THREE MONTHS!!!! Like my friend (or father? LOL) Jim says in his own post, this is the longest I have been sober since I was 16. For those of you who are in the first few days or weeks of your journey, believe me, if I can do this, then so can you!!! I never thought I would come this far, not in a million years. I am the only person in my immediate family who has tried (and done) anything like this.
This is such an important milestone for me, because when I started this journey I promised myself I would do 3 months and then start drinking again if I wanted.
Gulp. Now what?
When I started, I (drunkenly) signed up for the One Year No Beer 90 day challenge, which provided invaluable support and motivation in the first weeks. It was a wonderful initial impulse, a kick in the butt to get me started and hold my hand as I wobbled insecurely and took the first few few steps on this crazy path of sober self-discovery. However, for various reasons -most of them financial- I have decided not to sign up for their “One Year” challenge. So now that my time is up, what do I want?
I definitely don’t want to start drinking again like I used to. Daily hangovers, guilt, shame and secrecy, NO THANK YOU!!
And now, THE question I can’t avoid : Do I want to go back to moderation?
BEEEP BEEP SELF-DELUSION ALERT! RED FLAG!
By now I have tasted the sweet nectar of peace of mind that comes with an AF lifestyle. I have left the horror and torture of the enslaved, perpetually dissatisfied mind behind, and I do NOT miss it. I have also read enough from everyone here to know that moderation is a dangerous illusion for “people like me”. Why can I only vaguely remember all those times that I did try to moderate and pathetically failed and promised myself over and over to “never drink again”? Why do those days seem so far away? I wish I could remember them more vividly, it would make today easier. I feel like my mind is messing with me and I feel weak in the face of temptation, of Mara, of thinking “I’ve got this” – but I’m not buying into the bullshit. I have tricked myself enough over the last 15 years. I want to keep my eye on the path and bathe in the newfound clarity of these last few months. LOL WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME ? I SOUND LIKE A RELIGIOUS TEXT !
This three month milestone feels so vertiginous because from now on, I am “on my own”, without the safety net of having a “temporary challenge” to finish. Without the perfect excuse to pull out of my hat when I am offered a drink (“I’m on a sobriety challenge”). Now when I decline a drink I have to come up with something else to say. I have to “confess” to what I am ashamed of. This changes everything. This is real. This is me admitting to the world (not just to a small support group, or an online community) something that in its extreme form sounds like “I am an alcoholic and I can never drink again”. I know, I know, I can also frame it differently, without the self-flagellation whip. I can just say “I don’t drink”. By now I know that that’s enough for people to stop asking questions. I think this is more about my relation to myself and my own shame than to “the world”, who- let’s be honest- doesn’t give much of a f***k who drinks and doesn’t drink, as long as they can keep doing whatever they’re doing 🙂
Does this mean that for the last three months I have not actually been doing this “for real”? That I have not given any real thought to going AF “forever”? In a way, yes. Because I have been thinking in terms of “day by day” and avoiding thoughts of “forever” at all costs, in order to be able to do this instead of giving up. On the other hand, the only thing I CAN do is to consciously make the daily decision to be AF, and climb this m**f**king mountain step by step. How else do you get to the top? I can’t fly, I don’t have a giant trampoline. If someone knows how to effortlessly teleport themselves to the top, please email me. But until then, it’s step by step. Sometimes it feels arduous, sometimes you get a second wind. But either way I want to keep going instead of just lying down to die on the side of the path on these snowy peaks of sobriety. (LOL I AM NOT GOING TO EDIT OUT ALL THESE HORRIBLE METAPHORS- THIS IS GOING TO BE A SPONTANEOUS POST, NO SHAME! Nadine, this one goes out to you!). To keep going, then, with nothing to hold on to but my internal resources.
Let’s not be too dramatic. I do have support systems.
I have therapy. I have this blogging community which I have neglected this last month (I AM SORRY and I think there is something to dig up here too – beyond my worries of boring everyone to death and sounding like a broken record, why have I not been writing every day like I used to?).
