Seven days without drinking. Tomorrow morning is the start of Week 2. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without a drink–and I’m pretty proud of that. Thanks so much for all of your support.
Looking back I think I can characterize this week as “detox” more than anything else. The thought of drinking or not drinking was always at the forefront of my mind. When I was triggered it was painful. When I wasn’t triggered, I was still thinking about the drink in one way or another. But I made it through, and that’s what counts.
As I start my second week my hope is to work toward building new opportunities for growth and reflection. To be honest, when I stopped drinking I naïvely thought that I would automatically become more balanced, more introspective, and more appreciative of life. Like a switch would flip after the last of the booze left my body, and in some way I would become–hmm–more enlightened. But if this past week has shown me anything it’s that I need to be patient and vigilant. Self-realization will take a lot of time and a lot work.
Susan, a fellow sobernik, recommended that I ought to find a local Meeting this evening. (Check out her great blog: http://sswl3.wordpress.com). She thought that perhaps I needed a bit of real human fellowship, and she was right. I won’t say too much about the Meeting other than the fact that I heard the beautiful and painful (but mostly beautiful) stories of four people, all of whom have been sober for more than 20 years, and one of whom has been sober for 40 years. They’ve all known each other for 20+ years as well, so their stories of sobriety were incredibly intertwined. They all met at AA, and they’re all still connected. It was incredible, really. Their stories were just what I needed to hear tonight. I’m glad I went.
Art: Evening, by Caspar David Friedrich
I’ll start by saying that I didn’t drink today. While I know this is a victory it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Today, for the first time since I stopped drinking, I had a such a strong urge to drink that I had to physically flee. My company was having its monthly open bar party and the temptation was so strong to go (and of course going most certainly wouldn’t have led to having drinks) that I literally had to get the Hell out of Dodge.
I felt so angry about this. This feeling wasn’t just a “wow, I wish I could have a beer right now,” or a “what a shame that I can’t join my friends at the bar tonight” type of feeling; it was an angry and irrational “how has your life become so out of balance that you literally cannot step foot in a room with alcohol” type of feeling. It didn’t help that in the hours leading up to the party I had four people come by my office to ask when I was headed over. Each time I awkwardly–even sheepishly–said I wasn’t going. The thing is, I got the feeling that no one believed me. “Not going drinking? That’s not like Dag!” I felt so weak. To make it worse, throughout the evening I kept getting texts: “Where are you?” “When are you coming?” “Up for [random bar] afterward?” The onslaught was vicious and didn’t stop for hours.
I’m the champion of pushing feelings deep down. I’m the guy who seemingly takes it all in stride. I’m the guy who people think never gets angry. I’m affable, though often aloof. I’m the guy who cracks the joke to ease tension. I can’t remember the last time I cried. And here I was driving home from work, tears in my eyes, because I couldn’t drink.
But it was deeper than that. I was also angry at the fact that I found it so hard to stay away from the party, so hard to say no. I think for the first time since I stopped drinking I’ve realized that I really am an alcoholic. Like, for real. People that have a normal relationship with alcohol don’t cry tears of anger if they can’t get it. Up until today part of me thought that maybe I was just playing at this whole bit. In the back of my mind I kept thinking “maybe I’m not really an alcoholic, maybe I just need to slow down.” Well, tonight killed that notion. The fact that I was so irrationally angry that I started to cry made me realize that I’m not just playing at alcoholism; I am an alcoholic. Any thought I have on the matter that tells me otherwise is a lie.
I’m still angry, but less so than before. A little bit of rationality has returned to my mind. Tonight was a kick in the pants that reminds me that this journey is going to be a lot of work. I know, though, that tomorrow’s going to be easier. And I know that at some point joy will return to the journey. For the time being though I have one tangible grace that I can hold onto–the grace of knowing that for the sixth night in a row I’m going to bed sober.
Art: The Polar Sea, 1824, by Caspar David Friedrich