Day 320 of Sobriety.
Take one extremely extroverted single woman who thrives on connection and engaging with others, stun her with the shock of not one but two times removing her source of income, security, happiness, and purpose (i.e. work), isolate her by mandating an order to maintain distance from others – no physical contact with other humans, no touching, no hugging, no (physical) affection allowed, and see what happens. And do this for not just a day or a week, but for months at a time.
How did she fair? Not well. I know I am not alone. We have all been through some form of hell these past eleven months. My hell has been very personal. I acknowledge I had some extremely high and happy times during my initial sobriety (Day 1 was April 15, 2020), in particular months two through five, that wonderful period of “The Pink Cloud” when the vitality returns and everything is bright and shiny. Then…events out of my control caused a shattering of my world and my mental state plunged lower than I imagined I could endure. The ultimate synopsis I can conclude is thankfulness for all the Grace I experienced, that I was able to withdraw from the world for many months with a very beautiful roof over my head, nature all around me, loving canine companions, plenty of food to eat, authentic and loving friends who were only a phone call away, and the Internet (especially YouTube) to entertain me. As one of my favorite people in the world shared with me about her experience with a life threatening illness over several years, sometimes we must die a death to who we were in order to become who we are meant to be- I believe they call that growth.
Part of what took place for me was a rebalancing of my brain chemistry. The neurotransmitters that regulate mood and energy levels had been hijacked by alcohol’s effects for so many years, my brain has had to relearn how to properly function. Those neurotransmitters, the little chemical messengers in our brains (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins) are what made me feel happy, upbeat, positive, inspired, motivated, eager to engage. My brain was seriously depleted of those little wonder-drugs, and it took me a long time to recover. It makes sense to call the time of adjusting to life after giving up an addiction “Recovery”. There is so much that needs to slowly return to health; our bodies, and minds, and psyche, our entire way of going through life all have to recover from any form of addiction, whether that be codependent relationships, eating disorders, obsession with food, drugs (including the #1 drug, alcohol), smoking, gambling, workaholism, sex, Internet (social media!) and many others we use to distract ourselves from our reality. Decades of regularly imbibing alcohol and numbing/avoiding/distracting from feelings and emotions took its toll on my psyche and my physicality. I thought I would drop weight because I wasn’t putting all those empty calories in my body, but the opposite happened, food was my comfort. I tried many different “diets” including keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, totally sugar-free, to shed the weight, but alas it stuck to me like glue, adding to my distress. I am an extremely active person normally, but during these months of struggle, my energy was close to rock bottom. A hike made me feel good for its duration, but ultimately would render me exhausted and unable to be productive for the remainder of the day, leading to feeling even lower with a sinking sense of self worth. Day after day after day. What a vicious cycle! I would look around at all the things I “should” do with no motivation to do any of it, watching things pile up, feeling overwhelmed.
I read a lot of research on what happens during sobriety. Everyone is different, of course. Some people feel incredible after the physical withdrawal subsides. They lose weight, look great, work out, find a new life, and live happily ever after. The facts are, many of us go through a long rough patch, called by several different names, such as PAWS-post alcohol withdrawal symptom, anhedonia (total lack of feeling pleasure), and more. I was heartened to read about all the important supplements that I could take to assist the return of my brain chemistry to its optimum function. I spent ridiculous amounts of money trying yet another remedy, amino acid combination, or the latest brain-building, mood-enhancing nutritional supplement, and although I probably tried a dozen expensive options, not one helped even a little bit. It wasn’t until pandemic-related restrictions lifted and I was able (and ready) to return to work that my world became brighter.
I decided to go for the gold, and not settle for working in an atmosphere that would be unsatisfying. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to return to the wine industry (or hospitality in general) as a non drinker, but it is where my experience and talent (and joy!) lies. I thought long and hard and did not rush into the decision. I knew if I was going to be back in the industry, I would want to be part of a close knit team, to feel safe, honored, respected, and appreciated. I am a hospitality guru, and I wanted to be able to share my enthusiasm and talent in that sphere. I looked at employment opportunities for awhile before I responded to any. I didn’t want a corporate setting, I wanted small, boutique, and family-like. I wanted a winery that also had a restaurant to share my service and food expertise. I checked out openings in many wine tasting rooms, but nothing felt quite right until one day, one ad. A small and long established winery owned by women, with women employees, with a most enchanting perk of having an equestrian-related history that delights this horse lover, featuring a top notch bistro with a phenomenal Chef. Additional benefits are that is located across from my old stomping grounds (very familiar territory), and best of all, led by heart-centered ownership and management. Eureka! My interview was easy and flowing, and I started working there earlier this month. Things are still moving slowly as we get back to business as we knew it, but I am beyond thankful to have found my perfect fit. I know this may be my honeymoon period, but life is looking good. Along with this big change, I have also adapted a Whole Foods plant based diet (WFPB lifestyle plan), eating more veggies than ever in my life, and I am feeling energized. It feels SO good to feel good!
I acknowledge what I have been through with deep appreciation. Every single minute of every single hour, of every day, has been of value. Every painful emotion has been a teacher. Every time I am vulnerable and truly authentic, as I have been here on Fiercely Sober since Day 1, I am more true to myself. I am proud to have survived this struggle without swallowing a drop of booze. I have made it out of the muck, but if I find myself back in it, I know what to do. To BE means to survive, and each difficult event I have endured has made me stronger, more trusting, more closely connected to my soul, more sure of myself. Go ahead Universe, bring it on, you will NOT defeat me, and besides, I know you are on my side. Together we rise. I am so ineffably grateful.