Well, guys, it happened. I lost it.
I almost literally lost it the other day during my weekly virtual recovery meeting, so it’s a good thing we spent so much time messing with technical difficulties that the hour expired before I could go on an unhinged tirade. I’m fed up with Zoom, and staring at computers, and with everyone who tells me that MORE of these meetings full of rustling and background noise are the antidote to my increasing insanity. Or asks me if I’m praying. Or gives any kind of advice at all using the words “you should.”
I’m fed up with the “this does not feel better” mindf*ck of early sobriety in the age of coronavirus.
I’m fed up with myself (you’re like, “That makes two of us!”)
Maybe I should just go back to bed.
My bed has become my favorite place in the world, now that the world’s in crisis, and I no longer drink. Every day I look forward to popping a melatonin gummy, hitting the pillow and shutting off. Sleep: the drug du jour on Day 294.
If it sounds like life might be a lot less….un-lifelike if I relapsed, I’m here to tell you, you’re right. I strenuously agree. In fact, it suddenly struck me one day, earlier this week when the sheer monotony of my (our) Groundhog Day existence and the rabid, feral rage of my 42-year-old hormones combined to drive me as close as I’ve ever come to complete nuclear meltdown, that I totally understand why people relapse. I understand why they say “f*ck it” after months, years, half-lifetimes of living in unaltered reality.
WHO THE F*CK WANTS TO DEAL WITH REALITY?!?!
Apologies to The Program (and I really am sorry I took a shit on my Zoom meeting back there), but I don’t believe I drank because I have a physical disease or an alcohol allergy. Personally, I 100 percent drank to escape reality. I drank to escape the discomfort of my expectations not quite matching up to my experiences. I drank because I never really, naturally, felt good in my skin. I drank because my brain, my body, my accomplishments and my relationships were not perfect, and situations were never fully within my control. I was afraid to feel pretty much any discomfort, and afraid of what it might take to get to the other side of that feeling.
And guess what (early) sobriety has turned out to be? Sitting right smack in the middle of a big, stinking vat of raw discomfort and having just two weak-sauce non-alcoholic coping strategies within arm’s reach.
Maybe someday, prayer and patience will feel like actual tangible tools. Today, it’s just giant fruit smoothies and sleep supplements.
Where would I be without smoothies and sleep (and my husband; he’s reading this. Hey babe! 👋🏻)? I’d probably be locked up! Oh wait…(looks around 👀)
Living as you are, in lockdown, you probably understand a little bit what it’s like being newly sober. It’s one of those things where they say “it gets worse before it gets better,” but you have no clue HOW much worse it’s gonna get and WHEN you’ll actually feel better, and that’s what makes it so damn hard.
We’re all in this together, right? Do you feel like you’re deep in a tunnel, army-crawling blindly in the dark, a la Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank sewer system? If you dare turn on your senses, everything smells like shit. So you block it all out, numb up in any way you can and just keep inching along, because that’s your only option.
The only option is to hope that you’re going somewhere — preferably to a place with more fresh air and less human waste — because you have no way of knowing for sure.
All I know for sure is that time is passing, and in a week, I will hit 10 months sober. I know I lost whatever magic and mojo I had going on back in Months 1-7, and experiencing the great purgatorial nothingness of Months 8-10 has been rougher sledding than I, on my first trip through this wringer, ever imagined. These days, in the moments when I’m not hunched over a laptop “in the zone,” churning out marketing content until my entire upper back aches, or zoned out in front of an old TV series, or lying cocooned in blankets, catatonic in my precious bed, I think thoughts that probably ever single sober person in the history of the world has thought. How is this better? How am I better? What’s so f*cking amazing about unaltered reality and “sitting with discomfort,” because I’ve been sitting so much I’ve gained 15 pounds and I look and feel like a party-size shit sandwich — with the attitude to match. Why am I even doing this?
Incidentally, I also think about the similarities between real life in 2020 and the 1960s Twilight Zone episodes buried deep in the recesses of my DVR. The one called “People Are Alike All Over” where the spaceman from Earth gets imprisoned by seemingly benevolent Martians in what he thinks is a nice house but it’s actually a cage in a kind of zoo, and he freaks when he figures it out, while all the toga-clad natives stare at him…I mean…(looks around 👀).
It’s rough when your comfort zone becomes yet another source of discomfort, and your whole life has been about avoiding and escaping this type of unpleasantness. I mean, in a sense, I feel very similar to that spaceman (I forget his name…) who blasts off in search of amazing new frontiers, all optimistic and naive, and ends up stuck in a worse spot than where he started. Looking for another escape.
In recovery meetings people tend to share based on the blueprint of “experience, strength and hope,” and I’ve tried to structure my blog posts in the same way. I’ve also tried to share honestly, and sometimes, the “strength and hope” tank is on E, so I end up sounding like a whiny bitch. Thanks to my recovery community, from the authors and podcasters I’ve never met, to the people on Zoom who have gone out of their way to try to help me in spite of myself, I know that “whiny bitch” is a normal part of the sober experience. So, too, is “F*ck this.” There are stages of grief when you’re leaving an old life behind, and they’re not comfortable, and they’re not pretty.
My old life still beckons in moments of intense discomfort when I just want to make it stop. The devil you know, ya know? But as wiser people than I have said (paraphrasing): the only way to get better at living sober is to continue living sober. If there’s any glimmer of hope I can leave here with, it’s that facing the reality of a global pandemic, day after day, without alcohol is as powerful a lesson in dealing with discomfort as I can personally imagine. Live through it, and I just might learn.