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The Novelty of Sobriety…

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 🙂