sober lifestyle

Transition

One day earlier this week, I was so wrapped up in trying to get a handle on my new job that I burned my dinner to a crisp.

Throwing chicken on the stove to cook, then getting distracted and completely forgetting about it is something I used to do all the time when I was drinking — no fires OR DUIs in 20 years…miraculous 🙏🏻 — and yet here I am, at 370-some days sober, up to the same dumb tricks.

I thought I’d hit a year and experience a mental metamorphosis. I’d even heard people talk about “the fog lifting” at their 1-year mark, and I’d come to expect the same. So how is it that I feel foggier now? How is it that I wake up with headaches, when I long ago traded in my tumblers of tequila for copious coffee, energy drinks and diet soda?

OK, so I know the answer to that. Hydrate properly or get hangovers; this is a fact of life for alcoholics, teetotalers and “normies” alike.

And while we’re on the subject of Wisdom We’re Currently Ignoring, they caution recovering addicts not to make any major life changes in the first year of sobriety. Well, duh! How did I not see it coming, that leaving a relatively stable, structured worker-bee role at a small agency for a leadership position at an international multi-brand company with more moving parts than I can calculate — much less comprehend — at this juncture, when skyrocketing anxiety issues have been my biggest struggle in recovery so far, by far…might be a potential trigger?

Just reading my own rambling words right now, I’m like, “Wow! This chick is NUTS!”

My new job doesn’t make me want to drink, so there is one promise from “the program” that has absolutely come true. “The obsession has been lifted,” as 12-steppers say, even if that fog of confusion still hangs on me, heavy as the mid-summer humidity.

I honestly do not crave liquor. But the desperate need for relief from tension, fear and hovering hopelessness — the reality that alcohol used to effectively obliterate — rages inside me, strong as ever. I’m anxious All. The. Time.

My booze-free self-soothing strategies consist of walking, eating, eating some more, binge-watching Netflix on a 30-Day Free Trial (“OZARK” warms my dark heart), taking melatonin and going to sleep as early as humanly possible every day. My ability to cultivate serenity via contact with a higher power, which I attempt to make by doing outdoor yoga or staring at the sky while striding through my local park, is still in the earliest stages of development. I can’t stop my mind from racing to its familiar rabbit hole of worry for more than a few minutes at a time.

If anything is clear, it’s that this transition period will be one of the biggest challenges — if not the biggest challenge — of my life.

It’s sink or swim time, folks.

Am I strong enough to stay afloat?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think, multiple times in the span of the past two weeks, that I might not make it. I mean, not that I’ll die but that I’ll have some kind of epic breakdown from too much stress and too few healthy coping strategies, and they’ll find me in a few weeks stumbling out of a trail deep in Tyler State Park, looking like a Yeti and mumbling to myself.

Reading this right now, you’re probably looking at my decision to start a whole new, more complicated and chaotic job during a pandemic/era of near-depression-level economic turmoil and going, “WOW! This chick really IS nuts!”

(Yeah, it was totally the job stuff and not the talk of reverting to a feral, wolflike state and living off the land that led to the “crazy” conclusion…)

Speaking of nature as a refuge from insanity, I’m so grateful it’s Saturday and the sun is shining and I was able to jog a few miles on the Delaware Canal towpath without re-injuring my bad hammies. I just got back from there, and other than the weird dudes trying to chat me up in the parking lot of Washington Crossing Park — Them: “So, how far’d you go today?” Me: [*sound of tires screeching out onto Rte. 532*] — my Instagram sentiment was spot on. It was indeed a serene experience. Whoever christened The Wishing Tree certainly made a positive impact on me! 😘

I know the feeling won’t last, and Monday will come, along with 50+ new emails, back-to-back conference calls and a whole lot of ☕️ and 🤯and 😱 and finally 😴. But that’s life for all of us, isn’t it? Constant transition. New challenges to face and changes to adapt to every day. Moments of fear and uncertainty, pride and accomplishment, disappointment and pain, mixed in with moments of serenity that come, go, then come and go again.

I might be a little nuts, but I’m definitely not special.

Maybe some of you can safely use substances to soften the human experience; lord knows that’s what I tried and failed to do for all those meat-burning, drunk-driving years. The fact that I made it out of that vicious cycle and have the opportunity to transition into a new career, and the opportunity to enjoy a serene, sunny Saturday with a clear conscience (if not a completely clear head) and NO DESIRE TO DRINK makes me think something out there has my back, and as long as I keep trying to swim, it won’t let me drown.

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