The day I decided for the millionth, and the last time that I would never drink again, I woke up with my usual first thoughts that went like this:
“Did I say anything embarrassing last night?”
“Did I do anything stupid last night?”
“Do I owe anyone an apology today?”
“That’s it, I’m never drinking again.”
Over two and a half years down the track I still can’t tell you how it happened that March 22nd, 2017 became the first day of my sobriety. I have often wondered about that time. It’s still a little hazy. Added to the list of those first morning thoughts was a new one and while unremarkable with no emotion attached, this new additional first day of sobriety thought cut through the bullshit and the denial of what my life had come to and landed with a tiny thud in my anesthetised by ethanol heart.
“I cannot live like this anymore.”
No fanfare, no angels, no parting clouds or harps and no massive gut-wrenching rock bottom moment. I didn’t realise that day that my whole lifestyle in general was my rock bottom. I was alone. My husband had been sleeping in the other room anyway and had already left to work. We were fighting. He hadn’t talked to me for days. It was an excruciating pattern. Drunk people are not all that reasonable, even when sober -and that’s being very kind.
I got up. I had a shower. I never looked at myself for too long in the mirror. As usual, I didn’t want to see the bloated, miserable woman I had become. I went about my day. I wondered at times if I could stick to it – the no drinking thing. I decided I would not drink that day, just that day. Not drinking forever was too much to contemplate, so on my first on purpose sober day I decided to just not drink for that one day.
My drinking buddy (my husband) wasn’t playing nicely which made it easier. I told myself I could take a break from drinking for a bit, maybe a week to start with or a month. Whatever happened next I knew whatever I had been doing with alcohol had to change.
The night of my first sober day, I had been to yoga, picked up some take away indian while pretending the bottle shop nearby didn’t exist. I told myself if I really wanted to drink I could. There was always plenty of wine at home. I walked inside the apartment. My husband was still ignoring me. I tried not to think about him or the alcohol that was inside our home. He was watching TV, sipping wine. Situation normal, only I felt competely different. I didn’t look at him or the wine. I made my way straight to the bedroom. I ate. I went to sleep. I was alcohol-free for 24 hours.
I did the same thing for the next few days. At times I really wanted to be numb.
“It wasn’t alcohol I wanted. It was oblivion.”
I would make myself busy. I had to find a place to live. I had to figure out how to afford things. I had to get out and away from him. This was my life for the first two weeks of sobriety.
Timing is everything right? My husband went away for work. While he was gone, we sorted out who was to live where and how and when. It was not amicable. I did it anyway. One of us had to. It was ridiculous. I moved into a place on my own. I was terrified. I felt weak and pathetic. I was so down on myself. Maybe I was always down on myself and alcohol turned the volume of that down too. I was scared I would drink. I was afraid because I couldn’t drink.
What I remember the most about the first few month of sobriety is how tentative I felt and how raw I was. Every emotion was intensified. I felt like someone had turned up the dimmer switch on my life and snapped off the nob and I was always ON and bright, and the intensity stung.
I had trouble sleeping. I cried a lot. I was very lonely. I missed my idiot husband. I didn’t want to see my friends because nearly everyone I knew drank. I was embarrassed about how my life had turned out. Another marriage had ended, and now I wasn’t drinking anymore, which of course meant I must have been drinking too much and I had to explain that, and I didn’t want to.
I didn’t like leaving the house. I didn’t want to go anywhere because alcohol was everywhere. I craved oblivion, but I had no way of getting it. I didn’t want to drink but I just couldn’t figure out how to do life with out it.
It was an impossible place to be, but with every millimetre of my being, I could not go back to that life of drunk, numb, cranky, teary, disconnected from everyone and everything, hungover, repeat.
I did a 60 day Bikram yoga challenge where I did yoga 60 times in 60 days. I wanted my body back and I liked the idea of actually wanting to be in my body instead of disconnected from it too.
I didn’t realise just how much time drinking helped me waste. I had so much more time since I no longer had alcohol and a husband. I used to spend time in Ubers to and from restaurants and bars where I then talked about nothing in other locations and not just at home with him.
In the early sober days, my days took on a gently rythmn. Thank god, beucase inside everything was tumultuous. I started going for long morning walks. I did my work at home as usual. I went to yoga. I discovered Netflix. It wasn’t so bad. It was actually quite nice at times. It was very different.
I wish I could say it got better quickly. It didn’t. It stayed hard for ages. I lost contact with most of my old friends. We just couldn’t relate anymore. I tried one more time to salvage my marriage, but it was a disaster. I drank the way I did because I had trouble coping with a range of painful things, namely a traumatic past and an abusive present with him. I ended up in hospital for a while. It was after that stint, when the healing began in earnest.
I would not say recovery is an easy path. But it is essential if you really want to live.
It is an honourable way to be. I have integrity now. I am real. I still feel everything, but I know how to deal with those big feelings now. Big feelings also mean big love, big warmth, big honesty, big truth, big creativity, big vulnerability, as well as big pain and sadness and grief. I am alive to it all. I would not change one second of it.
I wouldn’t be this version of me without all that.