Sometimes I still ache for the rush of an alcohol-fueled night of the unknown. Sometimes I miss the way booze could make problems dissipate. Sometimes I wish that I could be a normal 22-year-old.
And sometimes – hell, most times – being young and sober is really fucking hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond grateful to be sober today, especially as the holidays approach. Sobriety has made me healthier and happier, has improved my relationships and has taught me about my strengths and weaknesses. The pros outweigh the cons by a longshot.
But that doesn’t mean the cons don’t rear their heads once in a while. I tend to live in my happy, glowing sobriety bubble and I’d love it if I could take up permanent residence there.
But that’s not realistic.
What’s realistic is that sobriety is difficult – like lay-in-bed-and-sob- out-of-frustration, throw-a-pity-party difficult.
And when things get difficult, I resent them. Although I know resenting my sobriety and myself will ultimately get me nowhere, I still do it. It’s not something that is always in my control.
I’ve noticed a pattern though: my thought process on these harder days mimics that of the five stages of grief.
After all, in a twisted way, addicts are always grieving the “loss” of their addictions.
Not denial of being an alcoholic per se, but denial of feeling frustrated, about feeling vulnerable. I, among many other addicts, like to feel like I have a solid grip on my emotions and my sobriety. When being sober starts to eat at me, I tend to lose that grip and control. I try to shake it off and shut out the feelings of restlessness by going out and staying busy, yet they manage to find me every time. Denial is a losing battle and paves the perfect path to anger.
This is the most obnoxious guest at my pity parties, the voice that says “F all of this and all of you.” I become angry at myself for allowing my drinking to get out of hand, angry at the people around me for being normal in their alcohol consumption, angry at the God of Alcoholism for choosing me, angry about an offhand comment someone made two weeks ago, even angry about the fact that I feel angry. Anger is a problem, and what better way to solve a problem than bargain your way to a solution?
Ahhh, my old friend bargaining. Bargaining was present throughout most of my addiction and our breakup was rather one-sided. Bargaining always told me I could have one more, that more forces were at play than just alcohol when problems arose in my life. I still hear his voice in my head asking “What if?” What if I had just one, what if I drank something other than hard liquor, what if I really tried to control myself? Bargaining is sneaky and manipulative, to the point of being dangerous. And if you’re lucky, bargaining leads to depression rather than relapse.
This may just be the hardest stage of all, as well as the longest. Nothing compares to feeling completely, utterly helpless and hopeless – left stew in feelings rather than bury them in substances, left asking “Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?” over and over. This is where the sobbing-in-bed comes into play. You learn to ride it out, because that’s all you really can do. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is named Acceptance.
There‘s that light, that ever-present word that alcoholics/addicts simultaneously love and hate. In the beginning of sobriety we wrestle to reach ACCEPTANCE – this far away, unattainable concept. When we finally do make it, we brush off our hands and mistakenly think we are finished. What we don’t realize is that we have to accept alcoholism all over again every single day. Some days acceptance will be easy, and other days it will be the hardest thing we have ever done. What matters is that we get there each day, even if we have to work through some not-so-enjoyable emotions to do so.