This morning my aunt sent me a link to a news story that addressed the wine culture in today’s society. Then, it got me thinking about my own journey into sobriety. Alcohol and I have always had a bad relationship, and it started at a very young age. And my relationship with alcohol stemmed mostly around trying to fill a void. But, drinking has always been so normalized in my life. That’s why it took me until recently to admit there was a problem at all.
I excused my alcohol abuse by associating with the image of a woman who drinks wine at night and manages it all. That woman has worked hard all day, and she deserves that glass of wine at dinner. And she deserves the one after dinner. Then, she deserves the one at bath time. And last she deserves all of the ones that come after bed time. Usually that was a bottle, sometimes a bottle and a half, sometimes two bottles. I’d wake up angry, and agitatedly counting the hours until it was an approved drinking time. And, the cycle continues.
I knew that I ticked a lot of boxes when it came to alcohol abuse identifiers. But, knowing that and accepting that are two really different things. You know how they always say the first step is admitting it? Well, that’s true. But not just admit it, but believe it about yourself too. Now I can look back and realize how much of a problem it was, and I really wish that I had realized it sooner. Better late than never?
Lies About Drinking Alcohol I Believed
My alcohol consumption started in my teens, like most girls that age were doing. And, it was innocent enough. I mostly drank at that age because all of my friends were. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, and in university, before alcohol and I took a nasty turn. It was easy to let alcohol sink its hooks in, because it was so cunning at telling lies. But, I believed them and so throughout my twenties, and most of my thirties, I let alcohol have control.
There are lies about alcohol that are so lucrative it feels impossible to resist the allure of it. Unwillingly I fell into a trap of believing these lies about drinking alcohol. It took a 5-day hospital stay and the abrupt realization that my lifestyle had to change. The path I was heading down was not a good one at all. And so, I got sober. But it too a lot of courage, and finally admitting the lies about drinking alcohol that I believed. Especially these three in particular.
- Alcohol is glamourous, and classy. Drinking it will akin you to that lifestyle. I think I got this idea from watching TV and there’s always that character who is super glamourous. And there is always that scene where she is having a glass of wine at some classy function. For me it was more classy to have a glass of wine, and pretend that I was sophisticated as eff, than to have a beer. I know it may sound silly, but this is a legit thing. This is how advertisements work. By casting the object that they are trying to sell you in a golden light.
Alcohol is not glamourous or classy, really. All I need to remind myself of that is to think of the multiple times that I found myself hung over a railing, or a toilet. That image isn’t glamourous at all. I believed that lie because I wanted to feel like I was worth something, that I belonged somewhere. Drinking made me feel like I belonged to a certain demographic of sophisticated ladies who drink. And the truth is, I don’t need to drink to belong to that demographic. I am exactly where I need to be, and with the exact people I need in my life.
- Alcohol will take your problems away. One time after a night of drinking my mom asked me why I did that to myself. My answer was that it was because it took me away from here. Which was true, I believed if I just hid beneath a mask of alcohol I wouldn’t have to face my problems. I could just live in a haze all the time, never having to feel the rough edges of life.
For the first three months of my sobriety I was a rollercoaster of emotions. I cried a lot – mostly in secret. And I had to admit and face that I wasn’t okay. There was a lot of baggage there to unpack and process. Although I cry a lot less these days I am still unpacking. But, now I know that there are problems, and I also know that if I face them I am actually ok. Yes, it does suck to go through the motions, but in the end it is worth it.
- Look at how much fun you are having. Alcohol made me feel lighter, at least at the beginning of the evening it would. I would laugh, and be silly, and crack jokes. Then, the line drawn in the sand, gets crossed. And I become not such a nice person. I am still having fun, and I believe everyone else is too. But I am being insensitive and too blunt. I am not considerate, or compassionate. Nope, I am just drunk.
I can say honestly that now that I have been sober for this long (I’m still freshly sober at 8 months) I have never had more fun. My days are not centred around the minute it is appropriate to drink. Then hearing the first sound the wine makes as it glugs out of the bottle. I practice mindfulness to appreciate the moment right then. Because my time isn’t spent waiting to drink, or drinking, I find joy in the small moments throughout the day. Things can be fun at anytime. That choice is for me to make. Not the ruse of alcohol.
