“I hope this encourages you not discourages you but I read this and I could so relate to where you’re at. I spent an entire year trying to reach 30 days – I would always fall off around 2-3 weeks when I’d start feeling better and would decide I had been making too big a deal of it all… only to end up back where I was. It took me at least 18 months – maybe two years – to find a real foothold on sobriety from when I started to admit I had a problem.”
Rather than being discouraging it made me really grateful for the experiences I’ve had over the past 18 months or so. It’s taken me this long to realise that I need to stop drinking as a non-negotiable deal with myself, at least to the end of the year (but I know in reality it needs to be longer, if not forever. It’s only because of the collective weight of all the things that have happened with my drinking over this period that have brought me to this point.
As I’ve said before on here, it’s been hard for me to recognise that I have a problem, because as isolated incidents, my drunken antics aren’t that bad. Not one person in my social circle would say I have a problem with drinking- I never pass out, throw up or drink more than them. In fact, if anything, I’m sometimes more restrained than them. But I’ve come to realise that it’s not specific drinking incidents that have led me to my “bottom”, it’s the fact that I can’t drink how I want to in public, and that I’d prefer to do it alone. That my worst nights have always been alone with a bottle, and that time after time after time, I’ve failed to control it. It’s this string of failed attempts to stop that confirm that I need to.
So I am grateful. Grateful that I have this wealth of experience and failure to draw on. The classic Beckett quote springs to mind
Whilst I might have not been failing better in my attempts to stop drinking, each time I’ve learnt something, picked myself up and tried again, banking the lesson on where I went wrong.
For these failures, I am grateful.
And there’s more to be thankful for. As I go through life I become more grateful for my character flaws. So the fact that I’m a natural worrier, an anxious person who wants to please and have validation from others means that I’ve always thrown myself into my work, professional or academic and excelled. It’s caused me no end of problems over the years, but on balance, I’m really thankful for this for this character trait.
It’s the same with the horrible battle with body image I have. If I was naturally slim and never needed to keep my weight in check, I would never have discovered running. Admittedly, played a role in my once obsessive food restriction when I got addicted to the power of losing weight, but it has also been one of the most overwhelmingly positive forces in my life. Now, if I didn’t run I think I would go crazy, and I’m so glad that my body’s natural ability to pile on the pounds has led me to find something that is now my rock to keep me (mostly) sane.
So today I am wondering whether one day, a long day down the line, I will be grateful for getting to this point in my life with alcohol. I have a very strong feeling that one day I will feel that my identity is as a non-drinker. It might be 2 years, 5 years, 10 years down the line, but it’s one of those deep-buried gut feelings that you have when something is right, that it’s so easy to bury when you’re drinking. Today I’m imagining how dramatically my experience of life will change if I cut out booze, and feeling grateful that I have been brought to the point where I have no choice but to give it 100% and try harder than I’ve ever tried.
Each time I’ve given up alcohol this year, I’ve done it with an underlying sense of annoyance or denial. Classic angry thoughts have occupied my sobriety “Why can’t I just drink? I don’t really have a problem, I’ve just had some tough times in my personal life and this is a phase!”, “I’ve always been a normal drinker, so I can’t suddenly develop a problem”, “This 100 day challenge is just another way of denying myself pleasure. And I DESERVE pleasure in my life.”
This time, if I reframe the whole scenario as an opportunity to give myself a great gift, to learn something about myself that I think I already know, but have been too scared to try out (that life is better without drinking) then this journey into sobriety might feel less of an arduous challenge and more of a wonderful treat for myself. A holiday from all the bodily pain and mental anguish.
We’ll see. I’m feeling good and steady in my commitment to the challenge, but I’ve been here before. This time, I’m just better equipped to deal with the speed bumps in the road.
As I’ve been writing this, I just tuned into the lyrics of the song that’s playing on my Spotify radio, very apt, from a song called “The Habit” from the wonderful Lissie:
Once it hits your lips you know you’re gonna have more/Coursing through the blood and coming out of your pore. There’s no use in fighting/Almost as inviting as the first time.
If you don’t quit, you’ll never get over it…