Tomorrow I will wake up to Day 40 of my sobriety.
Five weeks ago I would have written the word ‘sobriety’ with a capital S, like you’re supposed to do when writing the words God, Universe or Mom. Something that demands such respect you wouldn’t dare spell it so that it merely blends in with all the other lower case words as if it were of equal importance, as if it were not far more superior. But f**k that. I am NOT feeling it this week.
Five weeks ago I was so optimistic about life. Everything was going to be different. I was going to find PEACE man!! At long last!! I floated through my days in my bubble of bliss, shielding myself from any remotely negative thoughts, secretly smug in my newfound wisdom. I pitied those who had not yet found the enlightenment I had apparently stumbled upon. I felt well enough to keep it together through 3 appointments with my psychologist and a further 4 with my psychiatrist during this time. I started to believe that maybe I didn’t even have bipolar after all…maybe I was just an alcoholic. What a relief – I could cure myself!!
But no. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Somewhere along my path my protective bubble of bliss burst. I didn’t even know it happened until Anxiety came along and threw everything it had at me. Being completely unprepared for its attack, I instinctively fled to the safety of my local liquor store as if I was actually programmed to. It genuinely frightened me that I returned so quickly to that road I had travelled so many times before when faced with a tough problem, literally. As I parked my car, I found myself justifying ‘just walking through the liquor section’ as I go instead to the groceries. The justifications came thick and fast… ‘but you can’t let your last memory of drinking alcohol be that last time, what bad terms to part on! You should make some new ones so you’ll never have to think of that night again!’ and of course that ol’ chestnut ‘you’ve done so well now, a whole month!! Obviously you don’t have a problem. Let’s celebrate!’
Luckily, Self Respect swooped in just in time to rescue me, reminding me that
Alcohol, no, alcohol and I had broken up. Self Respect took me instead to the cheese aisle. It held my hand as I found the biggest block of Brie I could find and it gently guided me out of harm’s way. I was grateful of course for this unusual episode of self-discipline, but the anxiety just has not left me since.
Over the last 10 days, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to just sit with my feelings and cope with them another way. The many strategies I had been using up until now have suddenly stopped working for me. The soda water, the chai lattes, the cheese, the sketching, the crosswords…none of it is doing it for me any more. I’m finding it incredibly hard to just sit and accept the feelings I’m experiencing because I really don’t think I’ve ever felt them before. I can’t even identify them. I have drowned these very feelings with alcohol for so long, they are as alien to me as a language I can’t speak.
These days, I sleep a lot. I am depressed but experiencing hypo-manic symptoms. If I’m present, I snap at my children because their voices seem to roar in my ears. My senses are heightened and I’m smelling aromas that aren’t there. But most of the time, I’m drifting in and out of a dissociative state. Deliberately. Because it’s so much safer there. But I know I can’t escape there every time I
need want a drink. I need to learn how to deal with these unidentified feelings and that terrifies me. Do ‘normal’ people have to do that? Or does it just come built-in, like an upgrade their parents somehow managed to make before birth?
Tomorrow I should be over the moon. With the exception of pregnancies, this is the longest time I’ve ever gone without poisoning myself and turning into an embarrassing mess. I’m not over the moon, but I am determined.
The novelty of sobriety is over for me now. It’s no longer a quick fix to all my problems. Now I see it for what it really is. It’s hard and demanding, and so much more than I was prepared for. And contrary to what I had thought on Day 1, it didn’t get easier once I reached a certain benchmark. But I do know that there is no way I am prepared to break my resolve now, not after forcing myself through these last 10 days without losing myself in the oblivion.
In this sea of emotions there is one I hadn’t met before. I’ve noticed it skirting around me tentatively like a nervous animal, trying to figure out if I’m worthy of its companionship. I think its name is Pride. And I really hope it sticks around 🙂
7 Replies to “The Novelty of Sobriety…”
I relate to the difficulty with emotions early on insobriety. Took me a while to except the fact that I was pretty emotionally delinquent while I was drinking and using. Is this overtime as add it up, that has been such a nice part about life. Open to the bad stuff sure, but open to the good and beautiful stuff as well.
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That’s something I’m just about getting my head around now – I’m no longer robbed of the little joys I experience. The overwhelming shame that took it’s place is starting to fade into the background a little bit more. Still there, but not as dominating 🙂
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you know… I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘normal’ people. All of us are fucked up in our own ways and each of us are on a spectrum. I totally get the drifting thing when feelings become to difficult to deal with, I have used stupid games on my phone for exactly the same thing – its a coping mechanism, something to focus on absolutely till my pulse slows down sufficiently to deal with things better. It’s a stepping stone.
I think it took enormous resolve to opt for the brie, its possibly one of the hardest things you have ever done, you have every reason to feel proud of yourself, you’ve earned it!
Something else that is kicking around in my head, bi polar disorder often accompanies autism – I’m not an expert, (learning because of my son) but if you are physically experiencing things like smells that aren’t there, pain with noise etc, there may be a reasonable explanation for this – and one that comes with solutions or coping mechanisms like noise cancelling headphones?
Good luck with it all, it’s tough, but you’ve got this.
Thanks for your words of encouragement 🙂
You’re absolutely right – ‘normal’ depends on who you ask I suppose… Totally understand the coping mechanism when the feelings become overwhelming. I’ve recently rediscovered my love of drawing and taught myself how to crochet. It’s surprisingly calming.
I wasn’t aware that bipolar and autism can often go hand in hand. For me, and many others bipolar people, it’s more a sign of elevation on my way to hypomania. All my senses become much more sensitive, but it’s not something I experience all the time, only on my way up 🙂
I hope you and your son are coping well with his diagnosis.
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😊 we are treating it as a superpower, heightened senses, different way of seeing things, understanding things that ordinary people can’t and IT skills that ordinary people can’t even imagine.
Obviously there are difficulties and we deal with them as best we can. But we try to keep positive about it all. My job is to build his confidence and believe in himself – I know how the alternative feels and I’ll be damned before someone makes my child feel that.
Fantastic attitude to have. It absolutely can be seen as a super power! My kids love when I’m hypomanic as we have so much fun, although more likely because I tend to buy them everything they want 🙂 And I actually love being able to share the diagnosis with people like Van Gogh, Vivien Leigh, Winston Churchill…there’s a huge comfort in knowing how creative and often incredibly intelligent others with bipolar are.
Do you know Stephen Fry? There’s a documentary, well 2 actually as it’s a 2-part movie, about his journey with bipolar. In it, he interviews both famous and ‘regular’ people who live with it too. He asks every one of them would they live without having bipolar if they had a choice. Only one of them said yes – the rest said they wouldn’t change it at all. I must have watched that film 10 times now…it helps me so much when I’m feeling lost. Maybe it might be worth watching to see if it helps your son, although some parts of it can be confronting so maybe watch it alone first just in case it triggers him.
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Hi. I also do crocheting, it’s so therapeutic, as is cheese ! Keep up the good work and cherish the small daily things that make you smile.