Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Super Brain

Still sober. Most of the time, this isn't even a big deal. Having made it through a year has shown me that I have everything I need to stay sober. I've survived the seasons, the holidays, the annual ups and downs, and managed everything without a drink. Now I just have to keep doing the stuff I've been doing, using what works and discarding what doesn't, and keep it up. It does take energy to live a sober life, but it takes MORE energy to live a drunk one, so I'm ahead of the game.

In general, though, there isn't much to say. I plan to keep this journal forever, because my life will always have moments where the difference between drinking and staying sober seems interesting to me, or moments where I'll need to let out a primal scream to the internets about frustration. One day I'll tell my mom something about my drinking, maybe, and I'll blog about that. Or when I visit my step mom who likes her wine very much, I'm sure that will inspire an entry or two. But in the meantime I don't have much to say.

Oh, except that I think being sober has given me a super-power: incredible intelligence. Not really, but I've been feeling somewhat smart lately. Part of it is that I had my final exam for a psychology course I took over the summer, and got a 95% on it (and I finished it in 25 minutes - 80 multiple choice questions, with time to review), but just in general I've been feeling more bright, a little more swift in my thinking. I like it.

I heard somewhere that it can take about 4 years for the brain to completely recover from prolonged alcohol abuse: it takes that long for the synapses and support cells and connections to get to a place where the brain works just about as well as it would have without killing all those brain cells. If so, I've had a full year of my brain rewiring itself, growing back where my drinking had pruned it. I've also been more physically active and eating more healthfully, which also have a positive impact on cognition. It's been a subtle change, but I like this new me. I'm better able to understand complex things like relationships, I can see other peoples' points of view better, I'm better equipped to handle anger and frustration and - especially - boredom.

Who knows how much this is just psychosomatic, a placebo effect where I feel smarter because I want to feel smarter, but I like feeling this way, and I intend to enjoy it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


As an added bonus, yesterday I crossed the "2000 page views" marker. I know that's nothing on the internet, but it made me feel good to see the numbers creep up.

And the rest of yesterday went fine, I don't know why I was making such a fuss. The boyfriend and I shared a toast, and then later on I went over to a friend's house where a few of us hung out and watched TV and talked. It was nice.

And that's all I have to say for myself this morning. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, October 5, 2012

One Year Sober

Well, the internet makes everything better, I guess. Writing my post last night, and getting comments here and at a forum (unrelated to drinking) that I frequent, plus a healthy hour of yoga this morning (I am one of "those guys" now, with the yoga mat. This could be a horror story for hard core drinkers: if you ever stop drinking, this is what you become! Muhahaha!) have improved my mood. I'm not so much sad anymore as "contemplative" and "introspective" and "meditative" or something. I can ease back into feeling kind of melancholy again, but I'm also well-placed to ease into "content" or "pleasantly centred," so I'll take that.


Just over a year ago, I flew back home to Halifax for my brother's wedding. I was still drinking, and if you had told me that in less than a week I would begin my longest period of sobriety in my adult life, I would have been extremely skeptical. I'd been thinking about my drinking a lot, but not in any specific way. I was coming off of a very difficult summer where all of the high points had turned out to be low points, and I was not very happy.

Despite the fact that no one involved in the wedding had any idea what was going on until the very last minute, it was a beautiful day in the end. The bride was 25 minutes late, as is her right, and she was beautiful. My brother looked like my brother, a bit of a cad, but one in a tux at least, and a gentle and caring and funny guy, like he's been his whole life. My mom, who is a minister, officiated the ceremony, I read a poem, they said their vows, we took pictures all over the church and then us wedding party people went off to take more pictures before the reception, and everybody had a good time.

Afterwards, us guys went back to my brother's place to chill for an hour (turned out to be three hours) while the bride, my new sister-in-law, got ready with the maids of honour. Us guys shared some pot, had a beer or two, and toasted my brother and shook our heads, amazed at what he'd gotten himself into. When the bride was ready, we regrouped, took more pictures, and then it was reception time.

And then, for me, the whole day went downhill. First, I had to moderate my drinking, because I had to give a speech for my side of the family, and I wanted it to be a good one (and I hadn't written it yet!). I watched as everyone got tipsier and tipsier, and I just nursed my drinks, getting drunk, but not as drunk as I wanted to be. Not even close to that drunk I wanted to be.

