Edit. Wow, everyone I follow on WordPress seems to have been really struggling today and/or yesterday. I hope everyone feels better soon and I am grateful to have these inspiring people’s stories and online presence in my new AF life.
Here goes today’s post.
Looking back at these last three weeks, the first thing that comes to mind is “Wow, that went by fast and was actually pretty easy”. But, as is often the case, when I zoom in a little bit, I can see all kinds of rough patches and sticky bits and confused thoughts and struggles and small wins, and I remember that things are much more complicated than a blog post title.
Last night I dreamt that I was at a bar. They had several kinds of draft beer, with the alcohol percentages neatly written on a black board on the wall. It was somebody’s birthday. As I walked up to the counter, with one person in line before me (the birthday girl), I thought “oh well, there goes my sobriety: down the drain! Too bad. My only option here is beer, since I don’t want to face the embarrassment of asking whether they have alcohol free beer, and I definitely don’t want coffee, so beer it is, and beer it will have to be be”. (Urgh, WAY TO GO dream-Anne… great willpower skills….) But then, I -miraculously- heard the girl in line order “one home made elderberry kombucha please” – and all of a sudden, everything was ok again. I ordered the same thing. The option was both appealing AND alcohol free. End of dream. I didn’t drink. Phew, that was a close one 🙂
It felt strange to wake up to the “betrayal” of my unconscious, for whom it visibly wouldn’t take much to just give up at the slightest obstacle and revert to my old ways. But now, as I sip my morning coffee, I am able to reframe this sense of betrayal. First of all, my unconscious mind “saved” dream-Anne from drinking in the dream. It came up with the “solution” to her staying sober. It made up the birthday-girl character, the whole setting, the whole situation AND its resolution, not just “dream-Anne” and her easily-swayed poorly-made choices. Second, this dream was merely the processing of a small scene that happened to real-life-Anne yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, I ran into a guy from my University. Let’s call him Richard. Because that’s his real name, and he is probably never going to read this blog.
So I was just coming out of a Zumba class yesterday, and ran into Richard. (Oh by the way. This was my first Zumba class— my ever first one. Man was it hard! At the end, I was so tired, I looked like a lobster tomato. I even felt nauseous and had a headache for the rest of the evening. Either I am out of shape despite my daily yoga and 10000 steps, or I pushed myself too hard. In any case, I can now remember the difference between yoga and high impact cardio exercise, and it’s huge!).
So Richard. Richard is Irish and had invited me over for tea at his house about a week ago. We’re friends but not very close. I know tea is his thing. At the time I told him I was too busy (partly cause I was, partly because I was busy taking my first steps AF, mostly because I thought that my boyfriend would have been jealous – but who knows. We are all adults here). And we rescheduled to “some time this week”.
When I ran into Richard yesterday, zero rescheduling had in fact happened and I felt guilty. So I started talking, fast, and a lot. I brought up my recent passion for brewing kombucha (fermented tea) now that I can’t drink beer anymore. I joked around, saying things like “goodness Richard, look at me, no more beer, going to Zumba classes, what has become of me? This is so un-Anne-like, right? Don’t tell anyone, hahaha”. Basically, I was justifying myself and being apologetic because I was afraid that Richard (or anyone else) would mock me – or judge- for my AF journey. In my attitude there was a fake layer of humor, that distinctive cynical irony that I use as my “self defense” humor: pretend you are tough and don’t care about anything and can laugh about everything (including yourself, especially when things are important to you and/or you are struggling). Under-sell and under-value yourself and pretend that it’s all one big laughing matter. No big deal. Haha.
What I really would have wanted to say to Richard would have been something like “Richard, having tea is a great idea because it perfectly fits with this new lifestyle that I am trying to create, even though right now I feel like I am groping around in the dark, looking for my “thing”, trying weird stuff like Zumba, and feeling a little bit fragile”. And you know what? Richard would have understood, because he is a sweetheart. And I realized yesterday that he already knew about my AF journey, since I had run into him two weeks ago and already told him that I was not drinking, and he was very respectful, and a good listener, who never judged me. Not once. The fear of being judged was entirely in my mind.
Also, this small anecdote helped me notice that I still sometimes (these days, often) feel like I am “depriving myself” of something pleasurable. I thought that taking another look at some more quit lit would help me remember that pouring ethanol down my throat is more akin to poisoning than a “delicious treat/reward”. During my “last days of drinking”, I used to love talking a long walk in the woods and listening to audiobooks like The Naked Mind. But that was easy because I still got to drink at the end of the day.
Nowadays, whenever I get to the “myths about alcohol”, and listen to the descriptions of people’s thoughts about drinking (which I won’t repeat here because they might be triggering to some people – or just to myself^^), giant waves of craving appear in me, and I find myself doing breathing exercises in the woods and wonder whether I am just torturing myself my thinking about alcohol instead of just enjoying the woods. Those “myths about alcohol”: I used to think like that. And a part of me still does. And now that it’s been three weeks ( I know, that’s not much in the big picture but right now it still feels like it’s “a lot”), that part is a little freaked out: “When is this torture and deprivation going to end?”, “When can we go back to the ‘good old days’”, “have I replaced my alcohol addiction with an exercise addiction and a control-freak-disciplinarian-attitude?”? Etc. etc.
Argh. Thank you thoughts. You are confusing and I don’t know which one(s) of you to listen to anymore.
Anyway. With my bar dream, I think my unconscious mind was simply processing the Richard scene, and the “transition” I have made, in real life, from beer to kombucha. And I think that I still have a lot of processing and reframing to do with the ways in which I think about alcohol. How am I going to get rid of the idea that it is the easiest, most pleasurable way to rewards myself ?
Today I feel like I’ve been very “disciplined” for the last three weeks. That I sometimes (often) use yoga and meditations not as means to relax but means to control myself, cloaked in the language of “self care”. I realize that I am quite a strict parent when I self-parent. I need to work on being more gentle to myself (I feel like this is a mantra for people in recovery. Or just people).
I also feel like during these past few weeks, I’ve been avoidant of some of the social situations that I would have enjoyed and that would have involved drinking in the past. I miss journaling in a bar. I miss having dinner with friends. I am sick of the “wake up early/work/exercise/meditate/ go to bed super early” routine.
I feel guilty that I am still somehow dissatisfied with life despite my “success” in being AF for 3 weeks. That I am not miraculously happy all of a sudden. DUHHHHH !
(I know that happiness is not a “miracle” that just happens to drop into your lap and stays with you forever. And I know that happiness is often right there in front of you and becomes visible when you open your eyes).
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I will try and create a day that brings me joy. I will start by meditating. Maybe instead of exercising more and staying locked up at home, I will be brave and go out and journal in a bar this week end, sipping on my very first alcohol free beer. Or take another walk in the woods, but without an audiobook about alcohol – and just focus on the sounds of the birds and wind in the trees. Again – I must remember that the title of this blog is “there is more to life than just beer”
Hang in there everyone 🙂