I realized some essential toggle switch in my brain had flipped when I honestly couldn’t think of something to write about this week.
Like, when this column first began, all I could think about was recovery and alcoholism and sobriety and whatnot, and that’s fine – in fact, that’s great – but over time, the longer I’ve been sober, the less the topic has been on my mind. Life throws up other challenges, and because alcohol has been completely removed from my range of coping options, I’m too busy focusing on healthy coping mechanisms for the problems at hand to even think about what recovery means to me right now.
Which tells me, maybe it means a great deal.
Keep in mind that my recovery had a lot to do with quitting my last job: when they found out that I was a recovering alcoholic, they promptly switched all of our support passwords to words like “hangover” and “tequila.” One of the people I worked with took it upon herself to offer me a shot of vodka every time she could remember to do so, then would grin when I patiently reminded her that I didn’t drink, and go, “Oh, come on, just one shot won’t hurt you.” After throwing a great big boozy party in the office, one of my more sympathetic coworkers took pity on me and offered to clean up the bottles of hard alcohol that were left lying around everywhere – and my boss promptly threw a fit that someone besides me had done that. When they posted the ad for my job to replace me after I left, among the requirements were jabs like, “Must be over 21 and comfortable with drinking,” and “No picky eaters!”
Seriously. But throughout all of this, I never once thought, “God, I could use a drink.” The only times I’ve even considered drinking have been in rather ditzy moments of grocery buying for a fancy dinner, when I was half way through deciding between two bottles of wine as something nice to bring home before I remembered, “Oh, duh, I can’t drink this.” It’s become such a non-issue that I forgot I am an alcoholic.
I feel really lucky. I feel lucky to have found a program that places such an emphasis on positive thinking, on positively forming my life after drinking, on being proactive and moving on away from the past. I also feel a kind of shock and relief that I have the mental space for other things to bother me now. If I was still drinking, the issues I’ve been facing – looking for a new job, planning a wedding, training a puppy, adjusting to a new city – would be insurmountable through the vodka vapors and impossible weight of daily hangovers. I’d spend the last half of my day drinking to forget I had the issues, and the first half of the following day with all of those issues crashing even less comprehensibly on top of me, rinse and repeat until everything explodes.
Sobering up doesn’t make your problems go away, but it does enable you to confront and solve them. It doesn’t make life suddenly treat you better – like I learned at my last job, not everyone will even be supportive of your sobriety – but it does clear the haze so you can see your problems clearly. And after a while, sobriety erases even the effort of sobriety. Clear-headedness and positive focus give you better things to think about than not drinking, like how rotten everything else is – and all the great things you can do to fix them.