How strange. I’ve been wanting to pick up pen and start thinking out loud again about sobriety, and at the end of March checked back in here to see when my last post was — to discover that it was last March and I was at day 136. I was on day 135 then. Apparently mid-November is a good time for quitting alcohol! Day 146 now.
History says I have a hard time getting past a few months, with one exception a while back. Except it’s not a “hard time” so much as unsuccessful. It’s all pretty fine, until it isn’t. In a nanosecond flash. Suddenly everything’s different and excruciatingly uncomfortable and I desperately freak out in the direction of alcohol. But I’ve learned some things (including that those flashes will always potentially exist, even when it seems they’re gone for good), and I aim to keep on trudging. “Trudging” might sound … grudging? … but what I mean to convey is a good kind of heaviness and regularity, day by day. “Heaviness” is a welcome weight, of feet falling to the ground, one after the other. Steady, landing on the ground each time.
And I want to talk while I contentedly trudge.
First thing is to record what I know of the moments of weakness/stress where in the past I have taken a drink out of desperation, intending it to be just one but seeing over the years that each time this eventually (might take several weeks) turns back into the old drinking, except with some bonus aspects (like, drinking while I’m driving. just one (honestly), but what the freaking fuck??!). The stress points are social, physical, or a combination. I get that ten of thousands of people could write that exact same paragraph. Drinking is one of my least original undertakings.
When I’m traveling, I’m more vulnerable. If it’s for work, my introvert will be getting stressed. If it’s to see family, while they’re pretty lovely people and we get along fine, it can feel heavy for the introvert and I need to watch out. (And my sister can be a weird bitch every five or 10 years. If it was on more regular basis it wouldn’t catch me so by surprise.) Last spring I visited my dad, and he and his wife took me out for dinner the last evening at which I ordered a beer (after probably some weeks without alcohol), and it was the beginning of another couple of months of renewed drinking.
A few years ago on a work trip I experienced an unprecedented solid two days of intense craving (after almost a year of no drinking), probably brought on by some kombucha, and I finally had a major fuck-it moment and drank, the last evening of the weekend and heading into a second work trip week. If I’m also physically uncomfortable, that’s very bad. I was once on my way to a seminar and needed to find a coffee shop on the way to get some work done, and in the process of having a hard time finding the coffee shop ended up in … a bar. Cold and stressed for the next day. (I do like people and conferences, actually. I have a bit of a hybrid personality.) The moment in which I ended my first beautiful five-month sober stint was a huge class reunion-sort of gathering for my partner that was held in a uniquely gorgeous but hellish building that consisted of four or five stories of space inside a glass/echoing structure. Not an inch of acoustically absorbent material in the place. Add a few hundred voices reverberating throughout, getting louder as the hours went by because none of us could fucking hear one another, and you get me with a half glass of wine. 2021 me would have gotten the hell out of there and gone for a walk in the June Wisconsin evening, but then-me thought I could have half a glass of wine and then get back to quit status.
Other straightforward social situations with perfectly nice people make me want to escape, too, and I honestly do not know why. My partner and I have dinner once a year with a couple he knows, and I find it insanely hard to persist through these without a couple of beers. It puzzled me for a long while why I react this way. What I think I’ve figured out is, just the fact of having a partner means I end up at dinners with people I wouldn’t myself have chosen to sit with. At least not repeatedly. What a funny thing to get this far through life not realizing. (I arrived late to this set up, having married him a couple of years ago at age 52.) Maybe past boyfriends and I had a more complete overlap of social circles such that I didn’t notice this sort of thing. Oh wait, I also wasn’t drinking much back then. I may also have been more tolerant person.
With this sweet problematic couple, the last time we saw them we had lunch. That is the ticket. Lunches drone on less long, and I have more energy. There’s not the alcohol vibe. Excellent structural change.
And then there have been a couple of times where I just got caught completely off guard, where Wolfie (sorry, Bernadette) (I named Wolfie Bernadette) (apologies to you dear reader if your name is Bernadette, feel free to name your Wolfie Adrian) jumps in and takes full advantage of a situation. One was at a holiday party at the home of a homebrewer friend, and another friend and I wandered downstairs to the bar and before I knew it my friend turns around and hands me a beer. Adrian, if you’re going to be a sober person for the long haul, you have to learn how to say, “no thank you.” Come on. Don’t give Bernadette that beer. Look where it leads – more months of drinking, bouncing around with 30 days here and 30 days there, and then it’s years without another really enduring stretch of sobriety.
Okay. Been wanting to type this out and get back here. I have more to say. Staying away from alcohol is unbelievably difficult for this person who didn’t actually have a very low bottom. I don’t think I would have descended (I don’t think I would descend) all that much farther because I vehemently hate feeling sick, in the moment of being drunk as well as the next day. But I was (until a mere 146 days ago) stuck at a bouncing around, a rhythm of quit-for-1-or-2-or-3 weeks and then start drinking three beers a night if I was alone in the house. Middle of the road as far as quantities but extremely stuck there. I type this because part of me still thinks that I shouldn’t struggle this much. But I do. And also very unoriginally. I’m solidly in the middle of the bell curve of people whose drinking escalated into the problem range in the past 15 years.
But I know enough now and have my sights firmly on staying stopped.