You know that rumbly sound of slurping the last of your drink through a straw?
I can’t decide if I love or hate that sound.
Maybe I should decide to like it because it’s a satisfying sound of finishing, being sure to get every last drop of something tasty. And maybe I should hate it because it’s a belchy kind of irritating satisfying sound.
I feel this way about sobriety. Some days I’m absolutely in love with its satisfaction, and other days (ahem, yesterday) I hate the itchy irritation of it. When I was drinking I was trying to take the edge off. What I’m learning is that it wasn’t working, not at all. My edges are more rounded now than when I was pouring glass after glass night after night. I’m softer and lighter and different.
The thing is, sober or not, alcoholic or not, life is covered in itchy irritation. So when I’m hating sobriety, it isn’t even really sobriety that I’m hating. And therein lies the beauty of remaining alcohol-free. It’s just right. It fits, even if a bit tightly at first.
And I see it as a gift. Because I don’t know how to answer you when you ask, “but what if I feel like you were feeling and I’m not an alcoholic?”
“What if your journey and your struggle resonate with me and I don’t drink? How do I change?”
I’ve gotten so many emails like that, and I just don’t know what to tell you. I really wish I did. Sometimes it feels really selfish to be wading through my issues, taking so much time away, an hour at a time, many days, to work on me, to stay sober. But I have to. I have no choice. So in a way, I wish every one of you, especially the mothers who write to me, could be given that. Time away to remain victorious over it, whatever your it may be.
Here, leave the house, sit and talk and just be. Do it or you will self-destruct. Here are some tools, use them. Here is a list of numbers, dial them when you feel lost or lonely.
I wish every woman, every mother, could be given that permission. To go and seek and learn what it is that makes her tick or keeps her all tied up in her own head. To heal and cry and grow, rounding her edges. To maybe take a good look at her hard truths, the ones we all have, the things that we need to give up, to rid our lives of so that we can breathe. Selfishness, over-eating, booze, vicodin, yelling and screaming, too much TV or Internet time, whatever! Usually we are upset and twisted up inside because we have no time to be honest with ourselves about what needs to go. Resentments? Anger? Habitual lying? Self-deprecation or hatred? Guilt?
You know what it is for you. Maybe only you know. If you could stand in front of the mirror, staring straight into those eyes of yours, refusing to look away until the truth has set you free, you would see that you know. And as painful as whatever that truth can be, looking at it is the only option on a road to freedom.
It will make that slurpy and belchy sound and panic will rise in your chest, but you will start to untwist. And you will look around and say, Oh God, what do I do now and then you will tell someone who loves you dearly and you will say I have to do something about this. And sometimes that means getting help, so you will ask someone to help you get help and then you will do it. Because realizing you are powerless over whatever you are carrying and pushing and pulling and wearing, it just becomes what you have to do, once you stop running from it.
I am sitting in a coffee shop with all the windows open and a breeze is blowing over my sandaled feet and I’m wondering, who am I to say these things? What do I know?
But I wanted to answer your questions, while I hear the slurping sounds of finished drinks from tables around me. I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry I can’t give you steps to overcoming the way you feel, you who is maybe not an alcoholic but you who still wants to know what’s wrong with you.
Friends, those people, other mothers or just any person, who seem so happy and content? Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they’re just like you and like me. And if they are truly peaceful, even serene? I’m guessing they gave something up. Because if we’re telling any kind of good story at all with our lives, we’ve sacrificed something to win something better, you know? Every good story (as it says in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) is about wanting something and overcoming a great obstacle to get it.
Not every obstacle is a bold addiction. But maybe it’s more of a way of thinking or living or dealing, a way that just doesn’t sit right in your heart of hearts. What we’re all seeking so much of the time (aside from spiritual things) is balance. Every mother, every person, knows that balance is at times completely impossible because life just won’t allow for it. But I want to tell you that I am closer to it than I have ever come and only because I took something out of my life that would make balance impossible, leaving me reeling and twisted.
I’m still twisted up a whole lot of the time, but not in such a shackled way. New days abound in which I start again and feel renewed. When I was drinking, there was no such thing as true renewal.
I am four months sober today, and that’s all I know.
(This post was originally published on The Extraordinary Ordinary in May of 2010)
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