Article originally posted on Medium.
sober pineapple. image courtesy of noah markus
Belle, my husband doesn’t understand why I can’t have a few drinks and then stop. To him, the idea of entirely quitting drinking and being 100% sober, seems overly dramatic. He doesn’t get it. What can I say to him to help him understand?
Dear loved one who doesn’t get it,
I have a noise in my head that you can’t hear. I’m not crazy and I am not hallucinating. I’ve checked with others who have this same ‘Drink Now’ voice, and it turns out we all pretty much experience the same thing. We hear our regular thoughts AND a radio station broadcasting at the same time.
And the radio station? It’s saying: “Drink Now. Is there enough to drink? Will I get enough to drink? Did he have more than me? Is there enough alcohol? When is it time to drink? Did they notice how fast I drank that first glass?”
For me, honey, that voice will start — oh it could start at 10 a.m. — but it probably used to get rolling mid-afternoon and continued non-stop until I gave my head a glass of wine (is it 5 p.m. yet?).
I see that frown.
You know how some people get carsick and others don’t? It’s not something you can see. It’s something that happens in our heads. And this is happening in MY head. The Drink Now voice.
That’s why I wanted you to read this article on Medium, it’s about how to explain my goal with being sober. Belle assures me that the longer I’m sober, the easier I will be to get along with (yes!), and the happier I will be in my own skin (fan-freaking-tastic!).
I’m supposed to make sure you read this part: The longer I’m sober, the more sex there will be (highlight for emphasis).
I’m more likely to buy groceries and cook, as a sober human, rather than letting the nice food languish in the fridge. I will be more likely to get out of bed before noon on the weekend. I will be more likely to be patient with the kids. I’m more likely to be empathetic and compassionate about other people and dealing with their shit. I’m going to evolve into a new version of me. You don’t need to look so worried, I’m not going to evolve into someone who doesn’t love you (unless you’re a jackass, in which case all bets are off). I’m doing this sober thing so that I can evolve into a better version of me, for me.
And I’m doing it right now.
I understand that me consuming no alcohol at all seems unusual, since you don’t hear that same voice in your head that I do. I know that alcohol is not poison for every single person on the planet, but it is for me. It poisons my thoughts, and my heart, and it gets into mood, and it dumps on my sleep.
Learning to live without booze is hard. I might be grumpy. Sometimes I don’t take very good care of myself, and I fuck up my sleep or I forget to eat, and I make it harder for myself. But I’m learning this self-care thing through a process of trial and error, with hopefully more success than error.
You’re still here, so that’s good because this next part is going to be really hard to say.
If you are mean to me, it makes things worse. I already know that things are grim. You want me to stop being an over-drinker, that much we can agree on. You perhaps think that ‘moderation’ should be possible for me. (Ha! What do you think I’ve been trying? I maybe didn’t use that exact word, but I’ve been trying to moderate, to drink less, to drink one — and it hasn’t been working. For years.)
Tough love doesn’t work with people like me. Tough love makes us rebellious and angry and it kicks off the toddler in our heads, the one that says “fuck it, I’ll just drink to spite you. I’ll drink AT you.”
I’m not going to blame my drinking on you, and I’m not going to say that if you’re mean to me, then I will drink because I am responsible for me, and I decide what I consume and what I don’t consume.
But if you’d like to be supportive, and if you’d like to be helpful (and that really is the only choice here), then I will share with you that I am doing a 100-day sober challenge, and during that time you can pledge for 100 days to not be an ass. For 100 days, you can offer me a replacement drink at 6:30 p.m. And perhaps you could avoid leaving open wine on the counter. And you can resist the temptation to bring your boozing friends home and sit up until the crack of ass.
Sometimes I am going to do things, to take care of me, that you will think are selfish, or ridiculous, or mean. (What? Not cook dinner?) I am dealing with a noise in my head that you can’t hear. You’ll have to trust me when I say I need a time out RIGHT NOW. Do not give me grief about listening to sober audios. Don’t comment on the time I spend reading sober blogs. Yes, I have a sober penpal, and no she is not part of a cult. Don’t tell me that I should just have a drink to ‘relax’. I am going to ignore you when you say shit like that. Or worse, it will eat away at my self-esteem and make me think that I’m doing something wrong.
The crappy thing is that unless you have the same voice in your head, I cannot rely on your advice on how to get sober. I have to listen to other people who have done this same thing, because they know what it’s like to be me.
Since you would like to be supportive (because that’s the only option), and I know you like short, declarative, sentences, here are some instructions for you:
- Offer me a replacement drink every night at 6:30 p.m. Bitter is better. Present me with a tonic water and cranberry juice. In a nice glass. Not a wine glass.
- Do NOT offer me alcohol. Don’t make me say no.
- You don’t have to tell your sister that I’ve quit drinking because I had a ‘problem’. You can let me tell people how I want, when I want.
- I have a time limit on how long I can hang out with boozers. You may not realize this but boozers are boring. And sometimes the situation is tempting and so I’ll reach a place where I gotta leave. You will be supportive. You will say “I’m ready to go, too.”
- I will need a lot of sleep (write that down).
- There is to be no shit given about many hours a day I spend on ‘recovery’ or sober stuff. If I think that I need to go to five meetings a day, then I do.
- If I buy myself a pineapple and call it a sober treat, you will understand. You will then try very hard to refrain from eating my sober pineapple. In fact, you will come home and say to me, with the sweetest of tones, “Can I buy you some sober pineapple, my love?” You will come home and say “What can I do to help?”
- You will accept that I totally and completely suck at identifying that I need help, and then I absolutely and no-denyingly suck at accepting help when it’s offered. You will be patient with me when I ask you to do things for me, and then I get mad, and then I get grumpy, and then I cry, and then I go to bed, and then I get up the next day and life is fine again.
My sweet, I’m like a little baby chick in traffic, trying to find my way. Tough love? It would just squish the chick. (That’s a terrible image.)
Please. No chick-squishing. Because really, I do enough of that myself.