Some thoughts on a month of sobriety

I debated letting this marker go unnoticed and unannounced. Because a month – well, it doesn’t seem like much does it? 30 {or so} little days. And with the months flying by, I wasn’t sure that managing a month with no alcohol was even such a big deal.

But then I realised that to me, 30 days is HUGE. I’ve spent five months wanting this and trying to get here. Five months of stopping and starting. Making it to almost three weeks once, most times not much more than ten days at a time. For most of those months, I didn’t really want to stop drinking. It was my crutch, my way of dulling the pain, of seeking oblivion. I liked it as much as I hated how it made me feel and the things it made me do and say.  I was doing it because everyone else said I needed to. And while they were right, that’s not a good basis to try and quit on.

It took me months of stop starting, to finally admit to myself that it was destroying me. Months of hangovers, of severe anxiety. Of not sleeping, of spending the day mainlining caffeine to counter attack the prior night, then drinking to counter balance all the caffeine. Slowly, the more I stop started, the more I began to see that not drinking was where I needed to be. The brief spells without alcohol made me realise how much better I felt without the drink. Sure, I was struggling with cravings in those times, but I could tell even then that removing the alcohol made me calmer, soothed the anxiety, quietened the crazy.

Somewhere around the second to last time I quit, I also made the decision to give up caffeine AND cigarettes. In for a penny and all of that…. The cigarettes were hard. The first couple of days was hell, I was one grouchy, short-tempered lady. Caffeine equally wasn’t a walk in the park. A good ten days of caffeine withdrawal – the migraines were torture.

I’ve now had two months with no caffeine or cigarettes and one month with out caffeine, cigarettes or alcohol. So here I am, celebrating the fact that I’ve made it this far. It hasn’t been easy, and if I’m honest, these thirty days have felt like a lifetime. There have been times it’s taken me every ounce of willpower to not give up, to make it through another night. But it feels like I’ve turned a corner, that the hardest part is behind me – that while I’ll continue to make this a conscious decision to not drink, I never believed I could manage a whole month without a drink, and I’ve proved myself wrong.

While I still feel really anxious A LOT of the time, the panic attacks have eased off hugely. There was a time when they’d come in waves, one after another for hours and hours at a time. When I could barely catch my breath from when one ended to when the next began. When the thought of leaving the house was enough to have me cowering in the corner, and I spent hours on the back step, just trying to breathe. They still come most days, but they’re not so debilitating and I’ve mostly mastered the art of breathing through them and letting them pass swiftly.

My mood swings from low to OK – yet that dark place I was in a few weeks ago has gone, I don’t feel the same hopelessness and desperation that I did for so many months.  My emotions have been all over the place this past month. Without the alcohol to numb them, I had to feel all the feelings – something I’ve never done before. I’m learning to sit with them, to not label them, just let them be what they are. To acknowledge how I’m feeling but not let it overwhelm me. I can feel this leveling out a little now – I feel lighter than before, more at ease with myself.

Physically, the first few days were hard. My body was detoxing from the alcohol and yearning for just one drink. After the first week or two that started to ease off, and now, 30 days in I can feel the fog from my brain clearing. I feel more like ‘me’ again. More able to think clearly, to function on more than a basic level.

What have I learned from the last month? I’ve learned so much about myself through this, seen what triggers me, what makes me want to reach for a bottle and seek oblivion. I’ve learned I’m far stronger than I ever thought, that I can make it through the toughest times without a crutch to hold my hand. That the alcohol especially really was destroying my life, clouding my thoughts, affecting the way I reacted {overreatced}. That without it I’m calmer, more grounded, able to take a step back before I react, able to control my self-destructive urges more. It’s reminded me just how much of an addictive personality I have, and how stubborn I can be – only know I’m trying to use those traits for good, making them work for me. I couldn’t have made it to where I am without a bucket load of support, people cheering me on and there when I needed a reminder that I don’t need a drink. I’m mighty pleased that I’ve made it so far, and am entirely committed to embracing sober life.

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