New Sobriety: Can I Get an Easy Button?

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Dear Laura, 

Does it get easier? 

I mean, you know that commercial with the Staples button that says "that was easy.” Getting sober is the hardest-best thing ever, but is there ever a time when you can hit cruise control and sit back and enjoy it? I know I'll never get to push that Staples button, but can I at least get one that says, "It's getting easier?”

The longer you go in sobriety do the cravings lessen? 

Do you stop noticing other peoples drinks? 

Do you stop needing to go through the list of reasons to not drink in order to convince yourself for the 100th time not to? 

At what point can I feel totally free from the mental binds of a stupid liquid in a glass?

-Ready for The Easy Button


Hi, Ready,

Can I at least get a button that says, "It's getting easier”?

You can get a button that says anything you want. :)

 

The longer you go in sobriety do the cravings lessen?

When I was first trying to get sober and for a good year after, everything made me want to drink. Literally everything. Weather, certain people, times of day, feeling bad, feeling good (especially), music, cooking at home, eating out at restaurants (OMG), walking through the city, men, friends, family, text conversations, real conversations, imagined conversations, being alone, being with people, being at work, being at home, etc., etc., etc., forever.

They lessen, yes. Your brain unlearns all its associations with drinking just like it unlearns an ex-lover. It takes a while, it’s super emotional and sometimes painfully physical and illogical and infuriating, but then one day, you’ll be halfway through dinner with a friend at a cool Italian restaurant and mid-sentence it’ll hit you: you haven’t thought about drinking or not drinking for the last hour. You didn’t even notice yourself not thinking about it. For a full sixty minutes, you were just a girl sitting in a chair at a table for two in a loud room with Frank Sinatra playing, twirling creamy fettuccine with her fork, laughing at her friend’s story about her obnoxious co-worker, and…nothing was missing.

I haven’t craved actual drinking in a long time. If I still did, I would walk into the ocean with heavy rocks in my pockets ‘cuz living that way that was H-E-double hockey sticks. It took time (a lot longer than I wanted) but eventually, it all just faded away, like the ex-boyfriend I thought I’d never get over.

This took time.

 

Do you stop noticing other people’s drinks? 

It’s not that I don’t notice people’s drinks, it’s that whatever is in their glass doesn’t have any more magnetic pull or mysticism or longing than, say, their socks do. I just don’t really care. Every once in a while, I’ll notice someone sipping a glass of silky red wine or a dirty martini in a restaurant and a weird wave of nostalgia will catch me by surprise. It lasts about two seconds, and then I remember the way even one sip would disconnect me from myself, not to mention the 3 am soul-crushing anxiety and complete imprisonment, and well, my Diet Coke tastes pretty fucking great.

This took time.

 

Do you stop needing to go through the list of reasons to not drink in order to convince yourself for the 100th time not to? 

God yes. If those mental gymnastics were still happening, that would also = rocks in pockets.

I’m three years and a few months sober now. Drinking hasn’t been a real option for me in a couple years (as in, even though it is always a possibility, at some point, I took it off the list of possibilities), so even if my mind pulls it into the roster of possibilities, it’s like considering murdering someone: a fictitious, absurd kind of considering that’s never going to happen unless I’ve actually lost my noodle. And I have an army of people who notice if that’s starting to happen. Plus medication. Plus a really good life that would instantly implode if I decided to drink. It's just not an option.

But in the early days (like, the first year), I had to think it through a lot. And when I did, I would force myself to embody my very worst mornings and recall in as much detail as possible how I felt—physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I reminded myself that it would never, ever lead me anywhere but there. If I couldn't remember, I would call people and ask them to do it for me.

I learned to ride it out. I learned to be really, really uncomfortable. I learned it passes. And then eventually, I didn't have to try to ride anymore.

This took time.

 

At what point can I feel totally free from the mental binds of a stupid liquid in a glass? 

It’s so weird, right? I remember the same thought hitting me at one point and thinking, It’s just…liquid. What the fuckity fuck? I let myself laugh about it. Laughing helps.

The answer is you’ll be free of it when you are. There is no magical timeline and for everyone it’s different, but I can guarantee that one day the light will come on. You will be free. But only if you keep going.

This took time.

+++

Everything that’s really, really worth doing is going to be fucking hard. Not in a sometimes-this-is-kinda-really-frustrating way, but in a push-you-to-the-absolute-edges-of-yourself-and-then-further-again kind of way. 

Having kids, for example. Before you do it, you hear it’s hard and beautiful and blah blah blah.

But then you have to actually experience what it’s like to breastfeed your kid for the 87th time at 3 a.m. when you’re sick and haven’t slept in two months and as you hold your breath while that little mouth clamps onto your raw, inflamed nipple, white-light pain shoots through your my body, and you think you actually might pass out this time, but first, you will need to kill your husband, who is snoring in the bed next to you and you cannot fathom why you procreated with such a useless human. This moment passes and then another one comes up, just as soon. One million moments like this present themselves day after day, week after week, year after year, and you walk through them—sometimes because you want to, but often because you have to—because that is what the gig requires, and even though it is very often so absurd you cry and shake your fists at the sky, you’ve have also never felt such a deep sense of purpose and love beating inside you. You hear yourself saying, it’s so worth it, and you know that you actually mean it, even though it is also the hardest thing you’ve done on every level. Both of these things are true.

Marriage was also like this for me. So was running marathons. So was getting a divorce. So is being alone. And so is trying to navigate romantic relationships: I experience them as exciting and fun in some moments, but most of the time it feels like I’m getting stung by jellyfish.

And then there’s sobriety. Getting sober. And well, that takes the cake on difficulty by about six million miles. It was that hard for me. And it was also that worth it. It’s the most worth-it thing I’ve ever done. If there was an easy button for it, it wouldn’t be so valuable—not to me, not to you, not to anyone. So you can want for the easy button, but know that every time you’re hitting the expert difficulty one, you’re doing something so much more interesting. 

Love,
Laura

 

P.S. Here’s a new book that’s blowing my mind. Maybe it'll help. Love and more love to you. Keep going.