In March 2007 I decided it was time to give up alcohol. In that moment, I had no idea how wonderful my life would be. I just knew it was time. I’ve since realized that I’m the very fortunate recipient of an amazing gift: the gift of sobriety.
I no longer experience cravings for alcohol. The obsession has been lifted. I’m simply going about my life, sober. Alcohol is a non-issue. I’m free. Life today is more beautiful than I ever dared to dream.
It wasn’t always so easy, though. In the beginning it was extremely difficult. I hung on, though, because sober people assured me that it would get easier. Here are some of the things I did to survive those early days, weeks and months.
I connected daily with other intentionally sober people. It was important to surround myself with people who had successfully done what I was trying to do. They encouraged and inspired me. I followed their suggestions and trusted the process.
I took a lot of naps. I instinctively knew that I was doing the single most important thing I had ever done in my life. Perseverance was critical. It was also exhausting. So I napped, a lot.
I ate differently. For me, cooking, eating and drinking were all so related. The thought of sautéing without white wine made me sad. Eggplant Parmesan without red wine? I could not. Pizza without beer? Fugetaboutit! So I ate a lot of cereal, peanut butter & jelly other things I didn’t associate with drinking.
I did my grocery shopping early. Here in Florida where I live, the grocery stores sell beer and wine. It was slightly easier to pass by the beer and wine aisles in the morning than it would have been later in the day.
I bought myself a beautiful mug and lots of fancy teas. For forever, alcohol had been my reward for getting through the day, the week, whatever. I needed a replacement reward. Tea in a beautiful mug did the trick.
I took long walks. Lots of them.
I temporarily changed my music. Certain songs put me in the mood for a cold one. So I created a sobriety playlist of songs that I associated with my new journey.
I carried a beverage in with me. If I needed to drop by the house of a friend, this eliminated the whole “can I get you a drink?” conversation.
I declined social events I knew would involve drinking.
I made a mental list of all the reasons I quit in the first place and reviewed it regularly.
I read a lot of recovery literature.
I participated in activities I normally might not have. I fostered a litter of puppies. They kept me busy and broke the boredom of early sobriety. I signed up for a race and committed to an early morning training schedule. As I trained, I was fully aware of the absence of a hangover. I lined up at midnight on a Saturday for Hannah Montana tickets. Six hours later, as the sun rose, I rejoiced with gratitude as I purchased the tickets for my daughter and her friends.
These are just a few examples. I’m not suggesting that these exact activities would be beneficial to everybody in early sobriety. It’s the awareness and the gratitude that kept me strong. Awareness of all the things that were made possible by intentional sobriety. Gratitude for the gifts.
I can’t tell you the exact moment when it all fell into place. It didn’t happen suddenly. It happened gradually. Each day brought a little more relief. Each week was better than the one before. Eventually, sobriety felt natural and easy. Today, the struggles of early sobriety are long behind me. I listen to, cook and eat whatever I like, socialize with whoever I choose and shop whenever it strikes my fancy. I no longer associate any of these things with alcohol. I continue to exercise, take naps and enjoy the company of sober people. I still pay attention to the gifts. I live with gratitude. I do these things because I want to.
I drink tea too. Because I like it. I no longer need a reward for getting through the day, the week or whatever. I’ve discovered that every day is a reward in itself. The struggle is over. I’m free!