Day 8: Gratitude.

I had the most incredible morning today that I’ve decided to post earlier than I usually do. No worries, though, Day 8 will still end with me sober!

I went to church this morning with my friend Caroline. Though it’s the first time I’ve been to church in several months, the real story is what happened afterward. Now, Caroline and I are work friends. She’s in a different department than I am, so I don’t get to see her all that often. We used to get together pretty often, and no matter what we did it always started or ended with drinks (and sometimes both).

After church today Caroline and I went to brunch. I’ve always LOVED brunch–a great way to start a Sunday, a built-in excuse to have a couple mimosas and no one bats an eye. Today I obviously didn’t partake, and to my surprise neither did Caroline. The brunch went along swimmingly, lots of laughs, lots of avoiding talking about work. And then she asked how I’m doing.

D: “I’m doing really well, actually.”
C: “Oh, really well?”
D: “Well, yeah, I guess so to be honest. I’ve been feeling great lately. I’m thinking about maybe doing a retreat towards the end of November. You know, get off the grid, enjoy some solitude. Do you have any suggestions for a place I can go?”
C: “A retreat, eh? What’s going on?”

At this point I was tempted to act nonchalant and just say something about needing a break from work or something equally innocuous. Instead…

D: “Well, I recently stopped drinking.”

I gushed, much to my surprise. I told her about the reasons I stopped drinking. I told her about the last work gathering that I went to where I drank so much wine that I struggled to get home, and that when I finally did get home I drank so much whiskey that I blacked out. My dad called me that night, and I was too drunk to answer the phone. I told her how embarrassing it was to wake up with vomit on my front porch, in my bathroom, and in my bedroom and not remember how it got there. I told her how awful I felt that I couldn’t be present when my dad called. I told her that I’ve been to a couple AA meetings, and I told her about the great community I’ve found in the blog world.

C: “You know, you could have died. Either driving home or choking in bed or something.”
D: “I know. The sad thing is that this was becoming normal for me. Maybe not the blacking out part, but the uncontrolled drinking part for sure. I just realized that my drinking was getting worse and that it was time to stop while I still had the chance.”

And then the greatest (and most unexpected) thing happened.

C: “Well, I haven’t told anyone this, but I stopped drinking too. I’ve been sober for several weeks now.”

She then went on to tell me her story, and how hard it’s been, and how great it’s been not to drink. She told me that she’s been hesitant to hang out with me recently because her own journey to sobriety has been tenuous, and she was concerned that getting together with me would trigger her to drink.

We had a real conversation about our individual struggles, each of our families’ issues around drinking, and how hard it can be to work in a place where seemingly every social event involves booze. As we walked out of brunch we made a vow to be there for each other–even through relapse, God forbid–and to change our friendship from merely “drinking buddies” to just plain ol’ buddies.

I don’t know why I told her about my sobriety, but I’m so glad I did. Today I feel such gratitude for having a flesh-and-bone compatriot on this journey. And I feel such gratitude to be able to have all of you folks to share it with as well. People make the journey not only doable, but worthwhile as well.

Art: Sunrise, Roy Lichtenstein

 

Day 5: Mornings.

I have a short reflection tonight as I’ve had a dull headache all day long. For the first time in as long as I can remember though this headache’s not because of drinking! So, dull haze aside, Day 5 was a success!

One noticeable gift that’s come from stopping drinking is that I’ve been getting lots of sleep the last several nights. Part of me thinks that I’ve been running myself so thin for so long because of my drinking that my body is now starting to make up for lost time. It’s almost like it’s healing itself, and the dull headache today might even be a byproduct of that. In fact, that might really be the case–perhaps there’s some sort of physiological thing going on here. Has anyone else had this experience?

In my drinking life almost every night ended with a “wee bit more” wine (usually after several glasses and a whiskey or two)–you know, “to help me sleep better.” Of course the next morning I’d always wake up groggy. On good days I’d be out the door only slightly late, but on mornings that were particularly painful I’d call into work with some lame excuse saying I’m running just a tad late because I had a doctor’s appointment I failed to mention or some other rubbish. When I finally did get to work I wouldn’t even be fully awake and functional until I mainlined a gigantic coffee. This is a pretty accurate picture of every weekday morning for the last two years at least.

This week however I’ve been going to bed on the earlier side (before midnight) and waking up without any problem when my alarm goes off. That means I have time in the morning to make coffee at home and take my time getting ready for the day. It’s been so long since I actually enjoyed a morning that I’m not quite sure what to do with all that spare time before work, but I have to say that I’m much, much happier in the mornings. As an added bonus when I get to work I don’t feel nearly as stressed about the day.

I’m looking forward to finding some creative ways to spend my mornings now. Perhaps I’ll start running, or reading, or mediating. Whatever it is, I’m just excited that it’s a possibility. It’s almost like the World got together, took a vote, and added an extra 3 hours to the day–you know, just to make things a little less frenetic. So, thanks World!

Art: The Sun, by Edvard Munch