Rolling With the Waves is the Only Way to Face Sobriety

Up until very recently over the past two decades my constant nightly companion came in the shape of a green bottle holding some form of crisp, dry white wine. After I cleared the bare minimal obligations from my day, I took the bottle from the fridge, grabbed my favorite large glass, and poured myself the first of many glasses which usually led to the entire bottle, sometimes more. Over the years my consumption stayed the same, and I rarely switched to red wine or any other kind of drink.

Wine had become the most important part of my existence. Day in and day out, the elephant in the room, the cause of so much underlying anxiety and stress, and stops and starts in my life. The cause of indecision and bad decisions. Achingly low self-esteem. Impatience, intolerance, cynicism, even mild misanthropy. To feel positive about anything seemed false. I trudged through the days. The only time I stopped completely was when I was pregnant. Thankfully, even though I was still in denial at that point, my addiction could be tamed when I was with child. But within months after giving birth and when breastfeeding ceased, my habit returned.

Nearly twenty years later, I am finally facing up to my addiction. I am trying to get at the why. Every day is a struggle, but among the low points there are many signs that my brain and body are recovering, and along with finding a sober community online, I am finding hope. Writing helps to uncover the causes of addiction, and why it’s taken me this long to own up to it. Not just in a journal for my own eyes, but here, where I hope to share with others who can relate to this experience. 

My new level of certainty is understanding that change is inevitable in all things. I am taking this principle and applying it to the way I approach recovery. It’s up to me to roll with the waves, to decide how to navigate through them. I own this.

I strongly believe that no one navigation style fits all; for example, AA may be the only way for many people in recovery, but I have decided that other approaches may suit me better. So far, I have worked through my own plan which is based on a mix of common sense, scientific research, and learning from others in recovery through books, blogs, and podcasts. While this topic will come up occasionally, I am not here to dispute recovery methods nor judge those who have found AA or anything else that I may not agree with or adhere to, but may work perfectly well for them.

Additionally, I do not want to get into the all or nothing debate. I have witnessed people who have successfully overcome their excessive alcohol consumption, say, by a 90% reduction, and their lives have turned around. The effort to change and the support required to do so—whether you need to quit altogether or step back and drastically moderate—are similar.

I see addiction as a spectrum. One size does not fit all. The main thing is that we support and applaud each other, no matter what flavor or style or method of recovery you stand behind. Our goal is the same: To move on from the past, be the best we can be, and live in the light. 

(This is a revised post from April 2019).

Finding the Spark in the Ashes of Addiction

Talk to any alcoholic about peeling the layers of their personalities, desires, and beliefs, and you will find a lot of regret and denial. Regret over something that was found but then lost, and denial about the something that almost was, but never quite came to fruition. Getting at the heart of this is impossible when drinking. It might enter your head and your heart, but likely will end in tears or an argument, or worse, on to other addictive substances. Addicts are really good at burying the things we don’t have the tools to address.

When I worked in publishing I held sales and marketing positions. I read and sold books, basically. My clique-y colleagues were opinionated, well-read, and often intimidating. Some of them were writers and grad students, hoping one day to become published. During this time I wrote too, but I never said anything to anyone about it. I always wanted to write fiction and had an idea of the sort of work I would produce, and who I would write for. The people I worked with were not my audience. What I wanted to write was too commercial, and certainly not prize-winning or original.

The snob mentality of my peers prevented me from executing what in their minds would be bad stuff; the sort of thing we booksellers scoffed at. This held me back. Instead of saying fuck it I’ll write what I like, I held it closely inside. I didn’t have the tools to navigate through what confidence looks like. Why should I care what anyone else thinks, when, again (I see this all the time now that I’m sober) people really only care about themselves?

Commercial was a bad word. Mass market was considered low-brow; yet, sales of this commercial type of literature is exactly what made the entire enterprise of bricks and mortar bookselling possible. The Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz bestseller profits enabled those authors’ publishing houses to take chances on the lesser-known authors who most likely produced more “literary” work, but would never sell as well.

But, I digress. Now that I am sober I am working on recovering not only my physical health. I need to keep digging a little deeper to find the discarded remnants of the good creative ideas I once had but put away because I lacked the balls to to see them through. I don’t plan on being the next Laurie Colwin or Elizabeth Berg, but there’s no harm in trying.