The Road Less Travelled

So, it is day 4 of sobriety. It feels strange. It isn’t like just giving up drinking to detox or to give your liver a break for a while. This is life changing abstinence. I have that strange feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me nothing will be the same again. Intellectually, I know that it will not be the same and even for the better, but right now I’m not feeling great, I have to admit.

For the last two days, I have been walking around in a haze. It has been like a thick fog has clouded my brain and I have just muddled through each day on automatic. I had hoped for more energy, more sleep and a renewed sense of self, vindicating my new lifestyle choice. But no, as if to yell at me that this isn’t the way to go, my body is sluggish, my mind numb. I feel strangely emotionless, apart from the odd weepy moment when shame overwhelms me. I have always been in touch with my feelings and this new state unnerves me. My feet feel like lead – moving is hard and I have had to really resist the urge to crawl into bed, shove my head under the pillow and let the world pass me by. I hope this passes soon.
I went to my first AA meeting on Monday. My DH came with me as I just wasn’t strong enough to go on my own. I was so fearful, so ashamed. I kept asking myself how I had managed to get to the point at which I could no longer consume any alcohol. I wondered how my life had managed to be diminished so much, how I had managed to squander 11 years, not only of my life, but that of my family’s as well. We sat in the car park. I was surprised to see a sign that said ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I mean, how else were newcomers to know where the meeting was, we’re not psychic! I didn’t like it. People seeing me walk through that door would know. I looked up and down the street. No-one I knew in sight. Okay, I’m going to do this.
I couldn’t move. My DH said that we didn’t have to go in, that we could come back next week. But I knew, deep down, that next week wouldn’t be any easier. I swallowed back my tears and opened the car door. We moved slowly toward the church hall, a common meeting place for AA meetings, and hesitated as we approached the person at the door. He wasn’t there to greet people, so we moved inside. Immediately a gentleman approached us: “Is this your first meeting?” Was it that obvious? “Yes”, I said, “It is MY first meeting.” I did not want my DH to be mistaken for the one with the problem. “Great to see you here,” he said, “the first one is always the hardest.” He strode off and returned to give me the welcome pack. I felt sick. I wanted to run away.
We took a seat at the back. I looked up and my heart stopped. There was someone I knew. A mom from my youngest DD’s school. Is this some cruel joke, some form of punishment? Please, God, open up a hole to swallow me now! I calculated how close I was to the door and wondered how long it would take me to slip out. My DH slipped his hand in mine and the meeting began. The woman was called upon to tell her story of alcoholism and sobriety. Please, please do not look my way, I pleaded, please! It didn’t occur to me to think that she was there for the exact same reason I was.
The meeting continued and as people spoke of their stories and their recoveries, I realised that there was an element of my drinking problem in each of them. I shared characteristics with each and everyone of these people. DH knew it too – every now and again he would pass me that look that said, “God, that’s you.” For the next one and a half hours I listened, I listened intently and I drank in what they said. I knew I wanted to get better and I knew I had to pay attention.
Of course, the AA world is not knew to me. I wonder if that will be a hinderance. I hope not. I knew the drill. I knew the serenity prayer, the AA colloquials, the routine of the evening. I felt strangely comfortable at the same time as feeling that I shouldn’t be on this side of the fence.
At the end of the evening, I wanted to make a hasty exit, but as I went to return my coffee cup, the mom from school approached me. “Is this your first meeting.” I wondered if all newcomers had a ‘rabbit in the headlight’ look about them. I nodded. Please don’t recognise me, I thought, please don’t know who I am. Actually, she didn’t. As she sat speaking to me about upcoming meetings that would be good to attend and offering to take me, I realised she hadn’t recognised me at all. I then felt guilty. This wasn’t fair that I knew who she was, but she didn’t know who I was. I came clean, and begged her not to say anything as I didn’t want the children to know. She smiled. “It is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason. Your secret is safe with me, as mine will be safe with you.” Instant relief and a nod to acknowledge that I realised she was right.
I left that meeting feeling strangely like I had come home. Most of my life I have felt like a round peg in a square hole and now I didn’t. I belonged. These people, in the brief moment I had talking to them, totally got me. I liked it. I felt swathed in belonging-ness. I liked it a lot!
The next day, yesterday, that feeling had gone. To distract myself, I decided that I would treat myself to a movie. Just me, on my own. I drove a fair distance to see Believe in Heaven being shown at a graceful old cinema. It was so bohemian and I loved it. I bought my ticket and went to order popcorn. There was a sign; “$10 deal, popcorn and a lovely shiraz.” You have got to be kidding me. Alcohol being sold with popcorn at the cinema? I was on my own and rather than feeling tempted, I actually felt angry. A couple of days ago, I would have gone for that option. On my own, hell yes, I deserve that treat. But, here I was staring at the sign, wondering what the world was coming to. I ordered the lemon and lime with my popcorn. The movie was pretty rubbish, but I felt proud I had overcome my first temptation and also my fear of doing things on my own. It was a good moment.
What I would like now, is to learn how to shut my mind off. Wine was great at doing that for me. Just drink until I am physically unable to hold a thought, fall into bed and sleep – bliss. I have been unable to sleep and my mind wants to explode. I have a permanent headache. This isn’t exactly the sobriety I had signed up for. I know I must persevere (perhaps I am detoxing), but it isn’t pretty, I can tell you. I feel like a train wreck!!
So, I am off to my second AA meeting, at a different venue. It is certainly a road on which I never thought I would find myself, the road definitely less travelled. It will be interesting to see where it will take me.
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