I spent more hours registering for wedding gifts tonight than I ought to have, but as I did, I realized something really crucial: this column, as it has stood, is pretty much all done.
I’m not done writing for Persephone, of course – but I think for now this column needs a rest, and I’d like to focus on other topics for a while. I really appreciate the editorial staff here for giving me a space to talk with you all for so long about the early stages of alcohol recovery; it’s been, in turns, aggravating, emotional, and hilarious, as I suppose I knew it would be. I’ve learned a few really vital things while I’ve been at it. First, it’s crucial to have people to talk to about your recovery. In fact, as many people as possible: the more people engaging in the very important business of reality checking, the better. Coming out of the nightmare Wonderland that is five years of serious alcohol abuse, I wasn’t always sure which of my memories were even factual, and which were just the most convincing lies I’d told myself.
Second, I’ve learned it’s important to laugh. Hard. Especially when stuff seems like shit. Whether it’s looking at the entire situation of alcohol recovery humorously, or whether it’s just taking the time to appreciate the (often gallows-style) humor inherent in the negative situations we face, I don’t think I could have gotten through the first few months out without a willingness to laugh at myself, laugh at my challenges, and laugh at the bastards around me I was finally clearing out of my life because sobriety cast some relationships into a very ugly light.
Third, though certainly not finally, I learned that my attitude, my emotions, and my responses to things around me are entirely within my control. It’s actually really empowering to consider that. I try to keep that in mind when life is overwhelming and Old Me would have been grabbing for a bottle, and I try to keep it in mind when people on the Internet are being idiots. Not you guys, of course. Natch. But I’ve noticed that nobody seems to learn anything in a situation in which I start railing about people not being sensitive enough to my issues, and that I’m smart and powerful enough to take situations that used to make me feel sensitive and withdrawn, and start learning from them. That’s been helpful to me – in our community here, elsewhere on the Internet, even in my personal life.
Lovely after-school self-improvement lessons aside, it’s not all been sunshine and roses, and I still sometimes wake up with a pounding headache from too much or not enough caffeine, or from clenching my jaw in my sleep, or from the ear drum-piercing yelps of my beagle puppy, and would be lying if I didn’t admit that the worst mornings make me think, “What’s the friggen point? I’d feel the same if I’d been drinking last night.” Or else I find myself being irrational and flying off the handle about something stupid, and think, Wow, this is exactly how I’d be if I were drunk.
The difference, of course, is perspective. If I were drunk, I wouldn’t be able to see alcohol as the cause, nor would I be able to step outside my feelings or actions and take a cool, calm look at myself. If I were hungover, I’d be searching for a remedy, not sitting on the proverbial couch doing in-depth analysis on myself.
Sobriety, then, has become an opportunity to learn something for once. If you’ve ever had the chance to talk with other recovering alcoholics for any length of time, you may have heard a lot of them describe their drinking period as a period of deep stagnation. When you’re fixated on when your next drink will come (and how many you’ll have and of what and how you can hide it or make it seem like you’ve had fewer than you actually have had), you don’t do a lot of life planning, or introspection. You don’t grow much. And while it’s been uncomfortable, it’s also blatantly apparent to me, at least, that I’ve done a lot of growing in the past four months.
I worry about my coming months and years of sobriety. Eventually the honeymoon period will wear off – and if this has been a honeymoon period, I hate to see what comes after – but I will have to deal with the fact that I have an addictive personality, very poor emotional coping skills, and some life situations (like crappy career options and family relationships in various states of disrepair) that I just don’t know how to handle. And while before I just decided not to deal with these things, and to numb the pain they caused with as much liquor as humanly possible, I can’t do that anymore. I don’t know what that will be like. I am hopeful that the recovery program I am in is giving me the kinds of tools I will need to get through these things with strength and courage, but I feel kind of like a sitting duck.
I’ve been remarkably lucky so far. I’ve had a supportive partner, space from all of my old familiar haunts and habits, and so many different things starting over and starting anew that it’s much easier for me than for many other people to create new habits and start a new lifestyle. And I have every hope that as I move forward, I can continue to learn and grow and laugh my ass off at my fuck-ups as I go.
All this to say: thank you all, very much, for being a willing audience. Some of you are in recovery too, or have loved ones in recovery. There’ve been tense moments when the stuff I’ve written about here has challenged a part of you that’s not ready to forgive – so much less to forget – the damage inflicted on you by someone else, or by yourself. There have been times when we’ve all had to roll our eyes and throw our hands up and leave it because the topics are just too big – or recovery becomes too ludicrous at times – for us to say much at all. And I’d like to think we’ve all had a few laughs along the way, too.
I’m really looking forward to seeing you all around the site in other capacities, and whether you are in recovery, supporting someone in recovery, or lifting a pint right now, I wish you all every happiness and a long, healthy go of it.