Two weeks to go before I quit drinking. I mean, quit for a long time, quit for “real”. (As if the 11 last days weren’t real).
Last night for the first time in 12 days, I drank alcohol. At a dinner party, with friends. There were no disasters, no embarrassing events, no regrets. A slight hangover. Slight fear and worry, but no regrets. I even told my partner, who knows I want to be sober. He made no comments.
Despite appearances this “success” is a slippery slope for me. It’s the road to thinking “see? I can moderate, no problem! this sobriety crap is for REAL alcoholics. All you need is to drink normally, like normal people. You can do it”. Yep, my internal dialogue can be a manipulative obnoxious asshole sometimes.
What REALLY happened is: last night I started fantasizing about drinking two hours BEFORE the dinner party. I fought off cravings to drink before going. Once I was there, I had to make tremendous efforts to try and drink slowly, and pretend like I wasn’t already thinking of the next glass while I was still working on the current one. It felt like a kind of starvation: wanting more, more, more, but pretending not to. In total, I must have had about 6 glasses of wine. But then when I got home I had the urge to drink MORE. I didn’t. Then this this afternoon I started fantasizing about drinking later on in the evening. I then experienced VERY strong cravings to drink “as a reward” for my work day. Or to drink to avoid the anxiety linked to my work day. Or just to drink.
Yep. Even more sneaky, under all these cravings, was an especially destructive thought pattern. The desire to drink “because I drank last night, and thereby fucked up 11 days of sobriety and therefore should just go all the way and get super drunk and just drink every day until my quit date”. The voice that says, as Day 1 slowly approaches, and a part of me begins to get scared, “WTF are you thinking, being sober BEFORE the official day 1 of sobriety ??? You are wasting precious “drinking time” ! You should be enjoying, not depriving yourself right now”. etc. etc. etc.
Sneeeeaky thoughts! Yep, I only took one dinner party to get me going back to the good old “secret planning” mentality. This afternoon I caught myself telling my partner I would have to work all evening and it was best that I stayed alone, while thinking in the back of my mind “If I am alone, I can drink as a reward after work, or even WHILE I work, to get me through it (as a grad student I do most of my work at home), or I could just drink INSTEAD of working, no one will ever know”.
Thankfully, I didn’t pay too much attention to these thoughts, and actually managed to get to work, although it was REALLY hard. Then, before I knew it, the evening came and my partner asked if he could come over and sleep in my bed while I finished working. I said yes, and here I am, sober, typing this as my “reward” and “winding-down” after a LONG and tiring work session. No beer tonight = no opportunity to feed the all-black/all-white narratives = I have no choice but to sit with all these mixed feelings.
And you know what? It actually feels really good to have been “forced by events” to be sober tonight. It forced me to stay in the GREY ZONE, the zone in which I am neither perfect, nor a complete monster. Where I am not clinging like a maniac and acting impulsively just to confirm this or that limiting belief about myself. My partner unknowingly broke the all-or-nothing pattern of thought that got me into so many f***ed up drunken or binge eating conundrums, where one tiny “fuck up” or imperfection leads to “ok, I fucked up once, might as well have one more”, and before you know it, you’re facing a catastrophic loss of control and you’re a) drunk b) binge eating c) using another substance or addictive behavior d) probably stuck in (or going to face) a wave of depression, which is NOT FUN.
Tonight I was spared all of that cycle. And the relief at the prospect of NOT feeling guilty tomorrow is weirdly outweighing the (manageable) frustration of not rewarding myself with that beer.
As I type this I am also realizing that I have been working for 3 hours straight and have ingested no liquids whatsoever. I am actually thirsty, for WATER. My craving for a beer could be in most part due to the fact that I neglected my physiological needs while I forced myself to work. This would never occur to me if I was drinking alcohol.
In a couple of days I am going on a two-week long vacation – that will probably be a whole different story. I am going to try and enjoy myself in moderation, and not feel guilty. I will eat good food and I will drink. But I will not self-destructively drink, or drink to prove to myself that I am a horrible, weak person with no willpower. Nope, I am going to ALLOW myself to experience pleasure, and do my best to STOP once pleasure turns into excess. And then I am going to get on a plane on September 4th. When that plane lands and I step onto firm land (that’s perhaps more of a getting off a boat image), I will be home. And it will be Day 1.
As if reality wasn’t already happening right here, right now.
I am SO NOT READY and yet I know I can do this.
And if I can, believe me, SO CAN YOU.