So, I’ve been alcohol-free for 80 days. That feels like everything and nothing at all. I thought I’d write a little piece here about some of the things I’ve come to realize for myself in the past 80 days – things I wish someone would’ve explained to me before I started. As such, these are things learned from my own experience – your mileage may vary.
Here it is: reflections from 80 days alcohol free:
The clarity found in sobriety can sometimes be blinding; grab your sunglasses and get ready for whatever comes your way.
It’s okay to cry. Really.
Not everybody is going to give a shit if you stop drinking. The ones who you think might get defensive about it may actually be the ones to offer the greatest support. Either way, you’re doing this for you – not them. Find the courage to let judgments slide off your back.
You’re gonna feel a lot of stuff a lot more strongly than you did before. Jealousy? Yep. Joy? Oh yeah. Anger? Like a bull running at the Matador’s red cape. Peace? Like a goddamn river. Numbness? Strangely enough, the feelings of numbness are sometimes the most intense. Just ride the waves through to the other side. You’re gonna be fine.
You might suddenly feel a lot of embarrassment, guilt or shame about how you used to be, or things you once did when you were a drinker. I wish I could give some solid advice about how to get over that, but honestly, I feel like it’s just part of the package. Do your best to accept and reflect on those feelings, in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Be gentle – don’t beat yourself up about it.
Exercise is absolutely vital. Doesn’t have to be sweating in the gym or running in races, either. Even a simple 30-minute walk can do absolute wonders in lifting moods and clearing minds. If you feel a craving coming on, get your shoes on and take a quick walk, or hit up the gym. Oh – and don’t forget to stay hydrated.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people close to you when you need emotional support. Part of what made drinking both horrible and beautiful is that it allowed you to keep a safe distance from being truly vulnerable. Give yourself the gift of getting over your anxiety about it all and just reach out. You might be surprised about who reaches back to take your hand.
Sharing is essential. Do it anonymously or do it out loud to everyone you know. When you share your story, other people who know what you’re going through seem to appear out of the woodwork. Having a sense of community – even if it’s among a bunch of anonymous bloggers at first – is an invaluable resource.
Instead of fighting the urge to drink, simply acknowledge the fact that you’re experiencing the craving. Give your craving a little mental “wink” as if to say, “hey, I see you there – don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten. But I’m busy right now. You can come back later if you need to.” Instead of trying to not think about wanting to drink and failing, accept the craving as it is and say to yourself, “I see that I am feeling like I’ve got the urge to drink.” Let it be, and eventually, it’ll float away.
Educate yourself and, if necessary or requested, help educate others about the scientific basis of addiction. Alcohol dependence and other drug addictions are not simply an issue of moral failings; there are complex social, psychological, emotional and genetic factors that all come into play. The longer we allow addicted individuals to be demonized and stigmatized, the longer we’ll have to face living without alcohol in the shadows, or behind closed doors.
Don’t forget to laugh. Life is absolutely absurd. Many things that happen make no sense at all – they hurt, even. But we’re here for such a short time, and the world around us is so amazingly absurd and ridiculous that it’d be a shame to take ourselves too seriously all the time.
The number of days you have sober is just that: a number. You get out of it exactly what you put it – so make it count.