Another Friday. Another weekend. LET’S GET DRUNK! J/K Hahaha. LOLOLOL. Sobriety jokes. Sorry. Too soon?
This will be my fifth weekend without Mr. Svedka and as each weekend comes and goes, I learn a tiny bit more about how to make them somewhat bearable. I used to yearn for Saturday and Sunday all week long because it meant being able to drink to my heart’s content. But let’s be real here: I ALWAYS drank to my heart’s content regardless of which day of the week it was. The only difference the weekend brought was in terms of how I would spend my hangover time. Instead of sitting upright at a desk or having to do really CRAZY INSANE HARD shit like WALKING, weekends would allow me the luxury of being able to almost die while laying horizontally on a bed. Instead of engaging in extremely complex activities like TALKING, on weekends I could just rock back and forth moaning with sweat soaked pillows under my head. And instead of vomiting into a stupid toilet in the public restroom at work, I got to be all fancy and cozy and puke into a lovely blue mop bucket that I kept within arm’s reach. And once I started feeling okay enough to downgrade my I’M GOING TO DIE status from DEFINITELY to MAYBE, I got to take a beautiful
walk stumble down the street to get some more alcohol to start the whole process over again.
As much as I miss all of that cute and sexy stuff, sober weekends can be pretty okay, too. But not right away.
Friday nights are especially weird. I would never have guessed that sitting in the living room eating dinner and watching a movie without alcohol could be so awkward. So let me get this straight. You want me to sit here, take bites of food and chew it up and swallow it all while doing absolutely nothing else but looking at those people on the screen? Are you insane? You want me to pay attention to what they are doing and saying? That’s it?! That’s all we are doing with our night?! Don’t you want to talk about stupid shit every 10 seconds until the credits are rolling and we realize that we have no idea what Matt Damon was trying to do this entire time and why The White House blew up? Don’t you want to accidentally rent that movie with Kate Winslet FIVE TIMES because we can’t remember what we have and haven’t seen? Don’t you want to put a bag of popcorn in the microwave and then find it still sitting in there the next day untouched because in the span of 3.5 minutes we completely forgot about it? Don’t you want to do all of that fun stuff instead of just sitting here chewing and watching???
Here’s a secret: If you chew and watch movies like normal people several times, it starts to feel normal again. But like any of this, you have to remain calm and be willing to go THROUGH it. If you tell a “normal person” that you are having to learn to do everything all over again including eating dinner/watching a movie, they won’t get it. But know that it is normal and that you shouldn’t feel bad about the fact that regular life feels irregular. And because the normal people won’t get it, find other alcoholics you can reach out to. It’s comforting to me that if I’m sitting there watching said movie and begin to feel weird, I can text someone who won’t judge and try to have me committed when I say something like, “I’m watching a movie and eating General Tso Chicken and IT’S SOOOO HARD and I want to cry.” Other alcoholics get it. That’s why it’s so important to know other alcoholics.
Friday nights are just the beginning. There are also the massive stretches of time on Saturday and Sunday. When I went from spending about 5-8 hours in bed recovering from “watching movies” the night before to suddenly waking up at 8AM wide eyed and ready to face the day, I found myself having to fill A LOT of time. This should be counted as a blessing and a luxury but for a recovering alcoholic like myself, it is also cause for panic. There are so many options that it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the freedom of time. For some people, scheduling out their weekend with activities, chores, etc., is helpful. I’m slowly finding myself able to schedule in activities during my days but at the very beginning, I had to keep it EXTREMELY simple and not allow myself to feel bad about not doing much. Going to the gym, taking a long shower, reading for a bit, going for a walk, watching mindless TV, listening to The Bubble Hour… all of those things were enough. And if I had tasks or errands to run, I would wake up feeling stressed. I’d think, “OH MY GOD. I have to do laundry, go to the dry cleaners, go to the gym, buy groceries, go to the post office. OH MY GOD.” I would panic for absolutely no reason and had to remind myself that all of those things would be done when I was good and ready. Again, completely irrational responses but I had become so accustomed to accomplishing absolutely nothing on weekends that the thought of actually taking care of business paralyzed me.
It’s also very easy for me to fall into extreme self-pity on the weekends. I think things like, “All of my friends, everyone I know, is drinking right now. They are at brunch having drinks. They will drink tonight and laugh and enjoy themselves. I am the only person in the world that is sober and it sucks.” Well, obviously I know that isn’t the case. In my crazy alcoholic mind, I’ve somehow convinced myself that everyone is always drinking like I did. The truth is, MILLIONS of people are enjoying their nights and weekends sober. It seems like such a stupid thing to have to consider, but when I’m feeling alone it really helps to remind myself that sober time is a very normal part of many people’s lives. I remember during the first sober weekend at home, one of my roommates who I count to be a somewhat frequent social drinker, was sitting in the living room with me on a Saturday night. I noticed she was drinking tea (normal people don’t take note of their roommates beverages FYI) and I thought, ‘Oh. She’ll go get a beer or a cocktail soon. It’s Saturday night. That’s just her pre-drinking tea.” I wanted her to go get a drink so bad. I don’t know why. But she never got a beer or a cocktail. She hung out, watched TV with us, had a good time, and then went to bed around midnight. A person who has absolutely no problem with drinking voluntarily chose to not drink on a Saturday night. Is she fucking insane??? If I wasn’t an alcoholic, I would be drinking ALL THE TIME. Wait a minute…..
Slowly the fog begins to lift. I have found that as I keep pushing through, the resistance lessens. And when I say pushing through, I don’t mean just sitting in it and being miserable. I mean sitting in it, being miserable, and also actively acknowledging and accepting the discomfort as temporary. Self-dialogue is crucial for me. When I’m sitting there on the couch in agony because I’m only eating delicious food and watching an Oscar winning film, I tell myself that my situation is normal and that it will get easier. And it has gotten easier.
Things are changing. But all this progress is predicated on our willingness to give ourselves the chance to adapt. You can’t feel the peace and excitement of change and progress if you don’t allow yourself to get past two days sober, one week sober, one month sober… I guess that’s what they mean when they say, “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.”