It’s been a good week in general. There was one notable incident that affected me to a surprising degree. It happened at work. I’d just arrived and went to join a few of my colleagues already sitting in the canteen. I usually just quietly drink my pre-work coffee and stay on the periphery of canteen conversations but this one was – unknown to my colleagues – like a kick in the guts.
One woman – who I’ll call Pat – was fuming about the destruction that addiction causes. Her daughter’s fiance had been taking money from her to pay important bills and to put away to save for their upcoming wedding. Instead, he’d secretly been gambling it all. Her daughter had finally found a scary letter informing them of their large arrears. The fiance had been intercepting all demand letters for months but this one escaped him. She also found out that the wedding money had been lost too. Her hard-earned sense of having things under control has been yanked out from under her and her very young daughter’s feet. The resulting fallout has fractured the whole family in heartbreaking and near-violent ways.
Pat says she would understand if her daughter ended up taking him back but doesn’t think they should get married so soon. I said it was probably not a good idea to get married at all. It changes things in legal and financial liability ways. I was sad for her daughter and depressed for myself as it’s advice I’ve also had to follow 😦
Pat then went on to say she had hoped that her daughter had moved out from the shadow of addiction when she left home. She described her husband as an obviously physically addicted but ‘functioning’ alcoholic.
I had to be so careful what I said in that context and so was unable to say anything but general thoughts and sympathies. Really though, I had SO much to say about both revelations but I had to swallow it all so as not to out myself. It was really uncomfortable. As I went out to start working I felt tight-chested and had a lump in my throat like I was going to cry. I felt spacey and a bit anxious. Fighting to keep my face neutral and choking on things unsaid actually made me feel ill. I had to deep breathe and try to get into the rhythm of my job which ironically had taken me to the booze department first. After an hour or so I felt ok but I was still shocked by the effect it had had on me and sad for their family.
On a more positive note, I’m still feeling completely different than I can ever remember feeling – in a good way. I’ve been trying to put my finger on it and I think it boils down to my motivation having switched positions from being mainly extrinsic to intrinsic.
I’ve long been fascinated by the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. For so long my reasons to not drink have been purely extrinsic or external. What damage was I doing to my health? What life events was I missing out on? What would other people think of me? What was it doing to my finances? How shit was I going to feel later? etc… There’s nothing wrong with any of these external motivations and many are helpful in the bigger motivational picture. What I struggle with is the fact that they are all things I would run away from. They’re like a horde of scary spectres chasing me down the street, taunting me with all the bad juju they will unleash if I don’t stay sober. I’m no ultra-marathon runner – there’s only so far I can run before I fall.
So if we don’t want to be running away from, what’s the other option?
Moving towards. I’m going to drop the running bit, my knees can’t take it 😉 This is where I’m less clear and I’m struggling to describe it.
I guess one good example is in day counting. Something about it has always felt awkward to me. I would check my day counting app more than once a day, as if to reassure myself. I would cling to each day and it would feel like a weapon of sorts. A collection of days would come together to form a shield I could brandish at the chasing spectres. Each day also sometimes felt like a tiny, insignificant step on a never-ending journey. I couldn’t see where the journey was going but I needed some sense of going somewhere, of control, achievement, or proof.
This time it feels different. I sometimes don’t check my app and have gone more than one day not really aware of which day I was on – because I haven’t even thought about it. I’m not trying to prove anything to the outside world any more, it’s more of a quiet acceptance and feeling good in this day without looking too far ahead. It’s moving towards the good things. More peace, more health, more gratitude etc. It’s acting out of love rather than fear. It’s a quiet internal motivation that shines upwards and outwards from the centre of my being rather than an oppressive motivation that pushes inwards and downwards from the outside.
As for how the switch was made, I guess it has something to do with my surrendering 4 weeks ago. I’ve joked to myself that the real me must have been abducted by aliens and this new me has been dropped in her place. Yeah, I watch too much Star Trek.
It has spread out beyond just drinking. My diet is much better. I’ve figured out a major food irritant and have gone from having constant gut pain needing painkillers just to function to absolutely zero pain. It’s such a massive leap in my quality of life just from making some simple but consistent food (and drink) choices. My level of general self-care has improved enormously. I’m seeing consistency instead of chaos. I feel so much better.
Of course, I know from past experience not to be complacent. My gratitude for today is for all the good things that are happening. Tomorrow is a new day where anything could happen.
Sending out some supportive sober gratitude vibes to you all. I hope you all have a good sober weekend.