How the fuck did i ever get here, to a place with 437 days sober…
Kay (day 3): My gosh, I *HAVE* to ask: how did you basically get to where you are now with only ONE day 1?! I know you went about 9 days in June 2012, but egads, once you started July 1, 2012 you were like the Energizer Bunny … you just kept going and going and going.
This question is both simple and complicated to answer. I’ll try simple first:
Everyone who has a longer period of sobriety has a very last day 1. We have a time when we quit drinking AND we have the right supports in place AND it works, however clumsily at first. Yes, there are gigantically hard days, and yes there are tears. Yes we make deals with ourselves to drink again in some imaginary ‘future’, and yes we think of quitting sobriety at times (or often). Yes and yes. Yes I still have to move the catering booze to a place where I can’t see it. Yes, I wear my Fuck You Wolfie™ bracelet. Yes, I go to bed early some nights, still, just to make this day be finished so i can start again tomorrow. But yes, I had one last day 1.
Thankfully, now, my fear of fucking that up is GREATER than any fleeting desire, craving, or urge to drink. And for me, once I had 77 days of sobriety, i realized that i feared regret more than I wanted to drink. I can and could still fuck it all up in the future, i’m not idiotic enough to think that i’m special in that regard. I continue to take the advice of people with longer sobriety than me. I trust that they have no reason to lie or exaggerate. If they say ‘watch out for this’ then i watch out. I do not have to learn all of life’s lessons first-hand: i am willing to take advice and support from other people.
Here’s the not-simple answer.
If you quit drinking, struggle through two days sober, drink again, then wake up to a terrible hangover deciding to quit forever, and then crawl through three days sober only to drink again… I admire you. I really do. You’re continuing to try to quit. And it’s hard. I get that. I get many emails from Team 100 members just like this. They’re heartbreaking. The feelings of despair and shame and fatigue. It’s ‘sucky’ in the extreme.
But if YOU try to quit repeatedly, and you don’t change anything about HOW you’re quitting, then you’re opening the door to misery and you’re welcoming it in.
Sometimes when someone emails me and says “do you have any advice on how I can make this be my last time quitting?” I’ll say something like: “Look at what you’ve been doing up to now to help you be sober. It’s good, but it’s not enough. You need to add more support. Do you know what that might look like for you?”
Support for you being sober could be a whole bunch of things. What have you done up to now and what could you ADD?
I wrote a version of this list in an email to A back in July (she is now thankfully on day 49 after a couple of restarts):
me: if I could wave my magic wand for you, I’d recommend the following (you can take from this whatever seems useful to you).
Email me twice a day for at least the first 30 days.
Get up and read a sober blog (unpickled, mine, and others with good recounting of their earlier days). Start your day with some kind of re-commitment to being sober. Listen to an audio. Write in a journal. Decide to be sober for today.
Make sure you get enough sleep at least 5 out of 7 nights a week, make this a super high priority.
In early sobriety, you can and should completely avoid situations that feel like they’re going to suck (don’t TRY to drop by the office party for half an hour … just skip it entirely.)
Let friends know in advance that you’re not drinking when you’re meeting for dinner … I am meeting my former landlord today, he’s in town and wanted to take us out for ‘drinks’, I said we could meet at the local café at 4 pm for a Perrier because I’m working. I didn’t say any more than that, but at least I won’t arrive to find him there with an open bottle of wine and a look on his face expecting me to drink half (which I wouldn’t now, but I don’t want him to waste money either).
Get the phone number of at least one person you can call if you’re feeling spectacularly crummy. One friend, sister, sponsor, spousal-unit, anybody. Sober friend. Even if long-distance.
Book coaching calls in advance so that you know you’re going to be accountable in the future.
Be very kind to yourself. If you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it. Pretend you’re sick.
Get a treat at least every 2 days. Every day if you’re feeling shitty.
Find one hobby that you have already that you can reinvigorate and/or the photography project, and/or something else. Running.
Have a plan for the evenings at least for the first few weeks. Like, specifically plan what you’re going to do during the early evening. Buy movie tickets in advance. Sign up for a spot at the gym. Whatever. Something where you are unlikely to cancel.
Eat as much cake as you feel like for at least the first 60 days. I used to start with raisins and apple at about 7 p.m., but I would escalate to cake if that wasn’t enough.
Some kind of exercise — even 15-20 minutes, 4-5 times a week. Walking, running, swimming. Something where you can just think and sweat and get away from swarming grey thoughts of sobriety.
Have a replacement drink for 6 p.m. (tonic + grapefruit juice, something bitter works better for me).
Don’t get too hungry, eat before you’re hungry.
You can decide that you are going to drink again, but NOT until after the 100 days. That will usually get wolfie to shut up. it still works for me.
It’s better to have too many supports than not enough. Some others in Team 100 are going to AA, or other recovery meetings. Maybe you’d like to add some of this kind of support. In person or online.
Finally, I don’t think quitting drinking is simply a matter of willpower. We boozers have confused thinking and it leads us to NOT act in our best interest (i.e. wolfie convinces us to keep drinking). I don’t think it’s a matter of waiting until life is less stressful. I don’t think it’s (even) about waiting for the click, although having a click can certainly help …
I think it’s about lining up the right kind and amount and intensity of support. What does that look like for YOU? well, depends on what you need. Do you need a sober penpal, have you tried blogging daily, have you tried meetings. Have you tried talking with your doctor, have you tried reaching out when you feel shitty.
What can you do this time to help make it more likely that THIS will be your last day 1? Well, what have you NOT done before that you can add to your toolbox.
(And a note about toolboxes … they’re not just for carrying around, you know. Don’t get sucked into thinking that being sober is just a matter of collecting tools. You have to actually use the tools. ahem.)
Poor Kay! sorry, this long rant is probably not what you expected from me this morning 🙂