Checking in on day 62.
It might be no big deal for some - well it’s life changing for me.
Last time I used I hurt myself bad. I was wishing I was dead almost every day.
That was obviously not what I told myself couple weeks or months before when started to drink more heavily: it was to get high, to change my mind, to calm down some anxiety, to have fun (most of time alone), to forget. I was aware that drinking was a problem. I had a couple of sobriety attempts before since 2018, which the only notables ones were 50 and 198 days - and they were some high achievements moments in terms of health, sports, academia, work, relationships.
But in the last year I turned my head around and avoided that problem. It wasn’t that bad after all, I told myself. I was drinking often but was too busy in life to let it sink in too much. I was also in an early relationship so I wanted to be a good overall person. But slowly, it came back. After a long autumn of working hard, during Christmas times, I restarted drinking bad. But you know, everything was normalized because there was partys after partys, and like, morning drinking was ok you know. Well, I kind of never left that state and habits of drinking after that Christmas time: the secret-drinking. I remember my mornings, before going to work, walking in the streets and hiding behind containers to chug beers - me, a normal dude.
Feelings all over the place and adding up the isolation from confinement, I soon became just a full time drunk. I went from a caregiver, healthy boyfriend and brother and friend, to a couch drinker who, at the end, just wanted his life to end. I was stuck in the circle habit of drinking, and it kept the feelings and shame hitting on me everyday. I still got the chill as I write this in the same room I used to be so tortured by the ideas of drinking…
Everyday I would wake up with the best intentions. Sometime with a plan, sometime not. I have had tons of explications for my behaviors and tried moderation, exposition, focusing on calories intake, learn and practice a new philosophy… anything to make me be able to control my drinking. Damn I wished moderation… But drinking became such an habit, that it has been associated with almost everything in my days and week so I just couldn’t go a day without it: tired of working on computer? cheer it up with some beers; tired? drink; exited? drink; bored? drink; feeling any feeling? drink; go out? drink; stay in? drink; hungry? drink; morning? drink; afternoon? drink; alone? drink; …you get the picture (and you know it well).
How to get out of this circle of habits and associations?
Damn it’s so hard. I’ve failed so many times. What is the point anyway… The urge is so strong and there seems to be nothing else to make it go away, apart from starting again in the next morning. Tomorrow will be better… As I write this, again and still, some images of drinking pop-up in my head because it rewires the associations I’ve made so many time with those thoughts and behaviors of going to grocery and say “Fuck this”. I was and still am some time afraid of those images of drinking. It is called learned reactions to visualizations, or learned helplessness… As I was sitting in my couch, feeling the cravings, the reaction would be to just go and get some drinks. But after awhile, consequences came from this behavior: depression, shameful actions, etc. So when in the morning I said that I wouldn’t drink today, when the craving came or even just the idea of drinking, it triggered that part of me who would usually go to the stores and say “fuck this” - but as I knew this would led to a shit show and as I knew I didn’t want to drink, I already felt the shameful feelings and the depression that would come out of it. But guess what, those shameful feelings and depression were also associated with going out to the stores and say “fuck this”… because I have done it so many times, it became a learned reactions too…
So, How to get out of this circle of habits and associations?
Gotta take a leap out of it.
This ain’t going to be easy. Before feeling good, there is a big moment of feeling like shit. In any change there is discomfort - so be sure that in the change that include an addictive behavior, there will be discomfort. That is why I had to relay on something bigger than me, something bigger than those feelings and cravings. Something outside and inside of me at the same time. Something different. Totally different. I knew I wanted to change but didn’t know how. So I tried something.
