Today is my 100th day of sobriety. I feel like crap, but I want to mark the milestone. I painted this bird and a few other bits and pieces this weekend, so I guess they can be commemorative.
This is the longest I have been sober in years. And gradually, ever so gradually, not drinking is becoming a bit more familiar. It feels less peculiar that I don’t get drunk now.
I’m not a ‘typical’ alcoholic. I think I’m what’s called ‘functional’. Which is ironic because I only function at a very basic level these days. Anyway, I always drank to soothe myself. I would get drunk to be melancholy. Melancholy has beauty in it. Depression, hatred, anger and self-loathing don’t. I always knew I wouldn’t feel better for drinking, I would just feel somewhat muted. I would still have those powerful, destructive emotions, it’s just I would care less about them. I’d sit with them; hold them close, feeling and knowing their weight in a non-active way. I could let those thoughts engulf me instead of distracting and running and fighting. In a way, it helped.
But there was also a very sinister side to my drinking. Every now and then, I would tip from melancholy into despair. And if I had a bottle of wine on board, I wouldn’t care about consequences anymore. It was liberating. Finally, I could allow those dark voices to take me over, to drive my demise. I’d drink, take some benzos, and a short while later I would stop caring. That’s when the suicide attempts happened.
One evening, when one of these moods took hold of me, I ran away. I was in my pyjamas and it was pouring with rain. I took only my credit card and sneaked out of the house as my wife watched TV. It felt incredible. I literally ran. I sprinted in the torrential rain, bought a bottle of Scotch, then wandered around town in the dark. I allowed myself to become my misery. I cried and ranted and argued with myself. I felt panicked and exhilarated. I didn’t stop to consider that my wife was frantic at home, phoning my therapist and the police and ransacking the house to make sure I hadn’t taken knives with me. I wound up at a friend’s house, sobbing and cold. I was incoherent. She drove me home and I threw up in her car. I remember apologising a lot.
What happened in the last week was a landmark for me. A seemingly small and inconsequential dinner with friends. There was wine on the table, expensed to the company, free and available. I was in another country, nobody could check up on me. But I didn’t want it. I didn’t want the danger that comes with getting drunk. I felt OK socialising sober. I actually had fun, relaxed and enjoyed my evening. That was an absolute revelation.
I’m not religious, but the serenity prayer means a great deal to me. So one more time, for everyone who knows this struggle and feels the strength in these words. I wish you courage, wisdom, and most of all, I hope we can all find a little serenity.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.