I am just over 3 months sober. My story is not remarkable. I don’t have epic stories of crazy things I did when I was drunk. I’m not that kind of drinker. I was a highly-functioning alcoholic with a career and a house. To the world, it looks like I have it all together. The thing no one knew is that the voice in my head was constantly berating me. “You’re not really that good at your job…people are going to find out you’re a fake and you’ll be fired for sure. No one really likes you, either. They’re just being nice. Oh, and you’re ugly and fat, too.” I’ve been aware for some time about my inner dialogue, and I’ve read article after article on how you’re supposed to change it and somehow make it be nice to you. The thing I could never figure out is HOW to do that. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shut that negative voice down. So I drank enough to quiet it down most nights. Not enough to be drunk or hungover, but enough. Too much, as it turns out.
It wasn’t some rock-bottom moment that made me decide I was an alcoholic. I didn’t wake up in a gutter after a 3-day bender…nothing that exciting. No, the thing that made me quit for good was simply quitting. Yes, quitting made me decide to quit. I made up my mind that I was going to give myself a 2 month no-alcohol time-out. And I did. I quit. And something amazing happened. That negative voice suddenly wasn’t so loud anymore. The anxiety I lived with daily was gone. I felt clear-headed and, dare I say, happy. I realized that all this time, the thing I’d been using to medicate my anxiety and negative self-talk may have actually been the cause of a lot of it. I know that that negative voice has always been there, even before I ever drank, but it’s as though drinking was actually feeding it and making it stronger. Without my daily dose of alcohol, I felt so much better.
Quitting came with a downside, however, and that was cravings. For the first 3 weeks or so, every day at 5pm I started craving that cold glass of white wine hitting my lips and warming my belly. Weekends were the hardest. Starting at 5pm on Friday, I would get that familiar itch to make a stiff margarita to kick off the weekend. I developed some coping tools to get through it. I started working out more after work, and I started drinking tonic water with lime “mocktails” to get me though the “witching hour.” What I learned though this is that I really did have a problem. Quitting should not be this hard for someone without a problem. I began to wrestle with the idea that I was probably never going to be able to drink again. I became familiar with “wolfie,” who I refer to as my “drinking brain.” My drinking brain sounds a lot like my negative self-talk voice. It would tell me, “You don’t really have a problem. You weren’t that bad, stop being all dramatic. Your friends are all going to be bored with you and you will be all alone. You’ll just become ex-drinking buddy.” Sounds familiar. I fought with myself for several weeks…am I an alcoholic? Can I go back to moderate drinking at some point? The though of giving up my beloved cocktails forever seemed extreme. So many social activities involve drinking…was I going to be able to have fun, or would I now become the no-fun, non-drinker? I know what I thought about non-drinkers when I was drinking… boring.
During this period of several weeks, I was voraciously reading all the sober blogs I could find. Many of them told stories of quitting, a spectacular failed attempt at moderation, and then lifetime abstinence. The thing is, I always knew I was playing with fire. Both parents were alcoholics, and I stayed away from alcohol during much of my early adulthood because I was afraid I’d become like them. I didn’t start drinking regularly until around age 30. I thought, “I’m fine, see I can handle it. I’m not like them.” I should have known. Despite my hopes that I could return to moderate drinking, I knew deep down that wasn’t in the cards for me. Quitting was too hard, and I saw myself in the blogs I was reading. Many just like me have tried and failed to moderate. I finally admitted 10 weeks into my sobriety that I am an alcoholic. There is nothing good about alcohol for me and there is no reason for me to consume it in any amount. I am now a non-drinker.
Now Christmas is coming in a few days. I’m off work, which takes me out of my routine, and my partner is off at her parents’ for a few days before I go and join them next week. I’m lonely and bored….not a good combination. I got through yesterday, but thoughts of drinking were stronger than they’ve been in a while. “No one would know,” says my drinking brain. It’s not really a craving at this point, just nostalgia for the time when I would kick back with a few cocktails and watch movies to pass all this downtime. I watched the movies, but with hot chocolate instead. I will get through this.
I have to give a shout-out to all the sober bloggers out there who have helped me in too many ways to count. This blog is inspired by all of them, but especially Mrs D, Unpickled, and The Six Year Hangover. I would probably not be at this place without all your shared wisdom.