It’s 5:38 p.m. Friday evening. My train has stopped in the station closest to my house. I exit through the machine-operated doors and trample down the steps, playing the game where I try to beat the person next to me to the bottom. I saunter out and the late-October chill hits my face.
Oh, my goodness, I want a drink.
I am never home before 6 – never – and so I want to celebrate with a third of a bottle of cab. Or, crack open a pumpkin-flavored beer, poured into a real glass to lessen the cheapness, and take gulps as I sauté and chop for dinner.
I want a drink, I think as I cross the street.
I want a drink, I think as peer halfway into the dry cleaners that ruined my rug a few months ago while walking past the closed establishment. As I wait for the light and cross another street. As I insert the key into the main door of the building. As I walk up the stairs to my apartment.
I want a drink. I want a drink. I want a drink. I want a drink.
Cravings for booze have come and gone in the last couple of weeks, mostly when I am in social situations and am fearful that my sober self is too awkward for the others to handle. But, this is the first time where I thought about alcohol and my mouth salivates. It doesn’t help that I will be going out later in the evening, to bid a friend adieu, and then to a party the next night, specifically themed for fall cocktails, and finally a dinner with a Peace Corps friend Sunday. It’s practically sacrilegious not to have booze at a reunion with someone from your Peace Corps experience. All of those times where drinking is not only encouraged, but expected and of me specifically because that’s what I do and have always done. Because I no longer do I must go through the awkward justification roll call.
- I am taking a break for a while.
- Just to see if I can do it.
- No, I am not pregnant.
- Yes, it’s OK if you still drink.
- No, it’s not because I don’t want to drink. It’s because, well, it’s because.
As the lust for a beer builds, I try to think of what I could calm this beast.
Canceling all of my weekend plans and staying into binge watch old episodes of Parks and Recreation because the schedule juggling of trying to say yes to every invitation is the biggest cause of my alcohol craving? Extremely tempting.
I walk into my apartment, greet Ethan with a kiss and move into the kitchen. I make that tea after all and light a candle (I am very particular about mood lighting) and I open a blank word document.
Typing words out ferociously is the only way I can get this desire to say f— it to my year of sobriety is to write. Write unapologetically and with an embarrassing amount of red and green squiggles. Keep going until whatever it is that is in me that demands to be blanketed with alcohol is instead unleashed. Out, free, in the open to breath.
I’m on a kick of reading and listening to authors talk about giving up drinking (This book and this podcast are two favorites), and recently I’ve discovered the Home Podcast. Home is two women who are sober talking about all the things that go into not drinking and trying to be your best self. They recently had on Augusten Burroughs, whose memoirs I’ve read a few years ago and they talked about his path of writing and sobriety. He said that AA wasn’t really for him, but writing helped him find a new life in sobriety. In writing, he found the courage to be sober.
Tonight, like Burroughs, I turn to writing. I make it be the thing that allows me to outlast the craving and go one more day without drinking. I can’t say that it will always do that, but it does tonight.
I can write and write and I can feel OK. I may want a drink, but I will not drink. I made this promise to myself and writing will carry me when I can’t carry myself.
Later, after the writing, the craving comes back. And that’s what I think sobriety will be like for the first few months, outlasting the wanting until it’s calm again and I can see the clear blue sky. It’s clear this morning, crystal even.
The hardest part of sobriety this week: Getting some frustrating news about my knee. For months, I haven’t been able to run because of a lingering pain in my meniscus. I tried physical therapy, only for the pain to come back shortly after six weeks of therapy. I thought more rest would help, since my doctor was fairly confident it was not a tear. The pain was less intense without usage, but still there so I got the MRI. The results came back this week and they were clear, which is good yet unhelpful. The doctor ordered more physical therapy. Running is what helps me go through the world and without it I’ve been on pins and needles. Without it, I’ve turned to drinking. I cried hot angry tears the day the doctor called the with MRI results and I wanted to drink, at 10 a.m. Itt’s unclear when I will be able to really run again, if ever, but with running and now alcohol removed, I need to find another displacement for my anxiety.
The best part about sobriety this week: I have so much energy in the morning. I wake up wanting to write or do yoga. It’s refreshing. Even compared to the mornings when I did not drink the night before, I feel much more refreshed. This is a good feeling, nearly addicting.