Maintaining Sobriety

In my last post I said I don’t spend a lot of time these days sweating acute cravings. When I decided to do the  “100 days sober” thing this time (I’m on 111 days today), it was because I’d discovered (the hard way as always seems to be the case) that 30 days sober was not enough to make a decision about how I wanted to proceed in my relationship with alcohol. Cause honestly, most of the first weeks you’re white knuckling — you’re in a tailspin trying to figure out what the fuck to do with yourself besides drink. You think about drinking constantly.

This hanging-on-for-dear-life stage doesn’t characterize the long term experience of “being sober,” though, so you really can’t make an informed judgement about sobriety based on these first, crappy, difficult weeks. This was wisdom I received from others, particularly my daughter, who told me that you have to give yourself enough time for sobriety to feel at least semi-normal before you can grow your brain back and actually start thinking about sobriety without a hull full of emotional baggage.

I’ve reached the stage where sobriety feels (more) normal, but as I am learning, the risk that comes with this is complacency. It’s another one of those wicked paradoxes that seem to accompany both the depths of addiction, and its cures. The more normal sobriety feels, the greater risk that you’ll stop investing in maintaining it, and the greater the risk that you’ll lapse. So sober has to feel “normal” enough for you to get on with your life, but not so normal that you stop looking over your shoulder.

dinosaur-car-wing-mirror-600x391I don’t mean “looking over your shoulder” in the tin-foil-hat/I-hear-voices kind of way. It doesn’t require that kind of obsession or energy. I think it’s more like checking your mirrors regularly when you’re driving. It’s a good, important habit that you do without thinking hard about it. So in that sense its easy. BUT if you don’t actually observe what you’re seeing and respond effectively, “checking the mirror” becomes an empty exercise: you’ll see but not see whatever is coming up to bite you in the ass.

I check my mirrors now which is cool. But doing that attentively and well is, I think, the long-term and more subtle challenge of maintaining sobriety. That part is definitely still a work in progress.



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