I gave my speech, and it was good, and then, suddenly, I felt stuck. I was anxious. I was hyper-aware of myself. I had to represent the family. I couldn't get loaded, what if I did or something awful? But I wanted to drink. I wanted to drink so badly. The whole evening, the only thing, the ONLY thing I could think about was how much I wanted to get drunk, to just leave that party, go someplace private, and drink until I got where I wanted to be. I hated everyone who was drinking. I hated everyone who wasn't drinking. Every thought I had was twisted by wanting a drink. I was miserable.

Eventually, my boyfriend and I went back to our hotel room, and the next day we flew back home to Toronto. I felt awful and guilty and horrible. What had just happened? My little brother had just gotten married to a truly wonderful woman (I love my brother, but there is a very convincing argument for the idea that she is a little bit better than he might deserve), I'd had a chance to connect with family I hadn't seen in years, everything about the day had been perfect....and I had felt miserable. What was wrong with me?

I knew it was the drinking. Weddings are crazy, stressful, emotionally charged events, but I knew deep down that none of that mattered. What mattered was that I was miserable only because I had felt like I couldn't pour enough booze down my throat. What mattered was that if given a choice between that wedding or staying at home getting drunk, I knew which I would truly prefer. I vowed that day, my first day back, a Sunday, to moderate my drinking and get it under control.

But then, three days later, Wednesday night, the night I liked to watch Survivor on TV, I bought a 12-pack of beer and was getting drunk by myself again, as if I'd learned nothing at all. I don't even remember how I made the decision, but at some point that evening, I stood up, walked to the calendar in the kitchen and wrote "last drink" on it. It was October 5th.


Since then, I've had to face the truth. There is no "moderation" for me. There is no "getting this under control." If I drink, I lose control. that's a fact. It's a hard fact, but I can't change it.

On the surface, I don't know how much has changed. I'm not suddenly living in a mansion or getting promotions left and right. I'm actually unemployed, so, maybe there's a cautionary tale somewhere in this, ha ha. But I do feel better. Overall, averaged over the year, I'm better. My first entry I said I wanted to be a better person, to be smarter and more caring, to be successful in my career and my relationships. I left my job, but that was to pursue my education, and I think that was a good choice. I think I'm meeting those goals. I think I am smarter, more caring, and I think my relationships are stronger, too.

I am better.


This morning, my boyfriend left a note on my computer's keyboard. It says, in part:

CHEERS to a full year of sobriety! I am so impressed with your control, discipline, and self-care. I am glad you've found the love for yourself required to stay strong for a full year.
 I am caring for myself. I am learning to love myself. I am discovering strength and discipline within myself.

This is what a year of sobriety feels like. It wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be. There were pleasures and surprises I never expected to find. I am learning what living really means, and how precious my life really is, and I'm learning to savour and respect the moments I have, because each one is unique and special and will never come again. I am learning to see and feel beyond the superficial, to not be as afraid of the depths. I am learning wisdom.

Looking back, one year seems like such a short time, and the year ahead feels like it could last forever. I'm eager to learn what a second year of sobriety is like, what surprises and lessons the universe has in store. What will I learn, about myself, about the world? What next?

My name is Marc, and I am still Dry.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pre-Sober Eve

Tomorrow is my 1 year anniversary of my last drink. Tonight I don't have anything inspirational to say. In fact, I just went for a walk just to get out of the apartment because I'm feeling....I don't know, hollow? Kind of?

On my walk, I passed by the wine store. It's doors were open and a couple of people were laughing together as they left. Inside, it was bright and inviting. I passed by the millions of bars in my neighbourhood, filled with people enjoying one of the last days on the patio before winter strikes, clinking glasses and catching up with friends. I went to the grocery store, where the new liquor store happens to be, one of the few that I've actually been in since I decided to be a sober person full-time.

At the grocery store, I bought some turkey burgers and, because I have this sad, hollow kind of feeling, two bottles of flavoured sparkling water. I think that sparkling water companies should market to us sober people. I think sparkling water just might have saved some lives...or at least livers.

Tonight I will drink of the pomegranate sparkling water, and tomorrow, the day I've chosen as my true anniversary (I'm celebrating my "last drink" instead of my "first full day sober"), I'll have the Italian Lemonade, and this will be fine.

So, I'm sad for a few reasons, but I'm still going to raise a glass to me. Because my being sober is nothing to be sad about. I've done a year, and I hope to do many, many more years, and I hope this one was the hardest.

Tomorrow I'll write a real post, instead of this place-holder. But if you're reading this, and you have a glass of sparkling water nearby, feel free to raise your glass with mine, in recognition of this lonely, strange, and brave journey we're on.