Saturday, September 17, 2016

Day 120

An achievement day.

It isn't 4 months by the calendar -- that will be Wednesday -- but I've been waiting for it all the same. Probably because it's more than halfway back to my previous best number of 202. Also for some reason 120 feels substantially bigger than 100...more than it logically should.

Having been in a state of wanting to quit for decades and trying to quit for years and having a couple recent serious quits (If I had stayed quit when I announced "this is it" I'd be at damned near 450 days today but hey it is what it is) I thought I'd reflect on some things I've learned.

Days 4 through 10 are the hardest. This isn't original with me; I got it from Mary Karr and she was quoting someone in a meeting.  True stuff though as I can't tell you how many times I've thought "okay I'm quitting" and done two or three days only to have it collapse somewhere between four and ten.  Countless.

Although a week is a good marker, two weeks - Day 14 - is a better milestone.  It feels like real progress and the horrible bones-crawling-right-through-skin really raw stage is pretty much over. Craving still pop up but that miserable how-am-I-gonna-DO this brain running like a hamster on a wheel stage eases up.

The second month -- after Day 30 but before Day 60 -- is also tough but in a completely different way. Lost some good quit attempts in that window, too. This is the insidious stage.  The sneaky stage. The stage where the more obvious trap is something like well I've gone a whole month now and sure I feel better but after that first week I didn't keep feeling better and better and I really wasn't that bad in the first place and now that I've had a good break the whole moderation thing should be a lot easier. That one is easy to see but here is a more subtle one: hey now that I'm dealing with the drinking I really should start watching what I eat/exercise more/tackle that one job I'm putting off/whatever. Seems reasonable, right? Add onto the new healthy lifestyle you've started?  WRONG. This one is a trap too because it's taking a delicate balance and piling on. When you don't manage to do ALL the things, sobriety being one of them, then it is easier to forgive going back to the earliest way it was, which includes drinking.  Even oh just one because... and there's always a because, isn't there? I say be very cautious and aware during Month Two and even though you might feel silly doing it, keep babying yourself as if you were recovering from a bad illness or had mono or something.

The third month, for me anyhow, is when it starts coming together enough to be able to start dealing with The Emotion Superhighway. The actual nuts-and-bolts of being sober is established: few to no cravings, good to great sleep, not as much eat-every-carbohydrate-in-the-house-and-buy-more. The big thing now is what to do with all these freaking FEELINGS?! Also a fair bit of "okay, so how am I going to live my life without this huge coping mechanism I spent a lot of effort to get rid of?"  It's a headspace thing and everyone is different but I discovered I had to get away from my "instant fix" mentality.  Caroline Knapp said lots of great things but the line I kept repeating to myself was actually something she shared from a friend of hers, "when I get mad at my spouse I have to remember that the answer is not 'get a new spouse.'" Or to run away, which I always fancied. Lotta figuring out how to deal with Big Time Negative Emotions starting in the Past 60 Days window.

That work keeps on but Day 90 is a big milestone all the same -- three months is a long time to do anything plus there's that "ninety meetings in ninety days" mantra which even if we're not twelve-step types still carries weight. It's close to a hundred and three digits is a Really Big Deal.  For anything, really, but especially in "days continuously doing something."  Also - and this was a big one for me - enough time has passed that you can objectively look back over the past 3 months and compare them to other three-month time intervals and get that not-drinking is truly better. It really does take that long.

And now, at Day 120, I'm circling back to the very beginning: fighting complacency. I don't feel complacent right now but that's because I'm working very hard not to take any of this for granted.  By now the idea of not drinking has become established which is good - great, even.  However this time around I don't want to ever think "okay, got that problem solved, now let's..." Another mantra from the twelve step world is "don't make any life changes for at least the first 6 months and a year is better" and I really see the logic of that. I'm using the newborn child metaphor: you wouldn't expect a baby to walk in the park with you till it was old enough to walk, right?  And before that there's a whole lot of other stuff like sitting up and crawling and creeping and pulling up and cruising, right? That's the model I'm keeping in my head so that I don't start thinking this is in any way "done" yet.


  1. This is an awesome post. Really great info and such insight.
    Complacency is a funny thing. Read this yourself and see just how far you have come already.

    Keep moving forward.