I also have my weekly Recovery meditation group which is like a Buddhist version of AA. But I must say, no matter how atached I am to the concept, the reality of it is gradually turning into a kind of absurd joke. First of all, it’s a tiny little group where I am sometimes the only attendee. Also, despite the group description, most people (including the current leader) aren’t really interested in Dharma stuff and have never heard of most of the words we come across in our readings. This is mainly because the actual leader of the group is in jail (no joke) for the next three months (for a DUI). The temporary leader of the group has ZERO familiarity with Buddhism and is still smoking hash oil and (this is my real issue) has made me very uncomfortable these last couple of weeks. He has been explicitly flirting with me during the meetings and insistently asking to hang out outside the meetings via text message. I have had to put him in his place several times, and even contemplated not going to the group anymore after a particularly unpleasant meeting last week where it was just the two of us and he made some disturbing comments, but in the end (and for now) I have decided to keep going and to work on feeling compassion for all this group of imperfect beings -myself included- who gather together and somehow try and improve ourselves through meditation and commitment to “abstinence as we understand it”. This group is my ritual which symbolically signifies my commitment to this journey. If I stop going I worry about what that will mean/imply/lead to.
One guy from the group (who has been sober for almost 4 years now) keeps trying to get me to go to AA with him, and although I am completely overwhelmed with work, I might go next week. Maybe AA is the safety-net that I need to feel safe now that I no longer have OYNB in the background. (On the other hand, I haven’t been using the OYNB support system/facebook group at all, so technically I HAVE been doing this on my own). I think that my resistance to AA is also because it makes all this feel “way too real” and like there is “something wrong with me”, i.e. that I am a sick, diseased wreck of a human (vs. the Buddhist idea of Basic Goodness in all of us). But I have never been to AA, so how can I know in advance? Maybe I’ll love it. In short, I seem to be having issues trusting myself and my ability to keep going “on my own”. I will explore this further rather than shy away from the discomfort.
At the end of your OYNB 90 day challenge they send you one final email, in which they tell you that “you have been an integral part of a huge movement of social change. You are a pioneer of this movement, showing the way for others to follow”. This can sound a bit exaggerated, and to some, even preachy and moralistic (I don’t want to stop other people from drinking or become an annoying moralizing saint). On the other hand, I really do feel like I have started to explore the dark side of the moon (or of the force?^^) and gotten in touch with whole groups of people who have adopted a happy sober lifestyle and who are SO INSPIRING that I feel only love and GRATITUDE for them (for you!!!).
And who is to say that this, together with the mindfulness craze, the veganism, the climate strike movements etc. isn’t some kind of ongoing social change ? Anyway, whatever happens in the world (whether it’s a revolution in consciousness or plain good old WWIII), I know that I have definitely experienced an “internal revolution”, in lifestyle, in emotional wellbeing, in spiritual belief (who would have thought?), in self esteem, self-love and self confidence. There is still SO MUCH WORK to be done, but for me, this “dark side of the moon” is the internal landscape which had remained unattainable while I kept drinking, and yet was only dark because I kept it out of sight. Now that I have “faced the darkness”, I feel like I have access to whole regions of my inner being that were kept out of reach by the haze of alcohol, and I want to keep discovering these mysterious countries. Unlike what I used to think, they are not populated by horrible monsters. There is nothing to avoid, nothing to run away from. On the contrary, I have avoided [myself] for too long and I am so grateful to be in contact with myself at last, even if it’s just the beginning. Without sobriety, this never would have been possible.
All in all, I have no idea how long this AF thing is going to last, maybe my whole life, maybe tomorrow I will “relapse” (the dreaded word!), but I think the best strategy for me to keep going right now is to focus my attention on what I am learning/discovering/gaining, on how it helps me (and hopefully helps me help others) rather than on what I am missing out on or giving up on.
Or maybe I can also keep negotiating with myself and set a “6 month” or “one year” goal and see how I feel then. That seems much easier than “sober forever”. Urgh.
Day by day. Thank you to every single person who has read, liked a post, commented or shared their own story on this blog – my gratitude knows no bounds ❤ 🙂
NOW, ONTO SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS! 🙂