Saturday, October 3, 2015

Almost 4 years.

Two days from now will be my 4 years soberversary. I'm writing now because I have a couple of minutes that I might not have tomorrow or the next, and I wanted to do my annual "yep, still sober" post. After I write this, I'll probably go and read my previous posts and do some thinking.

I'm really, really happy to still be sober. I have my frustrations, and I've had my struggles with anxiety and depression, but I am still convinced that no matter how hard things have gotten, they could always have been made worse by taking a drink.

So, here I am today: I'm still with my amazing and huge-hearted partner, going on 7 and a half years now. I'm working at the same gym as I was this time last year as a personal trainer, and I feel like I'm settling in. I had a reasonably successful season with my rugby team, finally finding that comfort zone where I can socialize with a bunch of drunk post-match rugby people without feeling like a dork. I had one of the best summers I've had in recent memory where everything lined up to provide a relaxing and fun season. I paid for that summer with a few weeks of anxiety that I was able to manage without feeling too miserable, and with a paycheque that doesn't even come close to paying my bills let alone my tiny mountains of debt, but was worth it and I would do it again.

So, what is four years of sobriety like?

For anyone keeping track, I definitely still do feel nostalgic for alcohol from time to time. I have intense sense-memory experiences of a cold beer or the sharp burn of whisky or vodka, the bitter/sour tang of wine. Not often, but I do. I expect that won't ever go away.

I spend some amount of time doing the hypothetical "would I drink if...?" game. Most recently while watching a mediocre thriller about a bunch of strangers trapped in a house and told they have to kill each other. Before the killing started, they found a liquor cabinet and had a bacchanalia to live in denial of their predicament for a while. So, if I were trapped by a psychopath in a situation with no food, no escape, but a cabinet full of booze.....surely that situation couldn't get much worse by reigniting my addiction, right? With no hope for escape, and only misery ahead of me, why not dull the pain with some self-administered anesthetic?

So is it hope that keeps me sober? If it is, that's a dangerous place to be, I think. I know that I experience depression, that I have been in situations where things seemed hopeless (even though they clearly were not), and I have reason to believe I could end up in that headspace - or even worse - again, just because of a quirk of brain chemistry.

I need more than hope to keep me sober. Not because hope isn't useful, but because it isn't always there.

I think - and I'm not sure of this, I'm making it up as I go along - that my sobriety is borne of pragmatism. I don't know if I'm a pragmatic person, but the idea of being pragmatic appeals to me: just do what works, or if nothing works, do what fails the least. Simple.

And if I'm a recovering alcoholic trapped in a house with 8 strangers and told we have to kill each other to survive and there's no escape and there's a liquor cabinet sitting there and everyone else is drowning their fear and their sorrow and their anger.....getting drunk won't help. Eventually the booze will run out (it always does), eventually I'd be left in the same spot I was before, but with a gross and moldy mouth, a headache, holes in my memory, and a now -revitalized need to drink. Even without hope of a rescue, even without hop[ing being clear-headed would let me take advantage of a slim chance of escape, staying sober is the better choice.


Another "game" I play, "what would happen if I accidently drank?" This is an anxiety thing that comes up, where I'll think I taste alcohol in my drink, or I'll worry that a friend who doesn't know how seriously I'm taking this sober thing will spike a drink at a party and I'll end up accidently buzzed. What then? Will my life fall apart?

I don't have much of an answer to this one, except that I can expect it would be hard, but that I would have to use all the will and determination that I used to quit this time. I don't know if I could do it another time, but I hope that I would try. And so...that means I need to keep my skills sharp. I need to remind myself WHY I'm sober. I need to always be convinced of how important it is to me.

Those are things from "what is life like at 4 years sober".

But also, I do feel like I'm growing up. Right now I do have a low-level bit of despair that unless something changes, my best case scenario will be that I pay off my debts before I die. No savings or cushy retirement for me at my current pace. But hey, drinking wouldn't help with that.

There's that idea that we stop maturing, that our brains stop maturing, when we begin to drink. Setting aside the accuracy of it, let's imagine that my 4 years of sobriety have caught me up a little bit. Instead of having a teenager's brain, now I've got the brain of someone in his 20s. That's a big difference there.

Hmm. I guess I've written a lot without really saying anything. But, my goal was to mark this anniversary, and I've done that. 4 years, still sober, still think it is the best thing I could be doing. I'll end this post here, and hopefully anyone reading this will take care for themselves and their loved ones, and I will see you all next year, or maybe before that, who can say....