The truth is that if you announce on social media that you might have a real problem something beautiful and exciting happens where people show their support. The truth is that if you decide to fix that problem and keep posting about it on social media you might suddenly find yourself one morning without any more little red or green or orange circles stuck to your “notifications” icon. Recovery is scary. And a little boring. And perhaps unpopular.
Recovery? A very stigmatized word. A word that implies a fall from grace, or a fall, period.
A finding of something lost.
There, that’s positive: “A finding of something lost.”
“This is what I’m finding. Something I lost.”
Do all “addictive” types (sounds better than “addicted” types, no?) say this? “I don’t fit the typical mold.” I don’t drink every day. I don’t drink more than [blank] per sitting — something inside me forces me to go to bed at that time. I drink less than many of the people around me, and I’m more honest than most people about what I do drink, and how it makes me feel. No one has ever told me they think I’m an alcoholic or that I should quit. (Since I was a teenager, at least — and that’s mostly because, well, I was a teenager. The fact that I drank when I was a teenager sucks, sure, especially considering how many brain cells I killed but hey, “it seemed cool and everyone was doing it.”) I don’t “sleep around,” I don’t miss days off work/school and I don’t even miss minor social commitments. If I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it — almost to a fault perhaps.
I wasn’t always like that. I used to backtrack on commitments all the time. Then, nineteen years ago (holy crap), I decided I wanted a life partner after all. (Before that, I’d imagined myself a single artist living on a coastline somewhere with a house full of stray animals and kids — yes I read a lot of novels.) So I cleaned up my commitment act. I learned to keep promises.
I don’t hurt people when I drink (other than myself — it causes cancer and a host of other diseases, yo), not overtly and/or not anymore than when I’m sober, at least. If anything I seem to love people all the more. Sometimes I might play piano or guitar badly or sing a little too loud or flirt a little too comedically but that’s not too often and mostly people are glad for the entertainment, and (I finally discovered, during a beautifully long “sober” period, unrelated to pregnancy) I might even do those same things sober. Also I try to get everyone else to join in, so it can be a lot of fun. Parties without “me on wine” can seem relatively dull, or at least that’s what I sometimes allowed myself to think. And yet I maintained certain levels of moral control. I’ve never so much as kissed a guy (or gal, for that matter), romantically, other than my husband, in over nineteen years.
But here are the problems: I’ve suffered from social anxiety in the past, and while alcohol permits me to overcome them and be the (self-proclaimed?) “life of the party,” the next day the post-social anxiety is twice as bad as the pre-social anxiety would have been — or sometimes/instead, there is simply a dull heaviness and numbness. I don’t like it.
The mornings after I haven’t drunk alcohol — this might sometimes be the entire work/school week — I feel alive and literally high on life, most times. So much so that if I’ve created something, I might even hit “publish” on the most bizarre things and shake my head later going, ‘how is it that I act more drunk sober than when I’m drunk’?
I have also published three blog posts while actually “tipsy/drunk” (on alcohol, not life) and yet I was high-functioning-enough that I had the same number of typos (i.e. not many) as when I publish “sober.” So what’s the prob? It’s normal these days for people to “loosen up” by getting tipsy. It’s normal to release a little pressure by tying one on occasionally. Once the kids are in bed, as long as you stay “sober enough” to function in case of emergency it’s no big deal. Am I right?
I’m not so sure.
I’m really not so sure.
What if we want more from life, not only for us, but especially for our kids or anyone else we truly care about, than “average”? I don’t mean becoming the next superstar successful/famous person (although that’s fine too, if we can handle it), I mean what if we want a life that goes deeply into the present moment? What if we want a life where instead of avoiding important conversations, we start them — and then actually remember them later, in detail? What if we want a life where, instead of doing brave things and seeming invincible, but later bawling or wringing our hands about it in private, we do brave things and show our vulnerability and admit when we simply can’t do any more, at that time?
What if we live a life where we don’t feel we need to pour liquid courage into it? What if we want to learn whom we truly are, to get to know that person inside of us who was told by society they must not be himself/herself, and see what that person can do? What if we instead got quiet with our suffering, and in the midst of that emptiness, learned to tap into the deepest creative power?
