I've been settling into being sober in what feels like a different way than I had in the past, and I want to write a little bit about it, because I'm surprised. The short version of all this is, nearly nine weeks into being sober this time, I'm doing well.
The first major difference I see is that I am more patient. It's not that I know what I'm doing with this getting sober gig. I just know that drinking stopped working, and my previous stints at getting sober both ended when I began to really dislike all the emphasis on self that the sober world seemed to require. I still don't like that emphasis. But I don't know what else to do, so I am trying some different things to see how they go.
One thing that's sort of different is that I have started to go to meetings. I did this a few times before, so it's not exactly new, but I'm trying again. And that's where the patience comes in. I go just to sit and listen to what people say. I don't ask myself to plunge in and make new friends or get a sponsor or even talk to anyone most of the time. (I have, to date this time around, spoken to one person, briefly. It was OK.) I have to confess, I have been a little bitter about how meetings have gone in the past, and I still have some of that. People seem to know each other, and they smile and hug each other, and no one is actually all that friendly to me. I have a sense that if I burst into sobs and wailed, "someone help me," then someone would, but that's not going to happen, because it's just not how I am experiencing my need for help. It's not that I'm all that together, and I understand that in being vulnerable you have to give up something, but I simply don't know what it is I have to give up or do differently in order to make some of that famous connection with people in these places. The other day at a meeting, someone spoke about exactly that. He said he never did have that feeling of being part of some big thing when he came to meetings, and a lot of the language and practices left him somewhat alienated, and because of that he sort of thought it might never work out for him, that maybe he was never going to recover, or maybe he didn't deserve to. But he kept going, and he said it was like a very slow educational process as opposed to a gigantic spiritual awakening. Eventually, though, he said he did slowly change, in a way that suited who he was and felt intellectually honest to him. Well that really spoke to me! I have been trying to trust that just sitting and listening and being patient is part of some process, even if I don't know what the process is or how it works.
Another related thing I am slightly bitter about, if that's the right way to put is, is that the kind of trouble I run into isn't what most of what's on offer seems to be designed around. There seems to be a lot of help available for people who struggle with cravings and fight the urge to pick up a drink on a regular basis. (I know that's no easy place to be, so there's no sense in which I mean to sound as though I think anyone else has it easy. If what I say sounds that way, it's not at all what I mean.) My struggle is more cerebral, but it's no less a struggle for all that. If I decide not to drink on a day, I more or less know I can do that. Where I struggle is to keep my decision fixed. Now some might say I am deluding myself into thinking that's anything other than a different way of falling into a craving. But I think it is different, because I simply can't address the problem at the level of craving. I do need to keep myself focused on my decision how how to hold onto that resolve not to drink, and I don't always know how to get help with holding onto that focus. Before, when I drank after being sober I always did wait a while and think it through and still come to the decision that it was the best thing for me to do. It probably wasn't, but the problem wasn't one of caving to an impulse. In a way that's scarier, though, because it means in some important ways I can't trust my own reasoning, though I can't possible even live if I don't trust my ability to reason. I'm not struggling with that these days, but I know if I don't make some changes, it will likely come back. The trick is, I don't really know yet what those changes are. Despite all this not knowing, even in this, I feel a kind of patience, a trust that I am on the right road and doing fine and that's enough for now.
One thing I am changing is some important stuff about my academic work. I'll talk about that more another time. But for now I want to say I feel I have managed to make some decisions, and make them from deep within being the person I am. I was able to see that, as I explained it to my husband, one way lay black death and one way lay green sprouting life, and I decided to move toward the life, even if it means making big changes. If that sounds fey, sorry! What I mean to say is that I have more of a sense of knowing who I am, and I was able to act in that knowledge, and that's utterly new to me. I am grateful for that, and I am staying with doing all the things that got me there.
OK, so I thought this was going to be a cheery and upbeat post, and I see that it may sound somewhat bleak! Dang. I don't actually feel bleak. After the first month or so of the devastating flatness that I seem to always feel at first after quitting (3x now I am starting to know a pattern), I feel hopeful. I am less likely to get my back up when someone tells me with absolute certainty that they did something or other and I should do exactly that. I have some trust that I am finding my own way through this, and I am doing that by paying close attention to what seems to work for me and what doesn't, and other people's ironclad certainties don't faze me much one way or the other.
I do need people in this business of getting sober. And I have some. There are bloggers--and you know who you are!--who have helped me along for ages. Many thanks and giant hugs to you! My husband is kind and supportive and about as great as he could be in this. I am lucky in that score! I also need to know some in-person sober people, and I find that the hardest thing to sort out. But I have some trust that I am getting somewhere in this. For now I'm sober, and most days it's not all that much of a struggle to stay there, and I'm very happy about that.
Thanks so much for reading! Wishing you all peace and joy on this rainy November afternoon.