This is a long post, both the question and my attempts at an answer. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts…
This message from Lurker M:
Belle, can I ask for your patience and ask you a genuine, serious question. I am so tired of thinking about drinking. I want NOT to think about it. I imagine life like a ‘normal’ person for whom booze is a ‘sometime treat’ just like chocolate cake is for me. But when it’s not there? Who cares? I occasionally fancy some cake, enjoy it, but wouldn’t dream of wolfing the lot down. (Excuse the pun.) I don’t spend my time analysing my cake intake, feeling shameful and guilty. I have my cake, eat it, then move on. If cake were somehow never, ever on offer again, I wouldn’t care. It’s wonderfully good while it’s there, one slice, but…I don’t need it.
So, here’s the thing, the question. I want to feel the same way about alcohol. I want never to have it again, but more crucially, I want to obliterate my feelings about it, to return to being ambivalent about it. It exists but it doesn’t connect with me. One way or another. Whether I have it or not. I want to feel ‘normal’ about it, like it’s a toaster or a 2nd pillow or a lipstick. Good stuff but I can do without them and not miss them if they’re not there.
I love and value these sober blogs, Belle but, the truth is, I feel depressed thinking that I’m locked into having alcohol possess me and my thoughts as a sober person, just like it did as a drinker. I don’t want to have to give it airtime at all. I want to just be free.
In short, am I like Eve now; I can’t undo my knowledge/experience of having had the forbidden, poisonous fruit. That I have to feel its presence whether I’m indulging it or not.
Can I ever be alcohol free, if I’m counting days and thinking about (not) drinking all the time, just like I thought about drinking all the time when I wasn’t sober?
Belle, this feels important to me and yet I’m worried it’s a dumb, vapid question. Insulting, even. I love your blog so much and need it. But I am wondering if you ever get tired of thinking about drinking, now that you’re not drinking, just like you you were tired of it, when you were? ~From me with love
And my answer …
happy to hear from you 🙂 and it’s not a vapid question at all … I think it’s a ‘teetering on the edge’ question – and I understand that 🙂
since you’re brave enough to ask an honest question, I’ll give you an honest answer. and these are my opinions, I am not a counsellor and I don’t know jack shit about anything except my own navel.
Think of it as if our brains have a tiny bit of OCD. You’d like to magically have that disappear, but that is unlikely. you’re not going back to the way you were before and you’re not going to go to bed and wake up in someone else’s life, or wake up and BE someone else. you’re going to be like you. And who you are is just fine 🙂
How this tiny-booze-OCD acts up in our thinking, is that it makes us want booze all the time, and one glass is never enough. we plan our days around it, we plan vacations around it, we watch how much other people drink, etc. we want it, don’t want it, think about it, start and stop, moan and wretch, begin and begin again, and it’s a shitty place to be. It’s like an itch that has to be scratched. This is all if you’re at the good end of the booze-OCD spectrum. (I was at the good end.)
But if you’re further sucked into the booze-OCD, then bigger shits starts to happen. vomiting, falling down stairs, blacking out. planning to quit and not able to do it.
And if you’re even further sucked into the pit, then physical dependence kicks in and even if you want to stop you can’t without medical intervention. people go to jail, get arrested, lose their kids, lose their teeth and keep drinking. They go to rehab, drink, go to rehab again, drink. The OCD/wolfie in their heads is SO LOUD that common sense just doesn’t have a place at the table any more. They’re unable to act in their own best interest.
Now if you’re where I was, let’s call it Phase 1, you drink more than you WANT to. The quantity isn’t even important. there’s no measurement that says “a-ha there’s a problem.” We are drinking too much, and we know it. There are some small consequences – disappointment in someone’s eyes, missed deadlines, missed opportunities, telling other people’s secrets when drunk, telling people at the dinner table about your husband’s vasectomy, etc. All that AND the noise about how to get alcohol, plan for it, arrange for it, is there enough, etc. is continuous.
Once we quit drinking, the voice tends to gets quite angry at first (temper tantrum), for about 7-10 days. Then wolfie realizes he’s not going to win. For me, at about 16 days, i turned a first corner and begin to breathe more easily. Other milestones, day 30 and 60 were feeling more solid. After about 100 days (slightly different for everyone of course, but around 70-100 days for me) the wolfie voice got MUCH much quieter. It’s like a volume button being turned down. We see booze in the store and we know we’re not going to drink it. we have hard days and we practise other ways to avoid drinking.
Then around 6 months it gets better again (now it’s like we’re really during the volume down to about 3 out of 10) … and sometime between 8 to 10 months sober the volume is even better still (volume 1). I’ve heard from others, and I believe them, that after one year it’s even easier again (mostly zero with occasional static).
Do I think about Not Drinking all the time? No. I spend about an hour a day writing emails and/or writing on the blog. maybe 2 hrs tops on longer days. That’s my personal choice. lots of sober people certainly spend no time at all writing/blogging. Am I spending this time because I’m trying to ward off an alcohol craving? No, quite the reverse. I seem to be able to articulate booze-shit and so i have been a sober penpal. At times I feel flattered, then scared that there’s so much need, then I feel grateful, then I feel thrilled when Simpson Sister is on a plane (sober) on her day 35, and she’s never been sober this long in 10 years and she emailed from the plane to tell me she was sober! That rocks.
That’s why I’m still involved as much as I am now. I get to be a tiny cheerleader for some amazing sober journeys.
But me personally, do I think *about drinking*? maybe once every 4-10 days for about 10 minutes. I think it’s getting less and less. If it’s possible to understand, I can write about it like this to you, but in no way does this make me want to drink, nor do I even consider this *thinking about drinking* … I feel like it’s a connection to you, a human, with a real question. My own wolfie is NOT speaking to me at all when I write about quitting, or managing cravings, or dealing with stress, or even when i write about drinking.
[I don’t even know if that makes sense.]
if our brains have a mini version of OCD, a disordered thinking, it’s not going to change at all until the booze is removed. the alcohol itself feeds the wolfie. it feeds into the depressed, hopeless, cyclic thinking. only once the alcohol is gone for a brief period of time (100 days ish) might you begin to figure out what you REALLY think about everything. And you know, if you hate being sober at 100 days … you can drink again 🙂
You’re not broken. If you are broken then so is every other person who’s gotten sober. We all started somewhere, and it’s possible to be sober without angst because a bunch of us have done it. Are doing it.
I am alcohol-free. I’m not counting days. I have an Excel chart and I can look up the day, but I never know what it is anymore. I see booze and it doesn’t scream ‘drink me’. my husband can drink and I don’t care (he isn’t now, but he could, and did). I have dinner parties and vacations and I travel booze-free. I never thought I’d be here. never. never. ever. It’s better than I can even describe. the freedom from the noise, the freedom from the bondage, the freedom from the never-ending grief. Being sober is way fucking easier. that’s why I’m here… it’s like a gift. that you get to open every day …