Long time no write, but I am back!
Wow. I am going to hit the 3 month mark soon, which is both exhilarating and anxiety inducing. Initially (in great part to survive the first few weeks) I promised myself to do 3 months AF. Now that the deadline is approaching, I am positive that I don’t want to go back to the miasma of daily hangovers, to the cycle of guilt, shame and secrecy. The 2 weeks that preceded day 1 I spent in France drinking daily and heavily (a goodbye bender of sorts). Now I in a month, I will return to France for the first time since my AF journey. For the holidays. In a month I need to break the news of my non-drinking to my French friends and my family – and somehow navigate the whole Xmas experience without drinking
Living AF has become a habit of sorts. Here in the U.S. (where I have a healthy routine) it feels natural. I don’t really think about drinking anymore. I spend time with sober people. I am still somewhat “avoiding” situations like going to bars where I know I would be bored and feel like I am missing out on the fun. So deep down, I guess it still feels like a fragile habit, that needs to be protected until it becomes solid. Deep down and very openly on the surface, I am dreading spending Xmas with my alcoholic / drunken family. On the upside, I am excited to try all kinds of AF beer – which I haven’t had a chance to do yet. I know my family will be supportive: once I break the news to them and it sinks in, I know they won’t pressure me to drink and will offer AF options. BUT they will themselves be very drunk and pouring drinks all day long all around me: it will be up to me to stay strong. And this time, I can’t rely on drinking to get through surviving spending a whole week with them. I realize how heavily I relied on drinking to keep the peace, to get along with them. Eating and drinking together is the only family activity we have left. Sitting sober with them and watching them drink is going to be the real challenge. Maybe I should read up on some “holiday special” quit lit before going.
In other news, my life has “returned to normal” (to everyday concerns and peaks of anxiety about work) as the deadline for my PhD defense approaches. The reason for this dramatic shift of focus (from my breakup to more ordinary concerns) is that I have been back together with my partner for about a month now.
And lo and behold – all the pain of the heartbreak has magically vanished, to reveal once more the more subtle and complex pains of existing as a separate individual, going about my life “by myself” with my own resources. This time around, we are trying our very best to love each other unconditionally, but without “losing ourselves” in the relationship – i.e. we set boundaries, spend plenty of time apart, and make our own self care the number 1 priority. This is very unfamiliar and sometimes feels like I am constantly re-triggering my abandonment wound, but as time unfolds and I learn to consider my partner as “just another thing in my life” (vs. “my whole life”), I am gradually learning to love in a different way. Expressing my needs is the aspect I still struggle most with, but I am slowly learning. Slowly I am learning to trust. Others and myself. This new, “adult” kind of live still seems bleak and underwhelming and distant and frustrating compared to the fusion and drama of our previous co-dependent love, but both of our therapists are encouraging us in this direction. We also hit all of the items in a list called “green flags of a conscious relationship” that I stumbled across last night. So we must be doing something right (for now!).
In short, this is very ironic but: being sober is helping me to learn how to MODERATE in the field of love. The “hunger” feels very similar to the alcohol cravings (“I need this NOW”, “I need more/unlimited supplies of this ALL THE TIME”, “what else am I going to do with my life?”, “how can I exist and who am I without this?”)- but this time I am able to sit with it and continue taking care of myself (for now!) — as opposed to indulging to the point of excess.
Going AF and being “alone” and sober has been a huge help in teaching me how to navigate these new challenges. I still feel like a newborn learning about the world. I still worry that all my efforts might crumble at any point. I hope that I can keep this up and pursue my journey of self discovery for a very long time – but for now I am just taking things one day at a time.