As I navigate this alcohol free journey, I notice how my body is responding; it is as though it is saying “Thank You!”. My liver and brain (and no doubt all the rest of me too!) had a rough time at the beginning, slowly recovering from my booze addiction. It took about 40 days to start feeling good, and that was really hard. 40 days of waking up and not wanting to get out of bed, not feeling motivated, not wanting to do much of anything. My body was lethargic, achey, inflamed, weak, and drained. My brain was full of anxiety and fatigue, and I had no motivation. Repeatedly turning to alcohol to numb and escape the discomfort that it inevitably causes in the first place creates a vicious cycle of physical and mental decline.
My biggest “why” for quitting booze was to feel good again. Now that I have given my body and brain over 50 days of freedom from alcohol, I am really noticing how good I feel. I was so tired of feeling cruddy, so discouraged about feeling spent upon awakening. I used to be such a morning person. I used to be one of those super perky, rise-and-shine types who get up at ridiculously early hours, the type that annoy non morning-folks. I was not benefitting from an energy boost even when I consumed caffeine- or anything else. It was like, as they say, whipping an exhausted horse (I cringe at that image!). I had already been feeling all these symptoms intensely long before I quit drinking, on and off for years. I knew I had to change, but man it was challenging to come to terms with quitting booze. Thankfully, the desire to experience what it might be like to truly live my best life, to be kind to my body and brain, to reach my highest potential, won out. Of course I want to be my best, I only get this one chance, at least for now.
I have always appreciated the body I was born with, even with all its imperfections. I am blessed with how healthy and strong and athletic I am and have been my whole life. I had been pouring poison in my body temple for such a very long time and I felt really sorry and sad, even ashamed. That created cognitive dissonance, and when one experiences those conflicting emotions, it is nearly impossible to feel peace. How could I keep doing something that was causing me so much harm?!
You could label me a health nut. My mother drove my dad and me crazy when I was around 16-17 years old when she started following (worshipping!) a health guru, Adelle Davis, arguably the most famous nutritionist of the mid-20th century. Mom became obsessed with wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, mega doses of vitamins and supplements, and ridding our home of anything unhealthy. It drove me nuts! I rejected her insistence on forcefully spoon feeding us an overload of pills that she insisted we needed. It was quite irritating. Regardless, and inevitably, that passion for health and nutrition really took hold with me. Mom and Dad had always been great cooks (my father was a cook in the army) and each was an awesome gardener as well. We had plentiful fresh organic vegetables on the table with dinner every night when the garden was thriving, and I was never a picky eater. I remember both my parents (Mom especially) running down to the garden and picking fresh green beans, tomatoes, peas, or asparagus for our meal. I loved them-both my parents and the vegetables.
Although I went through my years rebelling against health-nut-itis, I certainly embraced healthy living. My mother role-modeled a very full and sports-influenced lifestyle, and I happily followed suit. I was always athletic and active, swimming in the summer months and horseback riding all year long, climbing trees, playing kickball with neighbors, riding bikes, hiking, camping, skiing – enjoying all sorts of healthy outdoor, nature-centered fun. I loved it, and still do. However, during my teenage years, I adopted the not-thin-enough belief system even though my body was at a healthy weight. It seemed there was a contest to see how thin an adolescent girl could become, striving to look like Twiggy (argh!). I starved myself by eating only one scant meal a day, and lost my period for many months. Then I did the opposite, after all that deprivation. I binged and purged for awhile. That never settled well with me, so I continued the binging and gave up the purging. I realize now that it was the beginning of numbing my feelings, and at such an early age. It all makes sense as I look back. I wish I could tell that young woman how perfect she was, how she didn’t need to abuse her body by depriving or overstuffing it. I feel pain in remembering how insecure I felt as a teenager, how much I wanted to have the ideal body, whatever the hell that was. Now, in my third act of this life, I am completely in love with and accepting of my body.
The best thing about being sober, so far, is the outrageously joyful return of my vitality. It is so worth it, my willingness to let go of the familiar and horrifically destructive alcohol habit I had acquired. I desperately wanted to feel that joie de vivre again, my lust for life. I am a very passionate person who ‘goes for the gusto’ and tackles life with all my might (apparently that is a very common trait among us “addicts”), and I sorely missed that part of myself. It is coming back! I wake up in the morning eager to start my day. I feel inspired. Work is going well because I glow with happiness, a happiness that comes from loving myself. I can trust myself again. I am reconnecting with myself at a deeper level, and it feels really, really good. I know for sure there will be days when I feel really sad, really low, when I experience deep discomfort, loss, all the hard stuff. But I know now that I can be with those feelings. I know that this too shall pass. I know that sobriety will lead me to the future I am meant to live, one filled with joy, and love, and excitement, and lots and lots of passion.