I haven’t been posting much; in fact I haven’t been doing much at all. I have made it happily and safely to day 62 but I am in a something of a slump; not with my commitment to sobriety, but with my commitment to doing anything much more than some light housework, knitting and listening to mysteries on audiobook. On one level this is undemanding bliss, on another I worry that I’m sinking into some apathetic waking coma. On the one hand, I want to be gentle to myself reminding myself that although 62 days is an age, it is also but the beginning of early sobriety, and that I should take things easy. But on the other hand, I feel an uneasy sense of worthlessness at the drift of my days. I can’t decide if I am being self indulgent or practising self care.
One of my all time favourite Bubble Hour podcasts is the one on PAWS that I have mentioned before. I can’t quite put my finger on why it hits home so deeply but it may be because I recognise some of the things that sabotaged my last 18 month period of sobriety and plunged me into the misery of 2 years of out of control drinking from which I have just emerged. I summoned the energy to buy the book that they quote from in the programme: Staying Sober – A Guide to Relapse Prevention by Gorski and Miller.
They talk of the recovery process as having six developmental goals:
- Recognition of addiction
- Withdrawal and crisis management
- Acceptance and nonchemical coping (early recovery)
- Balanced living (middle recovery)
- Personality change (late recovery)
- Growth and development (Maintenance)
I am definitely in stage 3, early recovery. Symptoms of PAWs it seems tend to cycle in 30 day periods. So at 60 days it may be that I am physically and psychologically experiencing symptoms that are natural, including unclear thinking (where is this post going?), being physically uncoordinated or accident prone (knocked a glass of water all over the trainee at the hairdressers yesterday) and stress sensitivity (am I hiding away to protect myself from that?)
I don’t have answers on what to do. I just know instinctively that I’m not capable of pushing myself much at the moment. Every night before I fall asleep I run through a short gratitude list for the day that has ended and for the last 62 days it has begun with ‘I am grateful that I woke up without a hangover and am going to bed sober.’ That’s enough for now because without it there would be nothing at all.
Six glorious weeks.
I feel like myself again. I know that I never want to lose a day of my life to alcohol again.
As an Easter holiday treat I took my teens to see Grand Budapest Hotel at the Everyman. For those outside London (or the UK for that matter), the Everyman is a fancy cinema chain where they have velvet sofa and waitress service to bring food and drink to your seat before the film. We settled in feeling indulgent. I had Earl Grey tea and carrot cake. It was delicious. Then a balding man with a red face and huge gut sat in the seat on my other side. He was holding a large glass of red wine and as soon as he spotted the waitress he ordered another one (£7 per glass!). It stank. It actually made me feel nauseous. Thank god.
I have a lot of regrets about drinking: the fool I made of myself, the years I wasted, the times I was not present. I have no regrets about getting sober.
I have had a few challenges in the past few days. In the past, fuelled by wine or hungover self-pity or resentment, I would have thrown emotional petrol onto the situations and then wondered why the landscape of my life looks like scorched earth. Now, I watch my reactions with interest and feel far less at the mercy of life. Sobriety is giving me the space to make choices about my behaviour and even my emotions rather than being a straw in the water tossed this way and that by every changing current.
Last week there was dinner with another (rather glamorous) lesbian couple. One is a friend, the other is a new-ish girlfriend who is also a published author. Writing and reading are my passions and I am a tiny bit (well actually tremendously) awestruck by Published Author. I’ve met her before, when I was a bit tipsy, and managed not to embarrass myself too much. Wednesday’s dinner was awkward. Conversation didn’t gel; people were tired. It just didn’t flow. I was disappointed but I stepped away emotionally, busied myself with getting food on the table etc. If I’d been drinking I know that I would have taken upon my (shy) self the task of making the evening a success and talking noisily. GF did that a little, and I observed how she missed the cues that our guests were ready to leave and afterwards didn’t consider it to have been a bit flat. I didn’t feel comfortable throughout the evening but i observed this about myself and then continued with being myself and doing what needed to be done. I felt so calm and so unpeturbed by the evening.
Then later in the week there was a horrible, painful row with GF. She loves drama and discussion. There is nothing more in the world that I hate. I wasn’t prepared to spend my evening with her after the row so I left and came home. Again, the calm. I did not use the evening alone and the row as excuses to drink myself into oblivion as I would have a month or two ago. I slept for 10 hours.
Dinner it seemed wasn’t so flat after all as we got an invitation to the Friend’s holiday home by the coast and spent all day with her and Published Author over the weekend. And that day went like a dream. We walked, we had lunch, the sun shone, the coast was stunning, we stopped for tea, we walked more. I got the chance to talk to Published Author about her work and it was wonderful. I found myself listening, then considering what I really thought before replying. I felt we really interested each other. Thinking about it later I realised how the majority of my conversation has usually consisted of saying what I think the other person wants to hear or what I think will make them like me or think better of me.
When I have conversations sober I don’t necessarily agree or say the trite flattering thing. It may make small talk less easy but it makes real talk more interesting. It dawned on me later how real my life feels now. How the real me inhabit my mind and body, not some people pleasing imposter. It feels like the emotional equivalent of samasthiti pose (mountain pose) in yoga where we are balanced, grounded and standing tall in our proper place.
Whilst I feel good in my soul and generally peaceful and happy in these early days of sobriety, I am experiencing some physical issues (headaches, dizziness and odd dreams) that, thanks to my avid listening to The Bubble Hour podcasts, I recognise as PAWS (post acute withdrawal symptoms). I don’t think the pink cloud party is quite over yet but it seems that PAWS peaks between 1-6 months after quitting the addictive substance and is a major factor in relapse. I am at day 32 and whilst I have zero desire to go back to where I was a month ago I also want to be aware of and prepared for the risks. Patience, self care and kindness are all prescribed and I am taking life quietly and slowly; no major changes or projects for me at the moment. I am mulling over the idea of going back to therapy and that’s quite a radical idea for me. I have hated every second I’ve spent with a therapist and if offered a choice of therapy or having my fingernails pulled out with hot pincers will take the pincers every time.
But perhaps why I hated it so much was because I hated myself so much. I was uncomfortable because I was dishonest about my life (which was dominated by alcohol which I never once mentioned) and was in constant fear of being found out by the wily professional. With less defensiveness and more humility engendered by getting sober perhaps there is scope for help. I suppose I worry that doing this by myself will end in failure like last time.
Unclear thinking. Another PAWS symptom. Which I will not aggravate by stressing about it, I will just accept that some days I am less on top of my game than others. And as long as they are sober days then all is still well.
Not a blog post title that has been used on The Secret Place Under the Ivy before.
Freedom, peace, joy.
Despite getting to bed after midnight (collecting teens and a friend after a concert – or ‘gig’ as they like to call it!) and being up again at 6. No biggie. Because I went to bed sober and woke refreshed. Because I have been doing that for 3 weeks now and I feel the benefits cumulatively day by day.
I was wondering yesterday at what point I would stop counting days, stop even thinking about being sober and just be able to take it for granted and get on with my life. And I realised that believing myself to be in that place – ‘over it’- was what undermined my last long stretch of sobriety. This is not something I will be ‘over’, ever. And in my blog reader this morning was this post from Sober Courage which says what I need to hear: I cannot drink alcohol safely. Yes, of course it is blindingly obvious but sometimes we (I) cannot see the truth staring me in the face.
My days are a gift now, not a burden and I don’t ever want to be ‘over’ that. Nothing that comes out of a bottle is better than my life today.