisor is right for me, followed by more waiting to see what's been decided. Or I may not make the first cut of interviews at any program, which means a couple of months of waiting and wondering, all the while working on my thesis and engaging with students in my TA duties, and trying to see if I can fill in some shifts from my old job here and there because flying to interviews will be expensive and I will need the cash. I'm excited about it all, but I'm crazy-nervous, too.
All that is just to say it's not going to be an easy month ahead. Getting sober is a good practice in dealing with trouble, though, and I am trying to use what I've learned from the sober stuff to deal with all this other stress. Today I let myself take an extra day off from all I have to do, and I spent the day reading a mystery by a new favourite writer. I think I'll just go back to that now for the day, and then tomorrow I will try to come up with a plan that will help me get things done and take care of myself. I feel a little numb, and I know that's a response to the worry and uncertainty about what will happen in all this. But I also know that many intense feelings will come and go over the next while, and none of them matter all that much. I'm happy to be where I am in my life in 2016, sober and trying to make some big life changes. I don't expect it will all magically work out, but I know I will deal with what happens as it happens. I can't tell if what I feel is calm or numb, or maybe it's flashes of that elusive thing I've heard about, patience? Either way, I have some work to do, and a whole lot of waiting. And for now, I'll read for a while longer, and have some dinner, and forget about the work and the waiting for one evening.
Thanks for keeping me company as I figure out how to live sober. I hope you're figuring it out, too. Peace and joy to you all in this new year.