This post is for anyone who may be in the unenviable position of having to quit drinking right after the holidays… Either as a Christmas wish or New Year’s resolution…
This time of year gets a little more than hectic for those involved in addiction recovery. With the Holidays, time off work and family gatherings, there are a lot of opportunities to get oneself in trouble, whether with the family or the law. In addition, New Year’s resolutions provide a much-needed attack of conscience – or a good excuse to sober up. This perfect storm of events, every year, swells the ranks of the newly recovering at meetings and in treatment facilities. This is a fun time for we old-timers for nothing helps a recovering alcoholic stay sober like a noob – nervous but excited to finally put the wreckage in the rear-view where it belongs, ass kicked by reality, sicker than shit in the head and scared. Scared that their life will be boring from now till the day they die, scared that the fun is over, scared that their marriage or even their freedom will dissolve before their eyes.
These fears are real but the reality is misunderstood both in the last weeks before recovery begins and the first months after it commences: The notion that all fun will cease once one chooses to put a cork in the jug is off. I can relate, of course as I felt the same way when I quit and I did everything I could to hold on to drinking until I had nowhere left to turn. It turned out that what I was really afraid of wasn’t that I’d never have fun again, it was that I’d never have an escape. This is what being drunk was for me – an escape from how I felt about myself and the incessant, nagging knowledge that I was a screw-up, a loser.
Now it’s not easy to do, but when one boils down that fear of not having fun, the escape is often at the root. That said, there is a solution, an answer to that worry: The reality is that if you choose to sober up, as I did, your life will change – it has to, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth the effort (and there will be effort required). What you’re missing as a drunk mired in the disease is that once you clean the wreckage of the past, and continually improve the person that you are, you won’t find it necessary to escape anymore. This truth alone was worth sobering up for me.
What we tend to do as newly sober people, is to try to wrap our heads around concepts that we can’t possibly understand with the thinking that we are currently capable of. When we do this we can’t see the big picture because we can’t see how we will change. Implementing the changes that leading a sober life requires will change who you are to your core – including what is understood as fun.
What most find when they stick around long enough to change is that one of the first things to go is the misery of self-destruction and the anguish of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once I got to a place in life where I wasn’t worrying about how my already sucky life was going to get worse, my outlook on life changed and the act of living alone became “fun”. Once I realized through living right there is no longer another shoe behind the last one, the anguish of being me ended. On top of that, there’s the extra money that one isn’t throwing out the window at booze, lawyers, fines, etc. that allows one to do fun things.
I couldn’t possibly have grasped that in my first few months of sobriety. Even better, the longer I’m sober and the more I work towards a good life, the happier I am, the more enjoyable life is.
In short, if you choose to sober up, only your drinking will end, but if you work for it, for the good life, it’s more accurate to call the death of your drinking a beginning.