I remember back in the beginning of getting sober. How I remember those first couple weeks! The detox, the nightmares, the sweating, all of it.
I never thought I would make it 30 days! And here I am celebrating 6 months! A half of a year …I’ve come such a long way…but still have such a long way to go!
My social life is non-existent, I’m not feeling especially happy and a lot of the original reasons for drinking are still there.
But I’m working on it. I have a choice. The reasons I drank are still there but I can do one of two things. Drink again and end up back where I was, or carry on. So I’m carrying on the best way I can. Sober, one day at a time.
Sometimes I think I’ll go mad, sometimes I want to go crazy, I want to feel complete abandonment and just stop trying. Staying stopped is hard, it’s still hard. Not every moment of every day, but it’s hard. Dangerous thoughts enter my head these days about relapsing and just going on a complete bender for a week…just once more before….before what? I ask myself.
But I won’t have one, two or 100. That’s it. I’m not giving up just yet. And despite the fact it is still tough I have learnt a few things along the way. About life, about addiction and about myself. I need to remember these things in order to stay sane and sober:
• It doesn’t really matter what addiction is called. A disease, illness, weak will or choice? Opinion hasn’t altered how I have lived with alcoholism. Naming can be useful if you need help, but it shouldn’t define a person. I don’t want to be known simply as “an alcoholic”.
• People only change if they want to. I am powerless over my drinking. All the tactics – from tipping booze down the sink, to controlled drinking – have been a waste of energy.
• Look at yourself before you criticise others. Most people are hypocrites, but that’s OK. I recognise that when I see drunks in bars, in the streets, in the parks. That was me, or nearly me. People have problems and they should not be defined by their actions under the influence. I got lucky…I have escaped, I hope forever, from that world.
• Live in the present and stop regretting what once was but will probably never be again. Gone are the days when I was young, drunk and rubbish at adult life but having fun learning. I can be sad and sentimental. But then life is full of much sadder, harsher realities for many people.
• If you’re finding life hard, get help. When I realised I couldn’t cope with my alcoholism, I went to my GP, to Brief Interventions Service, to GOAL meetings, to SMART meetings and to AA. I went in desperation and kept on going through horrendous lows, and when I felt OK. Because I’m not OK. I need these groups and support from people who understand, I need to know and talk to people like me.
• Most people have some sort of addiction – active or dormant. I am addicted to lots of things, but chocolate is not as harmful as alcohol!. Recognise your weaknesses and try to talk about them with friends.
• Compare and be forever miserable.
• Progress not perfection. How long did I struggle with trying to live life the other way around? I still struggle to be perfect until I remember, I am not.
• Be brave about the small things: open your bank statements, call the doctor, face the people you’ve pissed off. Running away will not simply make the problem disappear.
• A walk, a long shower, music, chocolate biscuits, daytime naps, a favourite book, the cinema. Keep revisiting the things you enjoy. Maintain a level of self-care and kindness when life is going well and you’ll feel stronger when times are harder.
(Some ideas from here)
So how am I celebrating 6 months sober? Travelling with work. Life goes on.
These last 6 months have been tough work wise with a lot of travel and a lot of stress. So much so that many a time I have reflected and thought something has to give. Either my sobriety or the job. But I am here, sober and in the same job. But I now longer worry that my contract will probably run out in February and then for the first time in 15 years I may have to start job hunting.
If that’s the case, so be it. Life is too hard to stress about what is yet to happen and out of my control. And there is so much more to life than money.
Don’t get me wrong, I like not having to worry about it too much, but I am not living on the street and I so easily could have been. If my job goes then it will be just another step along my road, nothing more. Not worth drinking for, and not worth panicking over. If it happens then maybe the time is right for a lifestyle change. I could instead of working for a large company, work for a small startup, a charity or myself. There would be consequences. I’d not have the money to fly abroad to see my son and that would be the hardest thing in the world. But a sober Dad who Skypes is better than an unhappy drunk Dad. But I get ahead of myself.
Back to today. No outward celebration, I think it’s dangerous to put too much emphasis on particular lengths of time sober, but it is a milestone and when I’m back home I’ll go to my home AA group and collect my 6 month coin. I skipped 4 and 5…..but this one I want, this one I earned and nothing can take that away, whatever the future holds.