A few days ago I hit 6 months without alcohol, first time ever (since alcohol became such a thorough crutch 10-12 years ago). Whoooeeey!!
I like this.
It’s still not that easy. I mean, the not drinking is not particularly difficult these days, practically speaking. But in my own head/heart, things aren’t settled. Not too surprising, that.
One concept that has become particularly large in the past 6 months is the idea of self-soothing. It’s a beautiful, complicated concept with infinite applications. Not only was I not taught as a kid what it is or how to do it (we were more of a repress-all-negative-feelings kind of family), I have deep reflexes that steel themselves against it. That ride alone is worth the price of admission on this sober journey. Hearing the voices, feeling the tensing in my body in response to the suggestion that tenderness, softness, warmth, slowness, care, love are what the distressed parts of me need, not alcohol.
It’s a subtle difference between thinking about alcohol as numbing vs. alcohol as soothing. Maybe numbing can be itself the goal sometimes, but for me it tended to be the soothing angle that was actually in play, and seeing it that way provides a path to explore. If I don’t want to numb with alcohol, I can quit drinking it and … there I am unnumb, therefore feeling entirely raw or exposed and … then what? Not clear. But if I realize that I’m inept when it comes to soothing myself when I feel angry, scared, alone, vulnerable, overwhelmed, an instant path opens toward an alternative response. How better to soothe? I still get to soothe! How to actually soothe, rather than soothe for 17 minutes (zero to 1.65 beers) followed by crackling my brain for three more hours followed by 7 shitty hours of dehydrated sleep followed by a half(orless)-enjoyed/-productive day. That’s a high high price for 17 minutes of soothing. Especially since the soothe-to-shit ratio gets lower and lower as the days and years drag on.
Here’s a picture of replacement soothing:
Soft socks. That every time I look at them I see Curious George, and that makes me smile.
Are any of your sober self-soothing strategies visualizable? Send me a photograph and I’ll make a little collection here in the next post — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s another, from a previous post. Less warm, more cold! Summer soothing at its finest.