Something Missing. Something Found.

There are some strong common threads running through the stories on the sober blogs.

Joyce’s latest post, “Something is missing,” touched on those commonalities. “I just know something is missing,” she writes. “I spent many hours over my long weekend reading sober blogs, many of them from their beginning.  Hoping that I’ll find some clue that others have experienced this sudden gaping hole in their lives after being sober for a while.”

This void is something I have experienced too. What to do without Sally? Where to put all these thoughts and anxieties now that they don’t fit into a wine bottle.

I was reading older posts over at Primrose’s “Taking A New Path.” At 50 days in she writes of finding unexpected changes in sobriety. She refers to an Unpickled post where Jean discusses sober “surprises,” including this: “Recovery is only partly about ‘not drinking’. It has a whole lot more to do with self-examination and ruthlessly honest introspection. In order to truly change, we have to figure out where all the discomfort originates and deal with it.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, I offer two thoughts:

1. What Joyce is missing in her new sobriety is what Jean is describing in her more mature sobriety.

2. Identifying and dealing with “the gaping hole” and not giving into the “discomfort” makes a huge difference between staying sober and sliding backwards.

Is that right?

I write this post on the last day of an incredibly busy week at work. In the midst of tight deadlines and tracking many moving pieces, I received some negative feedback from my client. The timing was not great.

And here I thought I was on top of things. Talk about “discomfort.”

My initial response was reactive and defensive. As I really thought about the situation, however, I realized that some of his criticisms were not without merit.

More discomfort.

I began to panic and started casting about for a quick way to make the discomfort stop.

But before the voices of doom and self-hatred and Sally/Fox/Wolfie could really take me over, I had conversations with ACTUAL PEOPLE. I talked with my husband, got on the phone with a colleague familiar with the situation, and spent quite a bit of time in what Jean describes as “ruthlessly honest introspection.”

Eventually the voices in my head died down and the real, live human voices helped inform a more realistic perspective.

I do not know how the situation will resolve, but that is sort of beside the point. There will always be another work situation, home situation, friend situation … there will always be a SITUATION, a gaping hole, a discomfort.

I faced this week’s situation without hangovers and guilt. This gave me the energy and the internal resources to wait for and to find the other voices. The helpful voices.

Something missing. Something found.

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Agitated

My Friday night started out fine but, without any real reason, has gone to shit. 

Today was the longest day in a week of very long days. There is a lot of uncertainty and pressure at work. I have a number of family members in crisis. And I have a bad attitude. 

I don’t want to write this blog post, or watch the Olympics with my kids, or read a book.

Instead, I want to turn OFF. I want the voices from the week to stop chatting it up in my head. I want to stop thinking about what I didn’t get done. I want to stop thinking, full stop.

I want everything to go quiet and hazy. 

Can that even happen without alcohol? Is “quiet and hazy” even a healthy, recovery-focused goal?

My wine was my OFF switch. And while I don’t necessarily want a glass of wine tonight, I do want an OFF switch equivalent. Ideally, it would be something as reliable as wine was, back in the day (55 whole days ago). This is how it used to go:

The first glass is the cocktail equivalent of flicking the lights: a non-threatening signal that closing time is coming and the chattering committee in my head needed to pack it up for the night.

With the second glass, the message is more direct: “Your presence is no longer required. Get Out.”

With the third glass, well, that’s the beauty of a third glass of wine, right? It was just me and the wine. And nobody else. I was OFF.

I need to find a reliable, wine-equivalent OFF switch.

Any suggestions? (And please know that I hate baths. They don’t work for me as a reliever of stress or anything else.)

Thinking about the Younger Generation

I’m tired. It’s cold and wet and dark. I need spring to come and warmth and sunshine.

I am stunned and sick about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I know, I know. There are so many other tragic things that should, legitimately, stun and sicken me. But, because he is a familiar face and because he died such a pathetic death and because I have two children who live in this world and will face important decisions such as whether or not to binge drink or shoot up, I am stunned and sickened.

And afraid.

It is in me. Addiction. It is in me and I know it is in my children. I can already see it in my youngest and he’s only eight.

Right this very minute, I am engaged in not drinking and it requires a lot of effort. It is depressing to think that, my longterm success or failure aside, this struggle will be there for him, too.  I don’t want him to carry this pitiful burden. I should be able to conquer it for both of us and his energies should then go toward something much more worthy of him.

In the recent interview about her struggle with alcoholism, Elizabeth Vargas touched on the spirituality of her recovery. I understand it is the Second Step in AA: “There is a Higher Power available to each of us that can help us live more freely and fully.”

I need a little bit of that right now. Something I can surrender to freely. A vessel to put all these worries into fully. A solution.

Counting in My Head (Day 49)

I am not entirely sure why, but I want to stop making such a big deal of the number of days I’ve been sober. Actually, I want to stop making a big deal about the entire thing. As I wrote earlier this week, I really want my not drinking to be the norm. Nothing special.

That notion is ridiculous, right? I mean, this blog and all the other wonderful sober blogs that have become a powerful tool in my life, are all devoted to the fact that sobriety IS special, fragile, potentially fleeting.

So why do I want to discount it all of a sudden?

I ran into a friend earlier today who I hadn’t seen in two weeks. She is one of the few people I have confided in about my alcohol abuse and the ugly reason behind my decision to quit. She asked if I had received her Super Bowl party invitation and then, remembering,  asked me straight up and with love (a wonderful characteristic of hers), “Hey, are you still not drinking?”

I replied lightning fast, “Yep. Not drinking. It’s going fine and really, it’s not a big deal at all.”

That, of course, is bullshit.

Why was I so quick to dismiss my effort? My enormously difficult, life-altering, BIG DEAL effort?

That quick response, and whatever is behind it, feels eerily similar to my years-long effort of dismissing/hiding my hangovers. It feels disingenuous and slightly dangerous. Like a police officer trying to keep traffic moving along, “There’s nothing to see here! Keep on moving!”

All the while, behind him, is a scene of human messiness in need of attention from fellow motorists.