What Sobriety Means To Me

I have not had an alcoholic beverage since December 27th, 2013. On January 4th, 2014 I went in front a room of strangers and declared that I was an alcoholic. This declaration was important.  A public reality check of sorts that helped me create a final ending of a specific pattern of behaviour and start a new one. It helped me find a community of similarly minded people and feel less alone in my experience. It provided me with access to resources as I started to live my life without alcohol as a part of it – without my culturally celebrated pacifier.

While I am now at ease with calling myself an alcoholic (it wasn’t easy at first), I do not think of myself as an addict. When I stopped drinking I did not experience any physical withdrawal. It was much more of a MIND thing than a BODY thing (though my excessive drinking was greatly affecting my health – something I will write about another time). I didn’t crave alcohol or feel compelled to drink. I did think about it a lot the first month, but it was all part of figuring out new ways to manage my time and energy now that I wasn’t dulled by booze, messily drunk or hungover.

Yes, alcohol consumption for me was a destructive and near impossible thing for me to control (especially once I get started) because I associated it with stress relief, avoiding pain and coping with anxiety. I thought of drinking as “relaxation”, as something owed to me for being so “good” or working hard. Rather than a physical addiction drinking was a habit forming activity based on faulty associations.

Booze numbed me and allowed me (for a short time) to feel comfortable and be social. I didn’t drink every day and there were times I handled suffering without it, went to events without drinking, but I couldn’t predict which times those would be. As the years progressed I couldn’t manage my drinking and subsequently I got worse and worse at managing my life. What I believe I had is a learning disorder around alcohol and emotional well-being.

Here is an article that looks at drinking through that lens. I found it really interesting and helpful.

This learning disorder began early for me. When I was younger, from childhood until age 40 (ah!!! half a lifetime!!!), I had very little tolerance for my suffering. Especially related to fear, anger and disappointing others. I also had messed up beliefs like if I was perfect (whatever that was) I would never feel pain, everyone would accept me, and I would always be happy. Read more about this, my old way of thinking, here. Then I entered therapy and learned new ways of approaching my anxiety and fear. I think if it had not been for therapy and working on my skills to observe, accept and view my feelings with loving kindness I would never have been able to stop drinking.

I really wished I had learned earlier how to manage my uncomfortable feelings in a healthy way. I think instead I learned to deny my difficult feelings by having beliefs like: look on the brighter side, other people have it worse than me, and the classic don’t cry out loud and keep it inside

If I look back – before alcohol was even part of the picture – I was an escape artist more than an addict. I was an avid user of not-so-healthy and sometimes even quite destructive coping mechanisms to soothe myself. The choice of strategies changed through out the years (hitting myself and others in my family when I was a child, cutting as an early teen, picking as a late teen and young adult *, then trying to be as disciplined and controlled as my ex-husband in my 30s). All very different things, but they were my attempt to make awful feelings go away.

I have stopped trying to find something outside of myself to deal with my fears, anxiety and struggles. The suffering will always be there and I allow myself to feel what I feel. No longer am I questing for perfection in hopes of it making me happy and pain free, to be accepted by others. I am now in a place of equanimity and resilience. With my mindful and compassionate practices AND my sobriety I am no longer twirling around in the vicious circle of trying to be perfect because I felt like a failure for being less than perfect.

* A good article on picking and how to cope.

5 thoughts on “What Sobriety Means To Me

  1. Congratulations for having learned so much about yourself at this stage of your journey (some never do), and congratulations on your continued sobriety.

  2. Congrats to you on your sobriety! I too have issues with anxiety and depression and have had it my whole life. I too used alcohol to cope until I realized what problems I had. After a severe binge session a couple of years ago when I woke up in an ER and had no idea how I got there that was a wake up call.

    1. Thank you for dropping by and sharing this. I don’t think people realize how bad binge drinking can be until we have a wakeup call experience.

  3. Hi Seska. Not sure if you’ll see this reply, but I first “discovered” you years back when I was browsing certain websites. Since then, I’ve been a big fan of yours. Not because of your videos, no wait…who am I kidding…yes videos..but from what I’ve read while skimming through your blogs. You were an open book of sorts. In this day in age, you don’t see that often, especially with adult performers. Even talking about your divorce and the pain that came with it.

    Anyway, to my point. I too came to terms with my alcoholism. I used it to self medicate. To mask my insecurities and low self esteem among other things. Two years ago, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired (as the saying goes), and haven’t had anything containing alcohol. Feb. 16th 2015 is my sobriety date.

    Congratulations on you’re sobriety, and look forward to reading about what helps you live life one day at a time and hope that I can pick up some pointers.

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