Okay. I have thought about writing this for a while now. It’s been eight weeks since my last (confession) post. For those of you who reached out to ask how I’ve been, thank you and I’m sorry I took so long to respond. After receiving the disappointing news about my fertility issues, I decided to drink again. That wasn’t the only reason, but looking back it seems to have been the catalyst.
Much of my concern about my drinking came to a head when we started trying to conceive and I found myself having trouble cutting back on my intake, especially during the “2-week wait” where conception might have happened but before you can take a test. I found myself really freaked out that I was unable to abstain during that time despite the possibility of bringing a new life into the world, which led me down a path of self-exploration and landed me here in sober blogosphere. For several months (since November of last year) I’ve been on and off sobriety, with my longest stint my most recent, a whopping 32 days. I honestly can’t say exactly what it was that caused me to throw in the towel on this most recent attempt, but I’m going to do my best to articulate my thinking because I’m so hoping I can avoid this pitfall in the future.
The first thing that happened was that I was told I will not become pregnant without intervention. I suffered a lot of sadness over this news and I think I have come to terms with it. But what happened mentally in regards to my not drinking, was that I thought, “green light!” No chance of getting pregnant, so what am I doing this for? Totally ignoring the plethora of other reasons why taking some time off of booze was beneficial for my health, emotional wellness, productivity, fitness, and self-confidence. Hmmm.
The second thing that happened was that I simply got bored. The truth about my drinking is that I am harming no one but myself. So far. Despite the fact that I will happily drink on a daily basis, usually three glasses (generous glasses) of wine but often four or five (especially on weekends, you can add a couple cocktails in there, maybe a couple beers depending on the weather), no one seems to notice when I’m intoxicated. Apparently, I almost always carry myself quite well in company. Additionally, I am surrounded by people who are drinking exactly as much as I am, usually. So my drinking does not seem out of the ordinary. (That is, because they drink that much when we’re together, I assume they also drink at home alone like I do…?) My point is, I started to ask myself why I was putting such restrictions on myself when I seemed to be the only one who found my drinking problematic. That can be an exhausting place to find oneself, I’m realizing. It seems like every story I hear about people who are getting sober includes friends or family who express concern over the drinking… no one is expressing concern to me. In fact, when I have talked to people about the issue (only a very select few), they have emphatically insisted that I do not have a problem. That they know people with problems, and I am clearly not one of those people.
That’s a hard position to argue with, when your inner voice is telling you that you do have a problem. Am I right? Who wants to sit there and convince a friend that you have this problem that they don’t see? And why would I not believe my friends/husband, who know me better than anyone? I must be overreacting and clearly this thing will stay under my control. They believe in me. Why am I not believing in me (and my ability to keep my drinking reasonable)? Conversely, I felt super frustrated by this response. I know my loved ones were just trying to reassure me, but I couldn’t help but wonder why, when I was honest about my intake, no one else found it concerning. After all, it is a lot of wine, is it not? Maybe not the worst, but certainly something to take a look at?
So, back to the issue at hand: I am harming no one but myself. Which means, that no one but me can feel the damage. I can choose to stop inflicting this damage on myself, but I have to rely on my own self-knowledge in order to do so. Furthermore, I should stop this damaging behavior now, rather than waiting until my drinking does start to damage someone else, which it inevitably will at some point. Which it has in the past and just because I have improved some things does not mean that I won’t find myself in a bad situation again. But I started to find it extremely difficult to keep believing that I have an issue with alcohol after getting through 32 days, and being told by so many that I didn’t have a problem, and remembering plenty of times where I drank and everything was fine.
During the last eight weeks I’ve had a drink nearly every day. But not every single day (I think there have been at least three or four alcohol free days!), and I haven’t gotten drunk more than a couple of times (a few days I only literally had one glass!… because I was with my mother and she doesn’t really drink, but still!). Most days, it’s the same amount: between two and four glasses of wine (i.e., half to a full bottle). When I compare this to others, it’s easy to say to myself that this is really not that bad. I’m certainly not cracking open a second bottle, unless I’m with friends and it’s the weekend! However, this is what I know to be true: I find it nearly impossible to not have those glasses of wine, once I’ve had them for one day. Once I drink one day, I drink every day. I rarely go overboard and get drunk. Even when I do get drunk, I rarely do anything awful. I am a nice drunk. I can hold my liquor. When I’ve had too much, I tend to just get myself to bed, no drama, no craziness. So the issue is not that I’m that out-of-control woman, that sloppy, rude, blacked-out chick. I’m not. I (almost always) remember my nights. I (usually) don’t say anything I regret.
I find myself caught in a cycle of worry about how much I’m drinking followed by all the above justifications about why it’s perfectly fine and normal, back to the worry and anxiety, and then the justifications. This cycle follows a predictable 24 hour rhythm: waking at 2:30 or 3 a.m. feeling sweaty, anxious, dry-mouthed, unable to get back to sleep, followed by promising to take a day off to detox, followed by a morning where I don’t fulfill promises I made to myself (to work out, to accomplish certain tasks at work, etc.), followed by feeling okay in the afternoon when the fog lifts, followed by wine-o-clock which makes me very happy (or at least it seems) and which is filled with me ridiculing my earlier worrying self by listing off all above justifications. How fucking exhausting and crazy does that sound??
So, nothing terrible happened during the past eight weeks, except that slowly but surely the anxiety has crept back in. I have missed this community of clear-headed, supportive and inspirational bloggers. I have missed my sober self and all she has to offer me: fulfilled promises of yoga class, runs, gym workouts, tasks accomplished, creativity, and clear eyes. I have missed the wonderful mornings full of motivation. Having recently left my job in pursuit of starting my own business has left me with only myself to rely on. I need myself. I need to wake up motivated to write, to move things forward. I can feel myself slipping into laziness and I know it’s booze’s fault. Sigh. For a while, I was unsure I’d be back here, I was unsure if I needed this. I will probably continue to question it. But for now, I know that I miss it, that I’m experiencing all the gross, demotivating effects of drinking again and not liking it, and that I’ve been unable to take a day off despite promising myself that I would. So that must mean there’s an issue, right? Right.
Having attempted Belle’s 100 day challenge five times now, I think for now I’m going to take one day at a time. For me, I think 100 days is too daunting. Even 30 days sounds daunting, but I’ve done that before and it sounds more manageable. I was considering thinking about it in five or ten day increments. I know I can stay sober for ten days. And hopefully then another ten. Like that. I’m always motivated in the beginning… it’s after I get a little time under my belt that I have a hard time sticking to it. If anyone has tips on this particular challenge, I’d welcome them! I do plan to be here writing every day, because just getting my thoughts down is a huge help.
I’m happy to be back. Day one here I come.