Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy Anniversary To Me!

I don't have much to say today. (Later note: this is a lie! I end up saying quite a bit!) But I want to write because it is the 10th anniversary of the first day I started cleansing - July 13, 2003.

It is truly the most perfect summer Saturday. In a year that has seen such crappy weather - barely a single day without some kind of rain or snow or strangling humidity or incredible heat - it's really perfect out there. 1973 perfect. It's not too hot. No humidity. Light breeze. The trees and flowers are so lush from all the rain. They sky is clear and blue. I sat out on the balcony for a while by myself - it was just turning noon - and everyone down on the street seemed so relaxed. Walking slowly. Easily. Alone, with friends, pushing strollers, walking dogs. Truly a perfect summer day ...

I'm taking today as a cleanse day. The anniversary is only half the reason though. The hubs went out of town this week so I changed my off-days to accommodate that. And I wanted to be able to have a glass of wine with A at lunch yesterday. It was a lovely time btw.

But even without the circumstances, I think it's right for today to be an off-day. I remember back when I started my first cleanse ... this day ten years ago ... oh my God ... it was not a fun day. I was terrified. I was listless. I was resentful. Pulsing with anger and rage.  I was ... did I mention terrified? I was so so SO scared. I knew my drinking had gotten out of control. And I knew I was looking at A.A. or something like it very soon if my recently-hatched, homemade 'alcohol cleansing' idea didn't work. And I had no reason to believe it would.

But I knew I had to do something. Because it wasn't just that I wanted to drink back then. The way it is now. It was that I had to drink. As much as my conscious mind said, no, no, no - I will not start today with a bottle of wine - I would watch my hand reaching for the bottle of wine. I would watch it like I was watching someone else's dismembered arm. I even look back on it that way. So many times. Watching someone else's arms, someone else's hands, opening the wine, pouring the wine. Someone else's eyes looking down into the glass - or, as often as not, just chugging straight from the bottle because it was one I had hidden in my closet or under the kitchen sink.

Someone else's limbs living my life because I had no control of those limbs.

Honestly, I don't yet know every medical, physiological or neurological reason that cleansing has given me control. But I'm determined to find out. I might even put my body up for scientific research at some addiction clinic somewhere. But I doubt I'll go back to school to become an addiction counselor or even a sketchy on-line certified therapist. I don't like school enough! I love to learn. I love to read. I love love love to research. But I like freedom, too. And I haven't given up on my fiction writing.

Someday I may have a complete change of heart. Gray-haired, knobby-kneed, eyes still twinkling: "Hey! Ya know what! I feel like going back to school!" And I'll become a counselor or a neurobiologist or something. ;) Instead of being some crazy writer with two flopped novels and a homemade strategy who decided "I have to share this! It's helped me so much, it might help other people, too!"

But you show me one method (one single method!) of rehab or recovery that works 100% of the time, and I'll consider it. But you can't. Because there is no method of guaranteed recovery for everyone. Especially one that still includes drinking.

There are other moderation methods out there. Maybe you know what they are. I definitely want to talk more about them in the coming months. But I will probably never try them. Because I sincerely don't want to risk changing what works for me. Why would I jeopardize that? Because I'm here 100% sober today - and 100% happy. An impossibility in the old days. The only happiness I had back then was in the first few instants after I had a swallow of wine.

Sometimes I wish I had some degree or title that would allow me to say: "MD/PhD with twenty-five years clinical experience treating thousands of addicts!" Because I sometimes imagine counselors or doctors reading this and thinking: "Wow, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, isn't it?"

Even my brilliant sister-in-law who is a professional therapist indirectly brought this up a few weeks ago.

"Well, your blog is very interesting, Sheri. You're very brave to share all this ... but ... um ... well, I'd like to see something a little more ... um ..."

And then she got this perplexed smile on her lips, which she was trying to hide from me. Not her whole face. Just her lips. Her forehead actually rumpled. She didn't want to insult me, but as a life-long academic over-achiever (she has more letters after her name than some people have in them!), she can't possibly completely buy into a layperson's version of something that is usually done in a clinical or organized group setting. My jokes. My anecdotes. The occasional news flash about who got a DUI or some new alcohol research. The sarcasm. The casualness. The lack of judgment.  The occasional swear. All this would run completely contrary to what she - and most professionals - would consider serious addiction help.

I mean, even as a blog on its own, this one's not very impressive. I know that. Anyone who's read older posts can see my learning curve has been very long and very slow. (Man, to be a writer born in an age when you have to be a tech wizard and a used car salesman self-promoter to boot! Oh cruel twist of fate!)

She was still struggling with how to finish her sentence when I said, "Clinical?"

"Well, yes," she said. I'm sure she wanted to enroll me in one of her classes right then and there. Because she teaches as well as having her own practice - though she doesn't specialize in addiction. (btw she has two perfect kids, she's ten years younger than me and she's really pretty, too! So yeah, poor me!)

But even without the credentials to back it up, I know this plan has worked. What's more, it's a lovely, relatively easy, enjoyable way to live.

Will you be perfect at it all the time? Maybe not. Will you sometimes drink too much? Probably. (I certainly do sometimes - that's part of why I love it!) Will you sometimes even break a wildcard rule? You might. I have in the past - occasionally. But you keep it to a minimum and you forgive yourself. Don't get discouraged by imperfection. Trust yourself and go on.

The important thing is to try not to break the cleanses. Because I believe that's the real crux of why this system works. Interrupting your exposure to alcohol so your body can learn to live without it on a regular basis. Cleansing helps give you the emotional confidence and the physical ability to do that.

I know living without alcohol seems scary. I remember that day ten years ago, staring down the shotgun barrel of six months without booze. Holy fuck. How terrifying. How frustrating. How enraging. How impossible.

But it's not impossible. Because here I stand - well, sit actually. Ten years later.

Now I know cleansing won't be for everybody. And only you will know if it's right for you. You will feel it in your bones. In your heart.  And you will also know if it's wrong for you. If you can't stop drinking even for a day on your own - knowing there's an actual plan waiting to help you through - then obviously you'll need another way out. There are many - and I mean many! - other moderation options out there. Abstinence is not the only way to treat addiction anymore. And I will share the ones I know about in the coming months.

But for some of you, cleansing will be the way. And it's because it'll work with who you are as a person and how you like to live.

You will probably not be someone who needs a lot of social attention. The idea of going to meetings once, twice, three times a week, and talking about your personal problems will not appeal to you. You may not even care to leave comments on blogs or forums.

You may not have the time to go to rehab for a month.

You may not have the money to go to rehab for a month. (Who the hell does?!)

You may not have a health plan for supplements or drugs. You may be leery of using pharmaceuticals, anyway. Because there are medications out there that have been proven to cure or ease alcohol cravings and addiction in some people. But they do have side effects. And you may not want to risk that.

You may be easily bored. Meaning you would prefer variety in your life - drinking days and non-drinking days - as opposed to X-number-of-drinks-a-day-every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life.

You may be independent of spirit. You will not necessarily want a counsellor or doctor to guide you through every step. You may want to do it on your own.

And you will probably enjoy as much freedom in your life as you can manage.

Alcohol cleansing responds to all of these traits. It's simple, natural, mostly enjoyable - and very, very cheap. (Even when I get the book out - it'll be cheap. I promise you that.)  And when you start, you'll know if it's right for you. And if it's not right for you ... I hope it will help you find what is.

Because today - this perfect summer Saturday, ten years after I sat in a crazy heap of nervous terror, confusion and shame - I know it's right for me.

btw, the hubs will be back tonight and I'm pretty sure I'll stay up for midnight and toast the anniversary! I might even make it champagne!