Day 222 which is a nice and satisfying number in look and duration. I have flown through the holidays very easily where thoughts of drink are concerned and the only thing I really have missed, but still in passing, is Baileys. It is something I would have drunk for the indulgence of it rather than the alcohol content. For years in our household a Baileys coffee for breakfast on Christmas Day was the norm.
Missing alcohol for me is like a missing back tooth (which caused me so much pain I would have given the dentist the deed to my house to take it out had he asked) I only really miss it when I look for it but most of the time I forget it's not there anymore -however there is a gap there where it used to be. For the first few months of not drinking I filled that gap with food, Becks Blue, more coffee and sugar which had never really bothered me before, I was always a salty person rather than a sweet person. This is akin to fashioning a new tooth out of a Brazil nut or a piece of popcorn or even a pebble, something to fill the GIANT gap you are so aware of. Now at nearly 7 months I have accepted that there is a manageable sized gap in my life and no longer feel the need to stick a replacement there, it doesn't bother me and it's only if I go searching for the gap that I realise it's there. I had the same realisation with smoking years ago and once I learned to cope with the gap it kind if faded into the background.
For anyone feeling like there is a giant chasm in their life opened up since quitting alcohol, rest assured there are ways of getting through the initial emptiness. Blogging helps, eating helps, going for walks, going to bed early, a gripping novel, knitting, adult colouring books, self help books, journaling, AA meetings, online sober support. In the beginning you are looking to fill in the gap as it is so large, so obvious and such a huge part of your life just GONE! But........and I truly mean this, it does start to shrink, maybe oh so slowly but shrink it does. Every now and again you will approach the edge of the chasm and think you know the perfect solution (literally solution) to fill it in but ultimately you know that if you fill it in you will be back in pain again and the gap will be bigger next time. If you are standing on the edge looking in, MIND THE GAP, step away quick sharp. Blog about it, wring your hands and pace up and down, put something in your mouth, food, water, cake, sugar lumps, coffee, chewing gum and go and sit down somewhere away from the edge.
They say time heals all wounds and that can be applied in this case too. What seems like it will never pass and what is causing you so much pain and anguish will subside and only time and distance can get you there. There is no quick fix because as with grief, you have to go through the various stages to understand and grow stronger, a sobriety pill wouldn't work because it wouldn't provide you with the skills and habits needed to create long term success. Awareness is one of the biggest tools you can use. Being aware of how you are feeling, mad, angry, sad, lonely, disappointed, scared, frustrated, disappointed etc will give you something to think about and work on and at some point you may say "oh, this is why I used to drink" but in that moment you also have the opportunity to think, what happens if I just stay with this feeling and allow the gap to be there unfilled? It might surprise you 5 minutes, 30 minutes or a hour later to realise you survived it, you weren't consumed by the gaping chasm, you are still standing on the edge and you know you can do it again.
I am re-reading some of my very early blogs from this time last year and I am amazed at what was pouring out of my head. Probably because it was 'anonymous' and I hadn't told a living soul how bad I was feeling and how desperately worried I was about myself. This first few posts were just a cascade of thoughts from my head. Like a shaken bottle of champagne, when the corked was popped there was an explosive gush of trapped energy that spewed out unchecked. In hindsight I shared too much and some of it is more than a little mortifying but a lot of it was written late at night when I was at my most lubed up and drunkenly reflective. This one here sums up how deep in I was that night, the weird layout is due to me writing it on a Works doc and the copying it over to the blog. It is a bit cringeworthy reading it back but sums up the way my thoughts galloped around between being philosophical, morose, depressed and self hating and hopeful that I could recreate myself. It's long and rambling but also eyeopening.
This sobriety thing is all very doable but seems so elusive in the beginning and so fragile that it's hard to hold onto at first but it is very very achievable if you just keep telling yourself you can get through the next 5 mins and then the next. Just allow yourself 10 days to get the alcohol out of your system, 30 days to change a habit and 100 days to get some clarity. Chances are when you get to 100 you wont want to go back but just for now give yourself a chance to see if things can be different and better.