sober lifestyle

Protection

Caption: 300 days without alcohol and I’m (cough) still alive.

It would be a smidge overdramatic, and not quite accurate, to refer to my sobriety date as “The Day The Music Died,” but it seems I unintentionally gave up more than one of my old favorite things on July 7, 2019.

That was 10 (get it? Ten?) months ago today, by the way. I still vividly remember every moment of no fun I had at a family get-together the first alcohol-free afternoon of my new life, without any substance available to blast through my ironclad inhibitions.

Loosening up used to come naturally to me, back when I was a little kid who spent hours spinning, and spinning, (*Pee Wee Herman voice*) aaaand spinning around the family room carpet singing along to “Steal Away,” “What A Fool Believes” and other 70s pop hits playing on my dad’s reel-to-reel stereo system. My parents have this on video (viewer beware: may cause dizziness). Isn’t it cute how oblivious kids are to embarrassment?

…she says, at age 42, while relating the gory details of a 20-year drunkalog on the World Wide Web…😳

Singing has always been my jam. Not in the serious, “try out for American Idol” sense; more like “ahhh, sweet release!” Lighthearted fun. The spinning compulsion is something I’m currently discussing with my therapist, so hold that thought (may I offer you a motion sickness bag?) At 42, I’m still that carefree kid deep down, but somewhere along the line I grew these walls (*mimes being stuck in a box*) and started needing help lightening up. Whenever I re-enacted that cheesy childhood whirligig scene in the apartments and townhomes of my young-to-mid adulthood — and I absolutely did; apologies to my former neighbors — I got up the nerve by knocking down the walls with booze. It got to the point where I felt totally incapable of unwinding or doing anything playful, much less social, without a heaping helping of hooch (sometimes, I think we might be too in love with alliteration around here.)

It recently occurred to me how thick and impenetrable the walls of this box seem, now that I’m sober. I’m wound up like a freaking spring, y’all, and not a fun one like the Simpsons Olympic mascot. It’s like my body somehow sensed danger when I stopped fortifying it with ethanol and went full Fort Knox, instinctively insulating me in a protective shell that no person or pop tune can puncture.

I don’t even listen to music anymore.

A couple years ago, if you’d been within a mile of my house on a random weeknight before my husband got home from work, you’d have most likely heard strange, loud caterwauling drifting through the windows, mixed with the occasional thump when my shins spun straight into the coffee table. Drinking tequila, listening to Tool or some other angry 90s band and twirling around the room until my feet had rug burns and my stomach was unsettled and all the tension of the day had been purged…

Caption: “I…COME…ROUND….FULL CIRCLE!” If you’ve ever heard that line being yelled out of the blue in the park, it’s just me and my old playlist taking a relaxing walk.

Sound silly? I’ll tell you, it was fun. It was freeing!

Now, it seems as if I don’t really know what freedom means. Or that I’m, like, afraid of fun. I still laugh when I get the chance, and thank goodness for “Family Guy” re-runs and my hubby’s sweet and goofy affection, but even leisure activities I used to love, like working out, feel different. Exercise has become a chore, a go-through- the-motions mandate that gets tougher to keep with this lockdown diet 😬. The other day I was doing this quick circuit I drew up in my basement gym, and I realized all I could hear was my own breathing (more like wheezing 😰), and the droning of the podcast I forgot to pause on my phone. This from the girl who used to OBSESS over her workout playlist to the point she couldn’t listen to the same one for more than a month because it “lost its effect.”

Working out with no music, feeling like a robot. That’s life at 10 months sober?

Look, I don’t want anyone to read this blog and think quitting drinking is the death of joy. But it is the birth of…something, and from what I’ve heard, birthing things ain’t a picnic. You supposedly get to a point, postpartum, where you can go to picnics and make (cringe) small talk and (gasp) even dance on nothing but seltzer. But that takes lots of time and (sigh) hard work. For me, the most painful and perplexing part of recovery from addiction is trying to unravel the sweater (to tie it back to “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”) of the psyche. I’m in therapy to figure out why I’m so innately terrified to let my guard down and so intensely committed to self-protection, and why it feels so f*cking impossible to uncoil, open up, trust, have faith, sing out, etc. — without my trusty chemical shield.

I have an appointment with the therapist in a few minutes, and with another few cracks at the protective shell, I hope we’ll get closer to a breakthrough. I’d love to abandon these annoying, self-restricting inhibitions, once and for all, but if 300 days of sobriety has taught me anything, it’s that nothing worthwhile can be rushed.

Also, spinning out of control can cause injury. If you really want to dance, you might need to take lessons.

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