Clarity

sunrise cloverdaleToday is day 12 of sobriety. This time around, it’s not so hard. I’ve been pregnant, and breastfeeding, so I’ve become used to not drinking. This time, my drinking was relatively minimal compared to what it was a couple of years ago. Most people around me never suspected I had difficulty with alcohol before, let alone recently. My one to two glasses of wine a night were, if anything, encouraged because I should just let myself “relax.” What people didn’t see was that it wasn’t relaxing me at all outside that one hour of false relief. That I spent way too much time wracked with guilt over whether I should be having wine every night, that I hated the way I had started to look forward to my daughter’s bedtime so I could have my glass or two, or the way I would pray for her not to wake up within a window of time that I would need to feed her with alcohol in my system. That every evening when I went to bed I felt stupid for drinking wine when I knew I was facing a night of waking up to care for my baby and I was doing something that only made me more tired.

This time I’m choosing to stop NOW, before I regress back down the road I was on before. I realize I’ve been on a slippery slope and that my thinking had started to rationalize a little more wine each night. I started to recognize the cycle of each day returning, even though I wasn’t consuming too much at a time. The cycle of waking up feeling guilty and promising myself to take a night off, then going through the day feeling good, then evening hitting and being exhausted and stressed and craving time to just unwind and throwing my promise out the window because “I deserve this relaxation,” and “It’s not a big deal,” then having as much wine as I feel I can get away with depending on how long I expect my daughter to sleep before her next feeding, then feeling guilty and stressed about it as soon as I drink. How EXHAUSTING. How insane that my brain tells me it’s relaxing at all!

As my awareness kicked in and my interest in living a dry, sober life returned, I stumbled upon Laura McKowen’s blog and read this post that said something that sealed the deal for me. She describes so beautifully realizing that she would never reach her potential as a drinker, and I know the same is true for me. She states,

“For my entire life, I had this ache in my heart to write, to teach, but most of what I wanted was unnameable—I just knew I wasn’t doing it. And I didn’t know how to get there. It was only after I stopped drinking that a path started to form—both because I had more time, space, energy—but also, and more importantly, because my soul could finally breathe. Without the blunting effect of alcohol, I could finally tap into the energy I’d been dimming out for two decades. I could feel God, my creativity, faith, guidance, intuition, my highest and wisest self—drinking cut off my access to all that….

It’s not that you don’t have the clarity in you, you just can’t access it and you never will be able to, so long as you’re employed by an addiction.

Woah. That’s a truth-bomb right there if I’ve ever heard one. Drinking, for me, regardless of whether I was in a heavy phase, (often in the past twenty-plus years) or a moderate phase (recently), has stunted my ability to see with clarity what it is I really want to be doing. I have the same ache in my heart that Laura describes. I have a vague idea that I want to be writing, but I can never seem to pin down what it is I want to write about. What I want feels unnameable. I can see now that I haven’t given it the space or clarity it needs to emerge.

My tendency is to rush things. To need the answer NOW. To push things through. This time, as I gain more and more sober momentum, my plan is to relax into it. To give myself time. To trust that the clarity I’m seeking will emerge when I’ve had enough time without numbing out and dulling my senses. So many sober women I admire talk about the resurgence of their creativity once they stop drinking and gain time without alcohol.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be, I think of the me that isn’t stifled or dulled. I think of the me that is confident and creative, reliable and loving, present and aware. I’m so grateful I read those words and made this choice now, while my daughter will never have to know me as the mom who drinks wine every night. We waited too long for the miracle of her birth for me to miss even a moment of her precious life.

One week later…

One week ago I couldn’t resist the urge to go out to dinner with my husband after a long work week.  “I’ll order sparkling water,” I thought.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity I saw to sit down, be waited on, connect and have fun with him.  When we got there, I thought, “I’ll just have one glass.”  (Why this thought is ever afforded ANY credibility in my mind, I have no idea.)  One turned into two, then three, VERY heavy pours.  Normally this wouldn’t be all that much for me, but last week I was on a sugar detox (yeah I realize one doesn’t actually do this successfully and still drink wine, but I was “just doing the food part.”  

