When I decided to give up the booze it was mainly about wanting to improve my health. I wasn’t the stereotypical down and out drunk. I was someone who found it difficult, when I did drink, to drink moderately and I was fed up with the constant battle. I’d tried a three month no alcohol challenge, saw the numerous benefits and gradually came to the conclusion that the drink had to go. Not an easy decision; I was going to be giving up a lot but the pros of giving up outweighed the cons. Now, after a week of sobriety some unsettling thoughts and feelings are starting to emerge. It’s getting uncomfortable. I’m getting anxious.
It started on Friday when I started to get what felt like cravings and I wrote about this on my blog. Saturday and Sunday were the same and I realised the cravings were being fed not so much by a physical need for alcohol but by a desire to quieten down some of the uncomftable feelings welling up inside me.
One of the most pervading feelings was one of anxiety, a sense of unease, edginess. I know some will say that’s part of the withdrawal from alcohol but it’s a feeling I used to have even when drinking regularly. This was not addiction speaking, it was dissatisfaction and ennui. Saturday I prepared a meal, but there was no fun or joy in it. I cooked, we ate, watched TV, slept. Great, is that it? At least with a glass of wine I’d get a reprieve from those feelings. It made me relaxed, I could look at life and smile, pretend and believe that life was OK. Take the drink away and it all looks a bit bleak. I even had the fleeting thought that,”if this is what life is going to be like, get back to drinking, at least you’ll enjoy parts of the ride.”
I know, I know, this is all part of the sober journey. Dealing with the difficult stuff. For me though the difficult stuff is facing up to the fact that there is not enough happening in my life. It’s also maybe the recognition that without the booze I have to confront the fact that I find intimacy difficult. Spending time being with someone, anyone, without the mask of alcohol just brings on these waves of anxiety.
I think I said earlier in this blog that I haven’t gone too deeply into the origins of my drinking behaviour, the whys and wherefore of my drinking because that’s the past and I wanted to focus on changing the present but this last weekend in particular highlights that I do need to understand why I maintained my drinking habits. Without understanding that and finding alternatives I know that I may be drawn back to alcohol as a way of just dealing with shitty feelings.
The anxiety I felt this weekend was part craving but for the most part it was borne of seeing my current life in the full white glare of sobriety. Stuck in a village, trying to be a loyal, loving partner, tinkering on the edges of life, somehow strangely lonely and isolated. Boy, no wonder I drank! But I’m not drinking and I don’t intend starting again so something has to give or change. I can’t spend weekends like this last one, feeling anxious and disattisfied. A silent, shuffling presence just wanting to be on my own. On top of that waves of feelings of loss come back. My marriage to the mother of my sons 15 years ago, the death of a best friend last year, losing my brother, son and father in the space of three grim years 10 years ago. This is not self pity, everyone has to deal with loss, but alcohol can sometimes can just take the edge of it. And maybe, just maybe I never gave myself the time and space to grieve fully.
This blog has helped. Externalising the thoughts and feelings by writing. Getting feedback and support and being able to offer it sometimes. There does emerge a real sense of community when you blog, a knowledge that you do not have to deal with things alone. Of course some things do need to be dealt with internally and alone and maybe I have put those off for too long. I am someone with enthusiasm for life, who likes to laugh and that’s the fella I need to rediscover. Yes, without booze I may get a bit anxious, feel that life lacks something, but I should also, without booze, be in a much better position to do something about it.