I’m 96 days sober today and my recovery is generally going pretty well. With my program being one of my own construction, I’m not following any particular set of rules, steps, or therapies. I DO, however, do something every day in support of my commitment to complete abstinence from alcohol. My plan is flexible and I give myself sobriety-work credit for myriad things: sessions with mental health professionals, reading about addiction and recovery, interacting with others who are addicted to alcohol either online or in person, talking to non-alcoholic family and friends about my recovery, or writing this blog. I even give myself credit if I have a high-intensity workout since it makes me feel so good, so positive, and since afterwards having a drink is the last thing on my mind. Although relatively uneventful, my recovery, a) has produced one side effect I wasn’t prepared for, b) not changed something I was certain being sober was going to change, and c) I believe is going to get harder before it gets easier.
What’s with the fucking sugar cravings? This is bullshit. Did you all know about this? By my calcs I should have consumed about 56,000 less calories in the last 3 months than I would have when I was drinking. This calorie deficit should have yielded a body weight drop of about 15 pounds by now, all other things being equal. But all other things aren’t equal. I immediately started craving cake, cookies, and candy when I stopped drinking. Strong cravings. At first I didn’t realize it because I was so focused on just not drinking, and I powered through crazy amounts of sweets. I was eating sugar like I used to drink. Mindlessly, without thoughts of consequence, in private, and in stupid quantities. I caught myself the other day getting ready to check out at the grocery store and picking up a box of Twinkies on the way out. Twinkies!?!? It’s the same thing I would do when leaving the liquor store, stop just before checkout and get a 10-pack of Jim Beam minis. Ugh. This substitution must stop. I don’t have a handle on it yet, but at least I’ve recognized it as something I don’t want to continue, and hopefully that’s a good first step.
I thought being sober was going to make me less irritated and less angry. Well, guess what. It didn’t, not exactly. I’m still too prone to let my inner asshole loose over stupid shit. Strangers, friends, colleagues, and family members are still getting on my nerves when a more reasonable person wouldn’t be nearly as bothered. It’s not that I haven’t made some behavioral gains. I’m never drunk and drunkenly obnoxious anymore, and I’m not hung over, sick, and guilty all the time, and my emotional swings aren’t as wide now that I stopped poisoning myself. But, I wanted and expected to be at peace, and to be patient, and to be understanding. I shook the monkey off and committed myself to never letting it back on again. Why don’t I feel and act better than I do? I was naïve, of course. Sobriety doesn’t fix everything. I guess there’s a part of me that’s an asshole even without alcohol. Great, something else to work on.
I think I’ve been in a honeymoon period of initial sobriety. I was excited to end my relationship with alcohol; I was full of energy, optimism and strength. I reached out for help, I was honest with myself and everyone else, I read and I learned, and I didn’t miss drinking at all. Although my commitment to total abstinence hasn’t changed, I am experiencing a few things which lead me to believe that sobriety is going to be real work before it becomes a natural part of who I am and not just something I’m doing. At day 91 I had a strong urge, a visceral lusting, for a drink. Not just any drink, but the drink that was at arm’s length, my wife’s glass of red wine next to my glass of iced tea. Wow. I hadn’t experienced this before. I could feel my hand wanting to reach for it, my mouth watered, my face flushed. I got up from the table, walked to the kitchen, took a minute to recover, and made myself a fresh club soda with lime. By the time I got back to the table, the urge had passed and I was left with a feeling of relief, but also a sense of foreboding. Is this going to happen again? How often? Is this REAL recovery? How much of that can I take? Am I fooling myself thinking I’ve got this addiction under control? My heart is racing just retelling the story; this can’t be good. Breathe.
Ok, so this is going to be work. Good, I’ll keep facing it head on. I feel stronger already.