One week ago when my husband and I got home from the restaurant, I was drunk enough to be stumbling around the house.  Trying to talk to him about our infertility issues (um, inappropriate time to bring up highly emotional topics, much?).  I was immediately angered that he checked his phone during said “discussion” (which was probably me in some sort of exhausting, emotional ramble).  

One week ago, I provoked an out-of-control, emotionally charged, irrational fight with my husband.  And I wouldn’t let it go.  Even when he pointed out that we should sleep on it and talk in the morning when we were both sober.  Not even then.  Even when my dog was cowering at me because I was slamming doors and yelling and crying.  Even when he was yelling and telling me to stop.  Even when he hugged me and tried to comfort me.  Not even then.  

One week ago my husband and my dog both slept on the couch, leaving me in my misery.  I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with my eyes swollen shut and a pit of dread and remorse in my stomach.  My body and mind felt thick with sickness.  Every single time that I had been emotionally and physically abused by boyfriends past came bubbling to the surface, along with all the feelings of inadequacy and rejection those incidents caused me.  All the self-hatred for staying in those bad situations came up to haunt me.  Who I was in those moments, out-of-control rage that comes from the primal instinct to protect oneself, feeling demoralized, hurt and desperate, came right back like she had never left.  Only there was no danger one week ago, there was no abuse.  There was only the shadows in my mind.  

One week ago, I realized how very far I have come in my life since those times.  That I have a husband with whom, 99.9% of the time, I live in complete security and peace.  That I am loved and supported.  That these gifts that come with a healthy relationship resulted from the passing of time and from my slow, slow journey to treating myself with more respect.  I realized that alcohol was the last bastion of those days.  The last thing I have clung to from my time of turmoil.  What I always thought was my comfort and my escape.  What made me funny and confident when my home situation was unpredictable and dangerous.  Only now, it brings the opposite.  It brings that old me to the surface, the one that clung to drama, to chaos, to self-destruction.  It makes what would be a regular fight to most couples a highly traumatic situation for me.  It breaks down my progress.  It tethers me to the negativity of the past.  

One week ago, I prayed as I lay in bed, that I would feel that sick for the last time.  I felt the misery.  Really felt it.  I didn’t want to forget that feeling this time; I didn’t want to pretend it didn’t happen as soon as the hangover wore off.  I realized that I have the power not to bring this kind of negativity into my marriage.  I can choose not to scream at my husband and use emotional drama to manipulate him.  I don’t have to defend or protect myself from danger anymore.  That person has no place in my life now.  And it is so simple.  That person is not there unless alcohol is in the mix.  And finally, I knew what had to be done.  I acknowledged to myself that alcohol does not work in my body anymore.  The miserable, anxious, regret of an incident like that far outweighs the fleeting fun while drinking. 

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One week later, my eyes are clear.  I laugh easily.  I smell things.  I taste my food.  I breathe easily.  I feel free.  I exercise daily.  When I wake up, I feel excited to greet the day.  

One week later thoughts of drinking are easier to manage than they were the last times I’ve quit, because I have an acceptance in my heart that alcohol is a problem for me and that I’m happier and healthier without it.  They are still there, but I can breathe through them one hour at a time and with that awful memory close to my heart.  My husband, who previously questioned whether drinking was really a problem for me, has shifted into being fully supportive of this process for me in whatever form I need it to take.  With love.  

One week later, I have exercised, hiked in our local park, hugged my dog a lot, cooked healthy and beautiful meals for my husband and I. I have seriously considered trying a meeting but have chickened out so far.  I have humbly rejoined Belle’s 100 day challenge.  I have listened to lots of Bubble Hour podcasts.  I have named my wolfie, and her name is Sheila.  

One week later, I choose love.  I choose to accept love from my husband, my family, and my dog.  From all of you fellow kick-ass sobriety bloggers who know what the freak I’m talking about.  From my friends.  Most of all, I accept love from myself.  

Take that, Sheila.  

xo