Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 19 - Cloud 9

Um ... it's Day 19. I'm into the single digits, going in the other direction. The fun one! ;) Only 9 days left!

It's Sunday morning and I'm just about through the third weekend of my autumn cleanse. Each weekend seems to have a different feeling to it - and this second last one seems to be the most peaceful.

The first weekend can be ... well, a bit boring. And maybe there are even some nail-biting moments thrown in.  Are you f*cking kidding me? I have to do three more of these before I can have a drink?!! 

The second weekend, you feel a real sense of accomplishment. You have lots of energy and focus. The cleanse is far from over, yet you've put enough mileage behind you that you realize this truth about life: time doesn't actually stand still when you can't drink.

The last weekend of a cleanse is happy, free, exciting and fun. You might even make a trip to the liquor store to stock up on supplies. One thing is for sure - you can see the light (wine/beer/martini, etc.) at the end of the tunnel. So you're walking on air.

Making this one, the third weekend, the most peaceful, reflective and quietly joyous one. I'm serious about the 'joy,' you know. I feel joy that I'm obviously not addicted to alcohol anymore. That I can happily live without it. Yet - and I should be ashamed to admit this - but with the end in sight, I actually feel 'joy' looking forward to drinking again. I get this little skip in my heart. I have a real sense of anticipation. Senior prom-Christmas-vacation-type anticipation. (I'm not kidding!) I know all the experts out there will shriek in disgust. But I have a great sense of happiness knowing life will soon be back to 'normal' and I'll get a dose of a particular kind of pleasure that I can't get anywhere else. :)

Having quit smoking more than twenty years ago - and having 'quit drinking' many, many times since then (on a temporary basis at least), I can tell you that there is no replacement for an addictive substance. My husband knows that firsthand, too. He quit smoking in January of 2009. We're coming up on his fifth anniversary. He's doing very well, but we sometimes discuss the fact that the incredible pleasure you get from those first few drags of a cigarette ... can never be replaced after you quit.

I remember when I quit, I tried filling that void with everything I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, that usually came down to food. I remember one night in particular running out to the store for a bag of caramel-covered popcorn. I had been sitting on the couch, watching TV (Twin Peaks to be precise) and I'd been riding out non-stop nicotine cravings all night. I was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I could just have some caramel-covered popcorn, the nic-fit would go away.

The popcorn didn't work. Nothing did. Ever.

Some ten or fifteen pounds later, I started jogging on a regular basis and losing the weight. I also realized the following truth: there was absolutely nothing in the world that was going to make me feel 'exactly' the way having a cigarette did. There was no longer anything that was going to bring me that unique pleasure. It was a hard lesson - and one I've had to watch my husband learn, too.

It's the same with drinking. I love my teas. I love my soda and (insert juice here), my Hint Water,  my Gus Grownup Soda,  and my new Rise Kombucha (a mere 24 calories a serving btw!!). But there's really nothing that actually brings you that distinct pleasure of alcohol. That complex, basically all-encompassing (i.e. physical, emotional, neurological, behavioral, even cultural) relationship that exists between humans and fermented stuff.

There is so much to be said for sobriety. There is. I love it. I'm happy right now. I've been happy most of the time during this cleanse. I'm getting tons of work done on the novel and tackling my To Do list. It's really been one of the fastest, easiest cleanses I've ever done. It's been so pleasant, in fact, I can see why so many problem drinkers decide to abstain permanently.

But to me, there's a difference between 'pleasant' and 'pleasure.' Kind of like the difference between kissing and sex. ;) To expound, cleansing is kissing - and drinking is sex. Meaning, as much as I love kissing, I'd sure miss sex if I could never have it again!

So - with apologies to all happy, successful abstainers out there - I don't want this for my whole life. But I also don't want non-stop drinking for the rest of my life, either. I really love the variety of a sober life and a drinking life. It works for me on every level.

And it really has worked. There's no question in my mind. I was nervous about this cleanse, I mentioned that before. Partly because I wasn't going to be blogging as much. But also with all the milestone celebrations and trips in the months leading up to my cleanse, I really wondered if this time I couldn't do it.  I worried that the combination of not blogging and heavier-than-usual-drinking would leave me helpless and out of control.

But - I am SO DAMN HAPPY TO REPORT - that didn't happen. As I said, this cleanse has been a cinch. :)

I am simply no longer addicted to alcohol. I am not an alcoholic in the way it's defined by most quizzes, experts and experience. But there's no question that - according to those same quizzes and experts - in 2003 (and for years before) I was definitely an alcoholic. In the early to mid-stages of alcoholism, to be precise.

But here I am. Almost three weeks without a drink. Happy, healthy and looking forward to the future.

Especially ... 9 days from now!! ;)


I'll probably talk more about this later, but for now, here's a peek at Ann Dowsett Johnson's new book Drink.  Dowsett Johnson is an award-winning journalist, academic - and recovering alcoholic. She quit drinking permanently 5 years ago when her 'high-functioning' problem started taking a toll on her relationship with her son - and her life. Check out these reviews from the Washington Post and The Globe and Mail.

Incidentally, I've noticed that it seems to be more shameful to have a drinking problem and not want to quit forever (like me) than it is to have a drinking problem and actually decide to abstain permanently. I'm fascinated with why that is ... Hmmmmm ...