Yesterday was a very tough day for me because my beloved housemate had to have keyhole surgery on her knee and I was tormented with fears all day that she would not come around from the anaesthetic or that the surgeon would find something seriously wrong. She has bad health and is in her late 60s. I realised again how much of my happiness at home centres on her presence and our way of living together in an independent yet connected easy rapport.
Of course the op went well and she is fine. The idea of drinking didn’t cross my mnd because –surrender, surrender — I seem finally to have understood deep within myself that drinking is just a kind of death for me — but the inner anxiety and fleeting terrors I felt all day were not easy, although I saw friends and called people and talked with other sober people. And blogged and edited and posted on forums. Played with my dogs and made a new kind of leek soup, delicious.
But sometimes when I find myself frightened, somehow edgy and fragile, I do understand why the drinking seemed a solution for so long. A way of escaping myself. I seem to create a tormented and unbearable place within when I am faced with any threat of loss or abandonment, and it is very hard for me to simply endure those passing states. They are passing, fleeting, and I am very lucky in that respect. Regaining equilibrium is simple and quick enough so long as I do not drink.
I have written about this before and I don’t know that many people understand or experience anything similar — but my close friends ‘hold’ my stable and sober self for me, they are my safety and much of my lasting sobriety is bound up with their love and caring. Because they saw the extreme vulnerability of who I was in very early sobriety, they understand something that work colleagues and newer acquaintances don’t see. When I was in the UK, several sober contacts there said how easy and uncomplicated my sobriety seemed and what a pity I had not chosen to sober up before. Only those who watched me battle day and night for weeks and months to keep steady and not fly apart or self-medicate really understand why staying sober means a great deal to me.
Whenever I go through a wobbly time I look hard at the array of self-soothing behaviours and ‘holding’ patterns that help with this surface desperation. This is of course the lived-out and detailed interpretations of the relevant Steps: generalities mean little to me. I make sure I eat regular meals and spend time with others and keep to the usual routines of meditating and tending the garden, keep hard at work and do creative things, small gestures like painting, arranging flowers around the house, trying new recipes, memorising poetry, listening to music, going for walks or doing t’ai chi. All of these activities seem to serve as reminders of who I have become in sobriety and what I value so much in my life now. I sometimes feel that in this way I am invoking my ‘witness’ self, the more lucid and calming aspect of myself to watch over the fragmenting and dread-filled self of my past.