I want to talk about Sobriety.
It has been 2 years, 8 months, and 7 days (approximately) since I made the decision to break free from the grip of consistent alcohol abuse.
But alcohol has crossed my lips since then.
Occasionally, while sitting on the deck with some friends, or on a date night, or around a campfire, I indulge in a cold beer. I drink it leisurely, savoring its taste and carbonation. I may even drink a second if the night calls for it. But that’s about all. I hang out, talk, laugh. I don’t need more. I don’t even want more. I don’t want to cross the line. I don’t want to be drunk.
It took me a while to get to this point. When I initially began my departure from alcohol I did not intend to become a “casual drinker.” That option was not on the table. I was not yet in charge of myself. I first needed to detox – body, mind, and soul. I needed to uncover the raw and original parts of myself that were hiding beneath the perpetual intoxication and hangovers. Then I had to rediscover my strength and reawaken my soul. I had to find my center and forgive myself. I had to gain the wisdom and humility to know how and why I had relinquished my life to booze. It was only after all that that my relationship to alcohol shifted enough for it to be possible for me to enjoy one or two beers (but no more) while remaining in my own seat of power.
So does this mean I cannot consider myself among the “sober”?
For example, when I participate in social media recovery groups I identify myself as “Alcohol-Free” (taken literally that’s not entirely the case, yet I am definitely free from its control) or “sober” (although I may not fit the strict AA definition). Am I falsely representing myself?
Well, first of all, let’s remember that I usually refer to my personal state of being as Razzle-Dazzle rather than Sober anyway (as explained thoroughly in my Origin Story).
Second – the sobriety (or more accurately, RECOVERY) journey is a very personal thing. I have found over time that beer doesn’t trigger that “Addict Mind” for me in the way wine or hard liquor does.
And finally, the definitions of those terms don’t matter to me. I use those terms in social media spaces to fit in enough so that we may all gain strength and comfort from each other. I relate to the people who are finding their way out of the grip of addiction. I relate to the people who use alcohol to mask depression and shame.
I’m not trying to argue semantics or grant permission for casual drinking. Nor am I claiming that my path is any better than anyone else’s. Everyone’s alcohol story is unique. But we are all in the process of Recovering. We all share the need to find peace and balance from the traumas we have endured (self-inflicted or not).
For me, life after alcohol abuse is not so much about following the strict terms of sobriety as it is about the Journey of Recovery. At the bottom of every bottle is trauma. The stupor of alcoholism blurs the pain of the soul’s wounds, yet the disease itself inflicts even more injuries – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Removing alcohol forced me to confront these issues head-on, and the path towards healing is not a smooth road.
I have known people who left alcohol behind FOR GOOD; the mere whiff of hops or fermentation triggers their animal mind and sets off a potential relapse. They go to meetings and have an enduring relationship with their sponsor. These things keep them steady. They know the tenuousness of their alcohol-free path and therefore adhere to firm boundaries.
I have known people who are “sober” simply because they have never had a drink. NEVER. Haven’t even wanted to. For religious reasons, or health reasons, philosophical or energetic reasons, I don’t know. It doesn’t vibe with them. They’ve never smoked a cigarette or a joint. Perhaps their life is already vibrant and wavy and magical because of their own glorious connection to the mysterious universe. Or maybe they have never wondered what’s beyond tea and temperance. I don’t fully understand it, but that is their choice and their journey.
I have known people who struggle continuously with “sobriety.” They swing between abstinence and excess, constantly battling their urges and desires. They often fall into depression and self-“medication,” numbing away the knowledge that a more joyful life is just over the horizon of their current state. They are caught in a cycle of self-loathing, shaming themselves for their perceived “mistakes” as they keep reaching for freedom.
I have known people who decided to drink less and then just did. They partied in college and then slowed down to a “normal” socially-acceptable intake level as mature adults. They seem to have never succumbed to the quicksand vacuum that always sucked me in after two glasses of wine or a double vodka tonic. Maybe they were stronger than me. Maybe they always drank for the right reasons…whatever that means. Maybe they were never running from themselves.
I, however, was an addict. I was addicted to alcohol. Once I opened a bottle of red wine (aiming for a night of laughter and relaxation with my friends or spouse) there was no end in sight. I would drink till blackout oblivion. All. the. time. I fantasized all day about the moment of uncorking, when I could finally unclench and let my mind be erased by the tannins. By the time I decided to stop drinking on January 7, 2018, I had no coping mechanisms left besides liquor. I had to quit cold turkey in order to let my body recover and find out who I really was – unfermented.
Then on March 23, 2018, I got drunk again.
It was not an accident. I allowed myself this night of inebriation fully aware, eyes wide open.
My husband and I had gone to visit one of my oldest friends in Champaign-Urbana, where I attended undergrad. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, nor had I been back to my old college town since I graduated (many) years ago. I knew that I was not going to face this night “sober.” So I granted myself a pause from sobriety. I was not going backwards, this was merely a rest stop on my journey forward. In part, it was almost like one last hurrah… a goodbye party, if you will, to my old party ways.
I woke up with a raging headache and a churning stomach. Just like in the old days.
But what I didn’t have was regret. Or shame. Or the desire to do it again.
I got drunk, and it was the same as it always was. The alcohol hadn’t changed. But I had. It no longer served me. I was done.
I wrote in my journal two days later: I feel like I’m starting over. I know that’s not really true…it’s just a setback, not a complete restart. And I just need to do the things I know I need to do to get back to my good feelings. I feel like all my good energy has been siphoned off. Achy, tired, sad. Unable to sleep for shit. Unmotivated. Cranky. All of those things I haven’t felt in months. All due to one night of too many vodka tonics and cigarettes. But I can return to my enlightened state. I will detox the alcohol and learn from this experience. I will do my yoga. I will meditate every morning. I will breathe. I will recover.
That night I filled my room with sage smoke and took a bath in Epsom salts (to clean my aura). I wrote a gratitude list.
It took me a full week to get back to the high-vibration-state of positivity and health I had before that night. I wrote again in my journal after returning from a hot yoga class: All the bad feelings are gone! Since yoga I feel like everything has been cleared out of my body and mind. The fog is lifted, my body literally feels lighter. My heart is open and happy. I feel like my energy is flowing freely again. All that yuck that was gunking me up since that night of drinking has been released. I am open to the goodness and abundance coming in from the universe. I deserve it.
I had a sober friend ask me afterwards if I was going to reset my “sober-versary” because of that night. No way! I said. Honestly, I hadn’t even considered it. I suppose that is the rule for people following the steps of AA, but that path never really resonated with me. I have never been much of a rule-follower anyway. My experience was not a relapse, but a reaffirmation.
So here’s what I think: Sober is a state of mind, not a strictly-defined box. Living in a state of awareness is a choice anyone can make. Recovery is a daily commitment, but it’s not straight forward and it’s not always easy.
The day I opened my eyes and chose to wake up – that was the day this new life of Razzle-Dazzle began for me, and every day I move forward towards healing and growth.
©Skye Nicholson 2020
(*Disclaimer* I am telling my story for entertainment purposes only. If you think you suffer from addiction, please seek help. Much love, Vixen Lea.)