I cannot learn all of life’s lessons by experiencing them myself

before, even earlier last week, i really was holding myself back from drinking. I wanted to drink but i wasn’t doing it. I’d periodically get some good feeling moments of “yes i like this” and i definitely had positive and pink cloudy times, especially when reading Jason Vale or Allen Carr.

then things changed and now, based on yesterday’s experience, i think it’s pretty clear that now i don’t want to drink. I don’t want any, even by accident. That’s a big huge change.

i credit this shift with several things:

  1. i knew this shift was coming, because other sober people told me that the obsessing would stop, for some it was around 60-90 days.  i was always encouraged that it got MUCH MUCH better, and not to give up before i got to the much better place. i have been able to trust the wisdom and counsel of others who’ve been there before me. I do not have to put my hand in fire to know that it burns. you can tell me and i’ll believe you.  some days i’ll fucking hate your guts, but i won’t quit and i will believe you. here’s the truth:  I cannot learn all of life’s lessons by experiencing them myself. I have to be able to follow sensible, sage advice.Life is short and there’s lots i want to do and accomplish. i’ve always had mentors (and i have to listen to their advice!). This online community is my group of mentors for this task. You rock. In ways you can’t even imagine.
  2. i asked for a sign from the universe that it would be OK to drink, and instead the universe gave me a van on its side on the sidewalk. I barely even believe in signs, but i was feeling pretty desperate that day. the sign was so large, so fast, and so clear that i felt like my insides were shaken. in a good way.
  3. i also still feel like a bit of the 20-year-old’s serene life view has been distributed amongst her family and friends now that she has passed. When she stayed here in our apartment with us, she was like a snail. you couldn’t make her do anything quickly. she had her own time and her own way for everything. She didn’t fight back, she just did her own thing. She didn’t wrestle, or even seem to struggle.  She was just gliding along, singing, this ideal smile on her face.  She was always looking for the best and most enjoyable way to do everything. She took her time and the overwhelming feeling that everyone has in knowing her is that she always seemed to be ‘at peace’ with whatever was happening in her life.  Now that she’s gone, it’s like her attitudes and her life view have overflowed and affected everyone who knew her. and her impact is clear:  from the tributes on FB, to the memorial service held for her outside in the sun, to the cupcakes people brought to the service instead of flowers. Please know, I do not wish a 20-year-old death on anyone. but death does have a way of making your own life crystal clear.

my first reflex

I wake up in the middle of the night with stiff legs, tossing and turning.  too much running, too many hours on my feet in the kitchen. and i think: Well, here we are. This is sober life. This is real life. There are no blurred edges.  What would my husband do? Would he drink cough syrup so he could easily get back to sleep?

There’s a section in the Allen Carr book about sleeplessness — he says (not surprisingly) that this just happens sometimes. Some nights, you just can’t sleep.  Just like some days you have a cold, and some days you feel out of sorts. Nothing to do with booze.

So i got up and took one advil (ibuprofen) for my sore legs.

It sounds like nothing, but it’s something.

Carr refers to learning to live without alcohol is like buying a new make and model of car.

The turn indicator may be in a different place, and you’re going to try to shift gears with the windshield wiper handle … but don’t worry, that’s just your brain readjusting.  Your hands may reach out and you’ll turn on the wipers when you meant to blow the horn. and the solution is to just shrug, and then take the right action. Same with booze/drugs/medicating yourself. You may instinctively reach for a medicated solution, but that’s just because all of your motor reflexes haven’t been adjusted yet (to the new car!).  If you make a mistake and reach out for your old solutions, just wait a second and then readjust.  Over time your brain figures out where the switch for the windshield wipers are. And don’t give up. You wouldn’t return a new car because the lights are in a different place and your hands kept reaching for the wrong thing. You’d be patient while you learned new skills.

so, do I take a glug of Nyquil [nighttime cold medicine in north america] to help me sleep, when I wake up with sore legs? No. It might be my first reflex, but that’s just me getting used to the new model of car.  Instead, I take an ibuprofen and then roll over and go back to sleep.

Dehydrate the wolf

“Once you have removed the goblin from your back you’ll probably find that you have been in the habit of wasting a lot of time. At first you may find you don’t now how to fill this time. Don’t worry about it. Four things you can’t have too much of are time, energy, love and money. alcohol ravages all these things. You will have so much more of each of these valuable commodities. Spend them wisely on activities that give you genuine pleasure. Enjoy the challenge of restructuring your life.” (Carr, The Easy Way to Control Alcohol, p. 228).

It’s not very well written, but he hits all the right notes.

Let’s rewrite it, shall we? Here’s my version.

Before you quit drinking, your biggest fear might be that life without alcohol is boring. I’m surprised at how much time I could can fill with three glasses of wine (an entire evening!).

But when I did finally quit, in the first few days I found myself gaping at the wide abyss that begins at 6:30 pm and continues to the end of time. I actually said “but NOW what will I DO?’ … which is quite hilarious, considering I’m in charge of a company or two, I help my husband run his business, and I’m entertaining clients at least once a week. It’s not like I don’t have stuff to do…

You can never have too much time, energy, love or money. Booze sucks them all up AND booze wants more and more and more.  More of all four.

If you can picture booze like a Big Wolf With Black Eyes, he represents the voice in your head.  Now you have to very calmly starve the wolf. Or better yet, you have to dehydrate him by not giving him anything to drink.

At first he’ll be mad at you. “Where’s my drink?”

You’ll say … I have all this free time now. I can’t talk to you, wolfie. I’m running, baking, singing, reading, cleaning, spending time with my kids. I’m paying my taxes, cleaning off my desk, enjoying the weather.

The wolf will taunt you. “Everyone else is drinking, why can’t you?”

You’ll say … sorry, wolfie, can’t hear you. I’m too busy cranking up the volume on my new iPad that I bought with all the money I’ve saved. 50 days of sobriety @ 3/4 bottle of wine per day =  $225.  And some days were more, and other days included booze in restaurants, so it’s really more like $400 (or probably even $500).  At an even $10 A day, that means that in a year it’ll be $3,650 saved.  That’s a trip to Australia. That’s a small car. That’s a new wardrobe, le creuset cookware, and 2 new books a week with money left over. Sorry wolfie, can’t hear you, i’m COUNTING MY MONEY.

The wolf will throw temper tantrums. “Why can’t I? What about now? When is this sober thing finished? Can I drink in a few more days? When exactly can I drink again?”

You’ll say I’m too busy snuggling with my husband, staying awake for conversations, i can see the look in his eyes, how proud he is of me, how supportive. i would never want him to look at me any other way, wolfie, don’t you understand that one glass of red wine does NOT equal my marriage? I pick my marriage. I pick it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I pick meaningful conversations with friends. I pick sober laughing. It’s the best. Have you tried it wolfie? Sober laughing? you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

The wolf will nearly be dehydrated. He’ll try a few more last-chance, desperate attempts. “You’re broken,” he’ll snarl. “you bitch, you can’t be fixed, you’ll always be a fuck-up, you suck at this, you might as well quit now.”

And you’ll say:  You want to fight? I’ll win. I’ve got so much more energy now that i’m sleeping through the night. I can outrun you wolfie. I’m light on my feet now.  I’ve got so much more spunk, clearer thinking. I’m planning to take over the world, wolfie, me and my clear-headed genius.

What is that? Sorry I can’t quite hear you. Your voice is so quiet wolfie. are you nearly dehydrated? you’re going to dry up and turn to dust.

[puts palm of hand up to lips and blows across the surface … dust disperses, wolfie is specks of gray in the air … and then gone]