I would like to share now what I think was the big parts of why my recovery works better now that it has before:
“I won’t drink today, whatever it takes.” That phrase is now considered for me evolutive. In the sens that for the first day, the “whatever it takes” had a different meaning than the rest of the first week, and the one after, and the rest of the month, and the second month. For example, the first week I was basically letting myself be on the couch, watching Netflix, calling off work, eating anything I wanted, drinking any sugars and basically do anything to keep me from drinking, and having in mind that I could call my mother or my girlfriend to come and see me, or even bring me to the hospital - anything. I have done that for almost a week. After it, the “whatever it takes” evolved differently. For example, now that I am working, working out, eating well, having different project, I know that if I come back from work and feel like drinking or that I feel too much pressure and I think I would need a drink to get through my day or the paper I am working on, I have put in place different ways to do “whatever it takes” to not drink. I would put a list down after this, but I often told myself that at the very least I can always call it a day off, and it reminds me that all this stress and work that I do wouldn’t even be possible for me to feel and accomplish if I was drinking - so taking a day or night off or even a week-end to do anything else will always be a possibility. If stoping to drink is the first thing you do, there has to be an action to which you can replace it in a way at the begining. Brain works better with action than inaction (“not drinking”). So writing down everything I can do instead of drinking was something I had to work on and to which I encourage everyone. I’ll put down my list of means I’ve find as my go-to’s if ever I get cravings.
Psychotherapy. Can’t name every aspects in which it has helped me in my life so far. But if you can afford it, do it. If you don’t like your therapist, change it. The relation is the number one factor of a successful psychotherapy. Go after that and work the process.
Outpatient therapy for addiction and therapy. Maybe the first week or so is something you are use to do sober by yourself. Maybe you can talk to people in your entourage and that’s cool. But is there someone to which you can deeply talk and be accountable about your objective about alcohol? Someone who can actually ask you the questions people won’t necessarily ask you? Questions that you avoid yourself? To give you homework you would just never do by yourself because, well just because? It has been a game changer for me. I would pass all the benefits I had to just name 3 things:
Fixing a goal about alcohol. For me, it is abstinence.
Writing a Framework of benefits and disadvantages of Drinking versus the benefits and disadvantages of Change.To help to see the “why” under that goal, and keep the focus on it, this exercice was a real game changer for me. Take a piece of paper and write all the advantages of drinking. Right next to it, write all the disadvantages of drinking. After that write all the advantages of change. Then write the disadvantages of change. After that, you put the piece of paper on a wall or somewhere you can see it often - like, everyday. This isn’t an optional part of the exercice: this is what this is all about. Brain works better with frequent exposition to what you want out of it. I put it on the shelf of my library which is in front of my office desk beside my working computer, so it is always in my field of vision. So every time I have a craving and see and advantage to drinking in my head, right beside it I instantly see the huge list of disadvantages, but more importantly I see all the advantages I got from changing. It has now became automatic: when I have a craving, I see all that come with it, where it could lead me and what I can accomplish instead. You will be surprised how that simple exercice can change your view and be helpful the next time you want to pickup.
Writing down what is supporting the short, mid and long term goal of abstinence: What do you want out of your life? Take a piece of paper (or a couple of them) and write down all that come out of your mind. Writing isn’t an option, this is how it works. Putting words out of your mind and put it out so you can come back to it. For me it consisted of taking time to search in my mind and write what are my principles, my values, my visions of life and what are my goals in different areas in my life. I come back to this very often now even when feeling uncertain about things that aren’t related to addiction at all.
Make a list of things to do when you have a craving. So here is my list.
- Talk. To my family, to my friends.
- Active training (weightlifting, cycle, run, swim…)
- Passive training (stretching, yoga, meditation…)
- Listen to podcast or music.
- Daily chores or funky chores
- Go to the library.
- Shop books online.
- Search articles online.
- Talking Sober.
- Take bath.
- Play music.
- Write (journal, poetry, anything).
- Work on a personal project/creative work.
- Work on a academic project/work project.
- Watch a movie.
- Eat. Anything.
- Drink something sparkling/sweet/sour.
- Procrastinate on internet.
- Watch funny videos.
- Take a nap.
- Watch pictures or videos of friends and family.
- Read my recovery homework (advantages/disadvantags; principles, values and goals).
- Go to bed.
When going out or with people:
- bring my own n/a drinks and food.
- talk and announce that I won’t drink.
- anticipate a walkout plan or a pause according to the environment.
- ask someone to check in on me/to be accountable to
- anticipate some entertainment.
So this is where I am today. Today is a long day alone for me so I took time to work on my recovery by writing all this and share it. As I am now in so much better shape, physically but especially mentally, I can relay on more “normals” means to keep feeling good most of the time, but there are some days that I still need to just cancel the day and sit in discomfort and go back to basic. Today will be one of those day. Taking care of myself and not putting too much pressure on me.
Hopefully this could be helpful for someone out there.
Wish you all a good day!