On Friday, day 130, I was taunted and tormented by cravings all afternoon, unlike anything I’ve felt since the first couple of weeks without alcohol back in November/December. And I am home alone for a few days. Oh, ugh.
While I sincerely appreciate the little cravings for their reminder that my mind-(and body-)set can change in an instant — going from contented, grateful, and finding it impossible that anyone with years of sobriety under their belt would ever go back — the big constant flashback rattling ones I can do without. Ugh.
I was walking around town putting up flyers for a community dance next Saturday when they hit. I was cold. I was dehydrated and was over-socializing, plus something was just up neurologically. I made it home, texted a friend just to say “cravings! argh!”, made tea, made a fire in the wood stove. Probably the most important action was to come straight home rather than drive out to the edge of town to put up the last two posters. One of those destinations is the grocery store where I’ve bought many the bottle of beer. Not a good place to have in my field of vision.
Two hours later I was, of course, fine. (Except, not “of course.” I don’t take that for granted. In Deepak Choprah’s book on sobriety, he tells the story of a young woman in the process of kicking a heroin addiction who waited through intense cravings for four days; and then she says, matter-of-factly, “and on Saturday they just went away.” Attagirl!) And now here I am in a quiet house, released from Friday’s uncomfortable jangling.
I’ve been pondering … rest. Physiological calm. Deep daily unwinding. (As concepts. Not necessarily experiences.) To me it’s one of the main casualties of alcohol consumption, not that Americans (maybe anybody) are very good at it to begin with. My model of this thing I don’t yet have is my 21 1/2-year-old cat. This winter we started heating with a wood stove. Boy, there’s nothing like providing a 300-degree radiating object to an old, beloved cat. To a cat whose peaceful sleeping evolves over the course of a winter morning from regular old curled up to comical zonked-out contortions as the temperature goes up.
Look at that. I’ll have what she’s having. This is the definition of checked out.
I believe there’s a being inside each of us that is blissful, carefree, and joyful, and instinctively understands safety and rest. It’s a being that if you have a history of alcohol abuse, you have a history of battering it, too.
Rest comes when I stop batting at my (as my brother would say) discomfortabilities. When I stop whacking my discomforts, and stop interrupting my own presence with myself, the rest grows. It also seems to be some sort of magnetic; it holds me together while I’m letting go.
Rest is in my body, at that edge where body becomes mind, and every time I whack back a discomfort, a thing in me tightens. The whacking requires rigidity and the thing whacked braces itself. Over time, they both harden, and discomfort followed immediately by self-judment is business as usual. Also whacked are the inner eyes watching the whole thing, all those true and loving and glowing bits of me.
Alcohol is a powerful and conspicuous way to beat back my pains and my creativity and my need for solitude and quiet, but there are others. Embracing deep rest — letting myself relax — means also letting go of other methods of self-judgment and distraction beyond alcohol. Sugar and compulsive email checking are my big struggles, though I’m gaining ground. (Deep Work continues to be my guide as I try to break the every-six-minutes 21st-century urge to distract.) I imagine as I get better at letting those go, others will emerge. And I will keep practicing.
Blessings to all of you on this journey…