I’m Not Okay, But That’s Okay
Sobriety is a gift. That is what my aunt commented on a post I did a while ago. And it absolutely is, without a doubt in my mind. It is an incredibly gift to free yourself from the shackles of an addiction. But with this gift also comes facing up, and coming to terms with life. When I think about all of the times I had tried to quit drinking, but didn’t succeed I realize what the one thing was I was missing.
To free myself from the grip that alcohol had me in I had to do one simple thing. That one simple thing was to admit and accept that I am not okay sometimes. And that is perfectly okay. In fact, most people are not okay. There are just people who have better coping mechanisms than drinking. I knew this time around would be different, because this time, for the first time, I am listening and speaking from my heart. This time around I bring courage to the table.
To be and stay sober takes a ton of courage. Because, to be and stay sober means you have to face the demons in your life. And that isn’t something people with a lot of trauma really want to do willingly. It is much easier to open a bottle of wine. But, here I am. I started to meditate, sit in silence, and listen. This is after YEARS of resisting my NP’s recommendation to meditate. I started to read things to help me understand CPTSD, and that helped me understand some of the feelings I get. And, knowledge is power. The biggest, most difficult step in this journey has yet to come. But I am sitting on the sidelines of going through Cognitive Processing Therapy. If you don’t know what that is, click the link in the name.
I will probably never be okay, but I accept that. And surprisingly to me, accepting it makes the load I carry a little lighter. Because to accept is to let go, and letting go means there’s one less thing you are holding on to. It takes work, though, and that work never ends.
I Didn’t Need Alcohol, I Needed to be Present
The biggest realization that I came to after the immediate months following sobriety was that I needed to be present more. It isn’t a secret that I drank alcohol as a means of self medication. And I felt like I needed that to quiet the anxiety, and the fear. Well, it turns out I just needed to break it down to right now. One of the biggest identifiers to AA, other than the serenity prayer, is the phrase “One Day at a Time”, and that means to be present.
Being present during recovery is so practiced because living in the past can bring feelings of guilt, shame, or anger which, for me, lead to drinking. And living in the future is obsessing about the what-ifs which causes anxiety, which, for me, lead to drinking. It was the belief that on neither side of the present I was going to be okay… the truth is that I have survived 100% of my life to this point. And, I can never know what the future holds, but I can acknowledge the right now. The more I practice to stay in the present the less I feel like I need alcohol to make it through.
I Started to See The Silver Lining
You know when people say “life is what you make it”? I used to want to slap people who said that, because I wasn’t given the choice to what life I was born into. How could I possibly make life what I wanted it to be? Then, you know, I got sober. And I started to notice that life is messy. It is a big pile of peaks and valleys and it can throw you for a loop when you’re least expecting it. But, at the end of the day it is what you choose to take away from each peak and each valley.
I thought after the relationship with my sister all but ended that the pain I felt would never subside. So, I did what I do best, and I buried myself in bottle after bottle of booze. And it only made things worse in my home life. Sobriety taught me that there was a lesson in all of that, and I came out a better version of myself. Freed from the belief that there was no good that would come from a situation like that. I can’t see that now. I see that even though a relationship of what I thought was mutual closeness and respect wasn’t that. It was one of manipulation and control. And I have grown, and I am a better version of me because of that growth.
If you choose to believe that the valleys are only negative and you only walk away with a negative outlook, then that is where you stay. However, what I figured out, is that admitting things suck during the valley times, and learning the lesson, makes life worth experiencing. There is always a silver lining, and I much prefer to believe in that then to feel the weight of a negative outlook brought me. Finding the little things, and celebrating the little victories, giving myself grace when I need it all are ways to see the light in life. And as a consequence, life got a little lighter.
The Tidy Up
Although living in the haze of alcohol seemed to be an easier path to choose, the truth could be further than that. Dependency on a substance can be all consuming, it can ruin lives, and end relationships. Sobriety isn’t an easy place to live, but it is worth it. I said before that sobriety takes a ton of courage, and it does. But at the end of the day I would rather know that I lived in a place where I was courageous and in control. Not in a place that was ruled by a substance that prevented me from seeing the good that comes from the darkness.