When I first realized I needed to get sober, it didn't start out as me thinking I needed to quit drinking. I knew I drank too much, and I knew I'd need to "cut down on the drinking." (Quick side note: cutting back wasn't the answer for me, but I gave it a few good runs, and now no one would be able to convince me that it's an option.)
The bigger problem was a deep sense that I didn't know how to know what I felt. This is something I've written about on the blog here and there, and in some short fiction I've written as well. It's sometimes an obsession. I find myself easily swamped by the world, and when I am swamped, I don't know how to separate my own voice from the voice of the world.
There's plenty of advice kicking around about this, except I don't find much of it all that helpful. People will say, "Listen to your inner voice," or "Don't give in to social pressure," as though it were clear to them which voices were the voices of others and which were their own. Maybe it is clear to them. It's not clear to me though. Sometimes I think my inner voice is a ventriloquist. I have read an enormous amount of fiction and memoir over the years, and I have an easy time imagining myself into the heart of a character. Recently, I was talking to an advisor about the direction I am taking (or not taking) with my academic work, and he said that I should only follow such and such a path if I "could absolutely not imagine doing anything else in the world." That doesn't help me much. I can imagine just about anything! That's the root of the problem. I can picture me in many possible lives. I just don't know how to know which one is the one I want to do. Not being able to imagine otherwise just sounds dim to me.
When I started to get sober, I quickly thought that getting the drink out of the way would address this issue. I figured if I didn't drink anymore, all the ability to feel and connect and know would somehow bubble up naturally. That's a sweet idea. But it doesn't seem to work that way for me.
For me, this is really the pressing issue. I guess I have been somewhat depressed lately. I felt some blessed relief when I withdrew from the various "shake up my life" academic applications. I'm not setting my husband and me up to move cities, countries, careers, or at least not in the next few months. OK. But I don't know what I am doing either.
Being as uncertain as this leaves me swinging wildly between raging doubt and brief, temporary certainties about various possible paths. It's hard to even write about, as I can just hear the platitudes about taking things one day at a time, and they make me want to scream! If I am going to continue with school, I have to find a way to do it--some combination of a program, a supervisor, or an institution that will support my study. That's a long term plan that involves a series of steps, not just a single day focus. Long term planning requires a kind of muscular vision, an ability to see at least the thread of a possible path, along with the flexibility to take the better step along that path when that step is available. And having a vision is something I can do, but it all seems so wildly speculative, and it falls back to nothing so easily. Even if I were not going to continue with school, I'd need to find my way in the working world, and all the same things would be needed there.
Somehow I see that, to get through this, I need a better sense of who I am and what I want. And I'm not sure how to get it. I'm middle aged, I'm reasonably smart and sociable and I've done lots of interesting things in my life. But in some important ways, I feel like a blank slate. Sure, not 100% blank. There are some things I'm sure I like, and some I don't. I despise the taste of turnip. I'm scared of barking dogs. I'm easily startled. Sometimes I get rattled in noisy, chaotic environments, but I worked in one for eight years and often thrived in it. I love the buzz of the city, and fast-paced, witty conversation. I also love sitting alone reading, and getting away from the buzzy city. I remember the glaring certainty of hating the taste of turnip as a two-year-old, spitting it across the kitchen table form my seat in the high-chair, and I remember quickly learning, with a different certainty, that spitting out food you don't like wasn't what people did. But most things aren't that certain. And I'm not two anymore.
I have no answers today, and not much comfort to offer myself or anyone. At between 7 and 8 months sober, I don't feel I have much sense of myself and what I want in the world. The giant blank of it all frightens me. But this is where I am right now. I'm not at all tempted to drink, but the problems that the drink covered up are more glaring. And the escape drink provided is lost to me for good. I guess I wanted to write this because writing sometimes brings me closer to a real knowing. Maybe in time I'll know more. For now though, I'm just a little bit lost.
Thanks for keeping me company in this somewhat bleak post. Wishing you peace and joy, and some knowing.