When I was trying to figure stuff out about a month or so ago, I came across this from Eckhart Tolle. And I think it’s pretty much the bomb:
(“On Drinking Alcohol — From the video: What do you believe about the effects of drink?”) It’s a 7-minute video clip in which “Eckhart explains how drinking alcohol can be a detriment to the arising presence in you.” I’m planning to transcribe it. Check back later for the text.
Christmas day, the day I made my truthful “Notes from the Christmas Elf” post, I had a mild hangover. But it was a beautiful day anyway. It was one of those days where, if you’re a “sober curious” “semi-alcoholic” (and it’s my personal belief that any of us who regularly indulges in any toxic substance is some level of “aholic”), you’re feeling a little dull and a little regretful, but also feeling quiet and introspective, and also feeling more observant of the life and lives around you, and just taking in the wonder of everything. And wishing you could feel less dull and regretful in the midst of it all.
Still, we had yet another “best Christmas ever” — this time not only in the kids’ view but in the adults’ view as well — partly because I made an actual PLAN (I’m allergic to plans) one year ago, and stuck to it. The plan was to have a quiet winter holiday, mostly on our own.
Last year we did do the trek to visit family, and the year before as well. It was wonderful and awful in all the average and fantastic ways and even though it set us back wads of cash (mainly because our van broke down en route, we had to completely change our travel method and later recover our family vehicle — and our kids’ abandoned holiday gifts — from very far away) AND, for me, time (a month of time in preparation and a month of time in “recovering”), we have no regrets. The kids loved it (especially the ride in the 8-seater cab of the ginormous tow-truck and then the 7-seater taxi, having left half our stuff in a closed garage parking lot and flinging the rest into shopping bags, racing to still arrive at our destination on time — like I said, maniacal about commitments) and it’s important to connect face-to-face with family. But the stress nearly killed me. So last year, I announced to everyone (ok, a little bitterly) that the following year we would not travel over Christmas, and we would mostly be on our own. Everyone was fine and dandy with it. And this year we did Christmas just as we pleased.
The night before Christmas, I did the wildly unconventional thing of telling the kids that instead of tearing through paper before the sun had shown its face above the horizon, we would NOT be touching anything under the tree UNTIL AFTER EIGHT O’CLOCK. Yes people, dreams really can come true if you make them happen.
And weirdly, people won’t mind, much. Especially not the kids. Especially not the life partner. When they can see you finally mean business they just accept it. And even enjoy it. Next year I might make present-unwrapping at nine. Or after lunch. Just kidding. But maybe.
“You never learn anything, you only get used to it.” — Laurent Siklóssy (quoted by Lee Sallows in Base 27: The Key to a New Gematria — the article I explored while I was my crazy-sober self, yesterday morning).
Can we get used to different ways of living, of being? Certainly we can. In order to do that we have to make a plan, a goal, and stick to it. And fill the “god-sized hole” that craves more busyness, more consuming, more “social obligation,” with something else. Try to find what was lost. Try to achieve true connection, by awareness of one oneself, one’s surroundings, and one another, in the present moment.
P.s. I never liked the word “sober.” I’m going to call it “Aware.” I’ll let you know how it goes, while I get more and more used to it. The Awareness, that is.
- You might also like: Some Things That Helped Me Be Free From Alcohol by Melissa at Soberandwell.blog; My Girls, My World, My Inspiration by Angie at Liftingweightsnotwine.com; 40 Days and 40 Nights by Virginia at Thisisvirginiakerrblog.com; Drinking is Probably Aging You Much More Than You Realize by Emily Blackwood for Huffington Post; No Healthy Level of Alcohol Consumption Says Major Study by Sarah Boseley for The Guardian; and The Hip Sobriety Manifesto by Holly at Hipsobriety.com.
- If you do check out any of the above blogs, please show your appreciation for these awesome health advocates and light-workers in whatever way you can. Being Aware should not have to mean Being Alone. Feed the Light.
- Post image: a reminder for me of what matters. My talented sister snapped this photo of us during a happy moment at a family reunion in Normandy, August 2018.
Thanks for reading. ❤︎ You’ve been a massive support, and transformational aid to me, and I truly appreciate your care and attention.