Back in my drinking days (LOL; it’s such a trip to be able to say that), this was a regular routine:
I’d wake in the middle of the night — or, what most normal people would consider “the middle,” whereas for me it was always about an hour before my 4 o’clock alarm, so, too early to get up and too late to go back to sleep — and flip out.
My panic-stricken brain would spin the same soundtrack: What day is it? Am I late for something? What embarrassing shit did I do last night (which is to say, THIS time)? Is [husband’s name] mad at me? …And on and on it played as I took inventory, trying to figure out just where I was on the shame spectrum (Feel Bad Rainbow? 😂) heading into another day.
I have since come to learn, through obsessively reading “quit lit” and listening to recovery podcasts, that the 3 o’clock roll call of regrets is par for the alcoholic course. It happens to everyone! This has been one of many comforting revelations I’ve experienced through A.A. and the “sobersphere,” assuring me that my soul-crushing struggle with addiction does not make me a crazy freak or a worthless failure; it makes me human.
I sleep a lot better these days, but the wee-hour panic attacks still happen from time to time. I had another one this morning — Day 63! — which might explain why I’m awake and writing at (checks computer clock) 3:31 AM on a Saturday. Realizing it was Saturday, and I didn’t have to go to work, and the man lying beside me is not only NOT mad at me but has cheered my sobriety with flowers, “Proud Of You” balloons and cases upon cases of Diet Sunkist, and the most embarrassing thing I’ve done in the last two months is tell the new guy at work he looks like Kyle Schwarber, then before he can even finish nodding politely and start slowly backing away, corner the poor kid into hearing my entire life story as a sports fan 😬…
Realizing all that, then breathing a grateful sigh of relief, is one of early sobriety’s greatest pleasures. That is for sure.
There have been plenty of those simple pleasures over the past 60-some days — HELLO, NICK CASTELLANOS AND WAWA PUMPKIN SPICE COFFEE, AND DID I MENTION MY HUBBY LIKES ME?!?! Lately, though, I haven’t stopped to recognize them or give them their due appreciation. If I’m being honest, the past week has been the toughest one yet for me, mentally. The idea that quitting drinking was going to magically — and quickly — transform me into a shiny, happy person with boundless energy, thinner thighs, luscious hair, porcelain skin and a patient, accepting attitude toward her own and others’ flaws and foibles was about as delusional as the idea that tequila was the ticket to eternal happiness.
And, yes, because I’m being honest, I have to admit I thought all of that. I thought for SURE by the 60-day mark I would be out of the woods with all the shitty side effects of alcohol abuse. I thought for sure I’d be like 10 pounds lighter, rocking my old jeans, kicking ass in my morning workouts, glowing with a fresh, youthful face and bright eyes, and doing a “Sound of Music” spin into a future of fulfillment I’d never dreamed possible.
Instead, I look tired. I feel tired. The idea of spinning just made me more tired. I’ve had a cold for long enough to want to rip my damn faucet of a nose off. I’m still chunky, and since I can’t stop feeding my face, that’s probably not going to change much anytime soon. My hair somehow went from all blonde to half gray — let’s call it “blay,” which sounds like “blah,” and that’s perfect, because it’s exactly how it looks — seemingly overnight. My workouts are completely exhausting, not because they’re so physically challenging, but because I have to constantly will myself to keep moving and not just curl into a ball in the middle of the floor and cry my eyes out for the rest of the day.
Oh, and I have cried my eyes out for an entire day. Last Sunday, in fact. I was hiding upstairs because my husband insisted on watching the Cubs’ second straight shutout loss in the living room, and I still hadn’t recovered from Northwestern’s football suckitude on Saturday, so I was in bed, watching Disney’s “Wreck It Ralph” and housing an entire bag of scrumptious sea-salted almonds. Along came the part in the movie where they’re debating whether “Sugar Rush” players will accept Princess Vanellope in spite of her glitch — the thing that makes her different — or if that’s actually a reason to keep her in exile for the rest of eternity, and Ralph is like, “I think they might love her, just the way she is!” or something like that. The details are fuzzy because by that point I was sobbing. Blubbering. I was heaving so hard there were shards of almond flying out of my tear ducts. I had to crank up the TV volume so my husband wouldn’t hear and come to investigate and I’d have to try to EXPLAIN this completely psychotic display.
But wait; it gets worse! “The Princess and the Frog” came on right after, and I’ve never seen it before, so I wasn’t at all prepared for the scene with Ray the Firefly going to live with “Evangeline”.
So, basically, this was my Sunday:😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭
And as a result, this was me over the next couple of days: 🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♀️
Those are zombies. I wish there was a Mrs. Fratelli from “The Goonies” emoji, because that’s actually a more accurate depiction of my face after I’ve been crying.
In summary, and brace yourself for some mind-blowing profundity: Sobriety is messy sometimes! I mean, I can only speak from my own experience, but once the “pink cloud” honeymoon period is over, it doesn’t feel much different than those old drinking days, except you don’t have any way to numb out the messiness.
Note: the honeymoon period lasts about 55 days, maybe longer if you don’t get your period at that point. I considered titling this post “Sober and Hormonal: A Bloody Shit Show at Sixty Days,” but I didn’t want to lose all my readers by bloviating about middle-aged menstruation.
Before you start backing quickly away, I want to thank you for continuing to read this honest inventory of a life in transition. It might not always be interesting, or polite, but it’s real, and I’m hoping that by sharing all my shit, I can do for someone else what has been done for me: provide reassurance that whatever you’re struggling with, someone else has been through or is going through the exact same thing.
If you happen to be taking inventory of where you are today, and the only things you feel like you can point to and say, “This is great!” are that you’re doing right by the most important people in your life and you’re not self-medicating your issues, then, what a coincidence! Me too!
And if we need to snap out of our funk and remind ourselves that for right now, what we are doing is enough…well, I think we just did.