It’s hard to corral away time to write here. But I need to stay present. So here’s a Monday hello.
I have so many balls in the air. Slipping behind on some client work, have to do the first spring bee hive check (at least a couple of weeks late on that), have have have to get my partner’s taxes done (this is not even 2020 🙂 ), need to build modular fences for the raised bed to replace the ugly ones from last year and to have something to stretch the insect cloth over to protect my kalesies from the pretty but evil cabbage moths, need to get a roofer to patch the hole in the roof that’s causing the peeling paint on my apartment ceiling in home #2. And so on. Writing about sobriety takes a back seat.
One little practice I’ve been doing for a few months which I’m starting to suspect is really useful is to note when my urge to drink goes from 0 to 1, out of 10. In the past I probably ignored those, usually with no harm done, because who cares about a 1? Or even a 2? But lately I call out when I see a 1. It occurs to me to walk down the beer aisle at the grocery store. The thought of a trip to a wedding in May raises a split-second excited thought from Bernadette because it means an open bar. I smell something similar to hops and the mind slides over to beer with a casual hint of going to get one. It’s helpful to see more clearly what those things are that I consider a 1. And quite often naming the 1 leads to my taking some sort of beneficial action, like, not walking down the beer aisle.
So that’s all good, but identifying 1’s doesn’t help in the throes of a 9 attack. But today I got handed a new idea that I find promising. I have belle’s audios on infinite loop on my phone, and something she said recently made a new kind of sense to me. The old idea, which I love, is that the moment of desperation for a drink is a moment when something in you is about to learn something. Drinking in that moment, in addition to wrecking whatever string of sober days you have going, prevents you from learning the thing. The new angle on that that I grasped today is, you’re gonna have to learn the thing sometime. If you forego the option of learning it now, and drink instead, you’ll just have to learn the thing later. Might as well learn it now — I think that may be at least somewhat convincing to me and Bernadette in the moment. (I also sense that it might make me scream and cry. But when did a little screaming and crying ever hurt anyone?)
Continuing to mull over how the nondrinking life works over the long haul ….
Many of the regularly discussed in-the-moment tricks seem not to work for me. Fear of regret — remind myself that I would be back to day 1, would wake up in the middle of the night parched and pissed — nope. Of utterly no importance to Wolfie/Bernandette in the moment. Reach out for support? Nope, why would you? It would ruin this nice little insane craving that’s about to lead to drinking as the only solution.
So how to improve this situation, the odds of sticking with myself under conditions of duress? Here are some things. It’s not a complete list. I still need more to protect against the flashes.
Most mornings I wake up with my head and chest radiating heat, my skin sizzling, and my emotions pummeled by a horrid feeling of doom. The hot flash, as they are want to do, is gone within a couple of minutes. But it gives me an opportunity to come to myself, rescue, sit there with a self dwelling in a burning hell. Since I know it’s transient and I know the cause, that helps lighten the hell somewhat and give me a tiny bit of breathing room within which to practice … care. Love. Sympathy. Actions that I don’t come by easily when it comes to directing them toward myself. And from what I read, this situation is pretty damn common among drinkers.
These brief, regular bits of morning hell show me things. (The mornings are noteworthy now because the daytime flashes are dramatically reduced compared to five-six-seven years ago.) I’ve noticed that the whole idea of being present with myself has layers. The first, which for quite some time I thought was all there was, was simply not running away or tensing up / resisting. Running away with sugar, alcohol, compulsive email checking. (Which are admittedly difficult to implement while lying in bed in the morning. Maybe that’s also why these morning moments are instructive.)
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.
Spring is springing here (southern Iowa), with frogs squeaking in the pond, the first great blue heron (but just once, maybe only passing through?), first kingfisher, bees out and about on sunny days, rain and fog, redwing blackbirds staking out their reeds.
Well, hi. I’ve been wanting to poke my head up here but, you know, there’s not much to say. It’s February, unseasonably snowy and cold, my workshop-in-process is just COLD, despite the solar air collectors (ceiling insulation would help). But a lime glowing green light shines inside me and life is good.
Day 228. A couple of months into new territory, never having mosied past five or so months sober before. I noticed in month maybe three or four that I was wanting … chapters of some sort. Sobriety seemed, oh, featureless. Monotonous? If it’s monotonous (which it could be. after all, what is it, really?), okay. I’ll take it as monotonous. But I like rhythm, or signposts, or texture, or phases, weather, seasons.
As 2018 fades into the distance and I start 2019 with more than 200 sober days under my belt, I am feeling a deep gratitude for Belle. One of her daily emails just popped into my inbox and I felt a strong wham of gratitude and thought how this is so much of why this sobriety thing is working much better this time.
Last spring I was bouncing around with 4 or 12 or 42 days without alcohol Continue reading →