There is one thing that is becoming very apparent. And it’s a bit of a strange, seeming contradiction.
I realize that in order to stay sober, I am going to have to work hard at it. Harder than most, I think.
I used to not understand what people meant by saying ‘work at it’. How do you ‘work’ on just not doing something. Don’t you just not do it, and the job is done? Right?
I feel like in the past I have only been cutting the grass, which has kept growing back, but now I have finally found the root. The drinking was the grass, the spiritual malady was my root. And that, my friends, is what needs constant weed killer to keep the grass from growing back.
Another metaphor I’ve been sitting on is I realize I have to train my mind and self in my sobriety with the same diligence as I do for a marathon. In the past, I’ve gotten sober, then cocky after month 2 or 3 (first sign of relapse), continued with the same emotional patterns(not drinking but brain is still using same operating system), then fallen off the wagon. Yup. I am going to have to take my brain and spirit to go lift and run every, single, fucking day. This means podcasts, reading, writing, and being in a constant state of awareness.
The contradiction is, I realize the more I ‘work’ on it, the EASIER it is. Almost too easy. But I’m going to stop there because I refuse to get cocky. Sure, the first two days were surprisingly easy (when I kept doing the work) but I don’t know what each day holds for me. Day at a time. The only moment I have is the present, and that’s all I need to reckon with. Not a week, not an eternity, but this simple moment.
So what do I mean by doing the work?
Oh, man, what a whirlwind that has been. And a fucking blessing! So amazing, I can literally feel my brain rewiring. Circuits are blasting off and I can practically hear the ‘ziiipp’ and ‘crack!!’ as new connections are made and old, useless ones die off. I have to be honest…..it’s fucking incredible and at moments don’t even recognize myself.
So by doing work I have been:
- Making a very conscious effort to be present and aware. Not thinking about the past, not about the future, but just focused on what I am doing right there. For some strange reason this seems to really quiet my mind, which in turn has resulted in my brain not wandering to cravings-town.
- I have also been working on becoming the silent observer—just observing my thoughts, my habits, without judgement. For some reason, once I remove the judgement and the negativity, they lose power, and suddenly I’m not even using self-control, I just surrender and the cravings just don’t show up to my front door. This has not only happened with drinking cravings (have had only one powerful one which I will talk about in a minute, but ONE in the last two days including one bartending shift) but with sugar and other things I have bingey issues with.
These are the main ones that I have really been working on. Upon realizing that my drinking is simply a symptom of my emotional ailment, bam, now I can get right to the source rather than struggling to fight off cravings (cut grass) (DOES NOT WORK!!).
Ok, now let’s talk about my big craving strike.
So, on morning of Day 1, when I was laying in agony in bed, hungover, suicidal, and my mind in absolute fear of my upcoming bartending shift. That is where I have gone down in flames many, many times.
Of course, looking back, I realize my fears were rooted in a fake future that didn’t represent my reality or my truth. I was abiding by a life that didn’t even fucking exist. WHAT!!
I realize…..I’m not my thoughts slave anymore! Yes, I have relapsed in the past but that doesn’t define me TODAY. RIGHT NOW! This moment is my truth. WOW. What a liberating thought!
Went to work, played with booze all day, no cravings. I kept doing my sobriety/awareness/judgement-free-zone workouts in my head. Then I had to rush to Starbucks to work on my Outdoor Gear Lab application. Walk through the door and BAM!!!!
I realize Heavenly Starbucks now offers wine and beer. There they are. 7 bottles of nice wine lined up the shelf. I look around. The place is so hip now, with tall, long bars and cool chalkboards. It’s a hip looking spot, just the kind of spot I would love to just sit with a glass of wine and write, write, write.
The first reaction is physical. My heart started beating faster, then came an electric shock throughout my body, you know, the kind you get when you run into an ex when you least expect it, and you’re like “FUCK I look like shit!! Why does this have to happen right now?!!!”.
Then a hint of fear but only for a split second until the thoughts came rolling in.
“Yes, I should totally get a glass of wine. Nobody would know! I could only do one …or two! You totally should, it’s right here! You’re only on day 2 anyway, you could start sobriety again tomorrow! This is exactly your scene—being productive but also indulgent. Yes! Yes!”
So there I stood, with my thoughts. But I also knew what to do, finally. I had new tools.
Tool #1: surrender. Typically, I would immediately start judging myself because of my thoughts, and then get mad and frustrated and etc etc etc. ‘LAURA, YOU FUCKING ALCOHOLIC, GET IT TOGETHER, WHY ARE YOU THINKING THIS SHIT? YOU ARE SICK IN THE HEAD!! ” Well, if I become overwhelmed with all these negative, judgmental emotions then of COURSE I fucking relapse, because I become weak with these shitty thoughts that I pretty much NEED a drink to escape or relax from them. DUH. IT ALL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!!!!
Tool #2: awareness. So no! I surrendered, and stood back, and observed. Observed them like old habits that, naturally, are my first instinct at this early stage of my sobriety. Yes, they make sense. Yes, I see them there. Yes, I’m fine with them. Once I surrendered, and accepted and stopped judging, they lost their power. They no longer had the strength to take me down.
Amazingly enough, and by some miracle of GOOOOOOD, my brain never went to the ‘ok, I’m doing this’ because once it’s there there is no turning back. That’s one thing I’ve really realized over my many vicious cycles of relapse. Once my brain decides I’m drinking, I might as well have had a drink in my hand YESTERDAY.
So yeah. I walked up, ordered a soy latte, and sat down to write. Once it was all over the whole thing was behind me, and the cravings walked away, out the door.
What a strange test. Like I was so prepared for getting behind the bar that I walked in there holding all my new tools and spiritual weaponry high over my head like, “I AM SPARTA!!!” armed and ready. But when I walked into Starbucks all my defenses were down, enough for thoughts to come in. Luckily, I had them near and whipped them out, something I doubt would have been the case had I not be very very active in my sobriety.
I also want to point out that podcasts are literally saving me right now too. Recovery Elevator is my current favorite but am adding more to the list as I go along.
Also, writing about this has really helped me sort things out and come to new understandings of my stuggle (um, yo, the grass cutting came to me as a total epiphany while writing this).
One thing I’ve noticed, however, is while writing I am constantly bombarded with urges to abide by distractions. Throughout this article I have had the urge to:
1. Check facebook
2. Go on Amazon
3. text my roommate
4. check my to-do list
5. something else I already forgot so was obviously unimportant
but no, I have my sweet shiny new tool of presence, and I am going to keep sharpening and shining this damn think like a new 500$ sushi knife! My sobriety is the most important thing in my life right now and I will stay focused on what I need to do. Right now that is write this, uninterrupted, with focus, care, and diligence.
And I did it! Boom shakala.
Ok, time to go check Facebook!!!