Everything comes undone at mile 18.
Months ago, when you decided to run a marathon, you believed that these 26.2 miles will change you into something better. Maybe you’ll be skinnier or faster than last time, but you charge your credit card and look ahead at 14 weeks of training with the audacity that you will come out a greater version of yourself. That belief often sustains you through 5:30 a.m. wake up calls, runs that feel like you are underwater up until the last step, the burns on your lower back from hours of your clothes rubbing against your skin. Then you get to race day and none of that matters, you will triumph, you know it.
Miles 18 will rip that from you. It will mock your fake courage and remind you that you never stood a chance in its presence. You will want to quit. You will question your good decision making skills. You will wonder why you ever thought you could do this.
At Mile 18 you have come so far, yet you have so far to go.
I am at Mile 18. I am not even five months into sobriety and I don’t know how I will continue this adventure – through wedding season, through the summer, through the little curve balls that life throws.
As I mentioned in my last post, I went to two events at breweries this week and bought tickets that entitled me to as much craft beer as I’d like in a couple of hours. My mouth salivated as friends filled up cups of golden ales and dark stouts, swishing them back freely because they had no self-imposed restrictions. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the beer lists, read their names and descriptions, because resisting the urge already felt like walking past a pile of free money.
More than once, I imagined myself walking up to the bar, ordering a Daisy Cutter and returning to my group of friends. The carbonated grains would flush my esophagus, my head a good kind of dizzy. And it would be OK. Nothing would be undone.
My whole life I’ve imposed arbitrary restrictions derived from fear. I can only go to the ice cream shop one time a month because more than that will make me fat. I can only watch an hour of TV or I will become a lazy sloth. I have to stop drinking for a year because …
There were a lot of reasons why I quit drinking – to save money, be healthier, drop all the needless next-day guilt. But a driving force was a undercurrent of fear that I drank too much, that one was never enough. Alcoholism runs in my family and it wouldn’t be too far of a leap for it to my haunt my door, too. When I became sober, I figured there would be a stark difference. People and myself would notice a gentler, more whole me without alcohol. It’d be come clear that I needed the break, that my drinking had cause problems that I could only see now in the vein of sobriety.
A few weeks ago I asked E if he noticed anything difference now that I am sober. He said did not. He continued that he never though I abused alcohol or was even a bad drunk. Even though he doesn’t drink, he’s never had any issues with my drinking. I am a moderate drinker, he claimed.
This should have been good news, that my drinking was healthy, that sobriety hadn’t unveiled a demon everyone knew that I did not. But, this didn’t make me feel better. If there hadn’t been a major change in me, then why I am doing this? Why am I going through all of the internal turmoil to turn down a drink and suck down a much too sugary one instead if I know my drinking isn’t as harmful as I suspected? E and I talked about this, too, and he said that it was a valid question, as he doesn’t think I need to quit for this long.
“Why don’t you end this project?”
“Well, because, I’ve blogged about it.”
That was my best answer.
Maybe the problem lies in where I am looking for this confirmation of being sober. The other night I came home from my writing class feeling defeated, as often I do after the class. I love the class – the exchange of ideas and words – but I constantly don’t feel like I belong. From the very first day I wanted someone to pull me aside and say, “You are such a great writer; you are going to go places.” While complimentary at times, no one in my class (including the instruction) has given me that validation. So, I linger behind the table and wonder how do I convince them all that I should get a seat.
Deep down, I know that I am the one who gets to decide if I belong or not yet it’s a hard belief to swallow. Outside validation and approval drive me. I am constantly searching for my next compliment and when it comes it’s not enough. I need another and another. I am a junkie for phrase. My internal monologue is a dark and discouraging one, so I look to the bright outside to find the proof that I am good and right and special.
Sobriety is no different. I want someone to tell me that, yes, you needed a break and you look/act/are great because you no longer drink. Tons of people have offered me such sweet words of encouragement and strength during the last five months, which means so much to me, but I think I need to do some deeper searching and find out what this means to me. I need to listen to my own voice and let that be the one I sink my teeth into and carry me to the finish.
Best part of being sober: No hangovers on a Tuesday
Worst part of being sober: In addition to the two brew pub events, I was at a seminar with free wine and beer. I could have used a glass of red, or three.
A note: I am not checking social media until after Easter, but I still have my WordPress linked to my social media so it will push out automatically when I post here. So if you leave a comment on my Facebook I will not see it for several weeks. Feel free to comment here, though 🙂