The gift and pain of sobriety

The gift and pain of sobriety

Sobriety is both painfully lonely, and a beautiful gift. Most days I don’t know what I miss more; the being able to drink at parties or events where there’s alcohol and feeling the life bursting out of me for a few hours; the ridiculousness of my humour and endless laughing when I would feel myself letting my defence layers down, or the bliss of being someone else for a while. But I’ll tell you what I don’t miss. I don’t miss the week of shakes and nausea I had after a solid week of binge drinking each night. I don’t miss being so reckless with certain people that I’d wake up with a stomach flip of embarrassment. I don’t miss the wave of sadness when I start to sober up and the alcohol begins to depress my mood, and the awful feeling of unravelling internally. And I don’t miss the bittersweet feeling of knowing how good drinking felt and that it was the only thing I looked forward to, and how the glasses of wine were filling the bits of me that were broken and hurt, not really soothing them, but adding fuel to the fire inside. Sobriety is lonely too. Knowing the drunk phonecalls and the chats I used to have are not the same. It’s embarrassing. Knowing that everyone knows why you don’t drink anymore, and having to tell people ‘oh no I don’t drink… personal choice’ rather than ‘yeah I abuse alcohol and substances and I’m a binge drinker’. Knowing I can never go back. A drink in my hand is a red flag to all my friends and a dirty secret on my own if I ever give in. But as I said. It is also a gift. One that few people ever get the chance to have. Having substance abuse issues is an experience that ties people together with understand. And shows the strength of not listening to that fucking parasite in your mind every time it sees a bottle. I’ve fucked up with drinking numerous times since I stopped drinking earlier this year, and a few of them have been within the past month. It’s okay. Each drink I have out of pain is a chance to show that I can rise again.

Addiction saved me, and then I had to save myself.

Addiction saved me, and then I had to save myself.

I feel like, since I was young, self destruction has flowed in my blood. Then it’s divided and multiplied like a pathogen or parasite inside me and it’s lived there, among my organs, ever since. I don’t know why I’m so attracted to the prospect of destruction and excited by recklessness. Why do I prefer to live my life in chaos rather than serenity? To thrive in chaos is an omen. This is something I learned only recently, after 5 or so years of starving myself into non-existence. I’ve known a big part of me is an addictive side to my personality, the part that can’t ignore impulses and doesn’t want to acknowledge consequences for my behaviour. It was first the anorexia, then the self harming, then sex and then alcohol- almost like my mind can’t help but find new things to get stuck on. A big part of me is fearful, but somewhat darkly excited by the question: what will it be next?

I think in some ways, addiction is addictive because we know it’s toxic. It’s that kind of mentality that it’s so wrong but it feels so right that the part of my brain that just can’t get enough, bows down to. But no matter how much our brains romanticise the things that are going to kill us there is one thing we have to remember, as much as it feels like a lie, it is an illusion. As much as we repeat the same old thing in our heads, like a mantra ‘to convert a dystopia to a utopia, it must be destroyed’, it is and will always be a lie. There’s that parasite that lives inside us that we mistake for ourselves. It blooms like algae when we feel the most hopeless and the more dependent we become on it, the more is grows and grows into the body of us. And what started out as a problem, finally goes by our name. A shape-shifter of sorts. But the secret that keeps growing inside us can’t stay hidden. It shows itself on the outside, empty bottles of vodka, clothes that keep getting looser and looser around out waist, scars or long sleeves and a sadness on our expression. You see, what started out as something to help tame our unruly feelings, or keep us safe or give us an escape, didn’t just destroy the things we wanted to rid ourselves of, it destroyed us and everything else around us as well.

The long process of recovery and rebuilding begins when we, our family or our body can’t keep it up anymore. Someone or something says ‘that’s enough’ and we come back down to earth much faster than we ever went up. It is excruciating. Learning to restrain the parasite that’s made a home within us. You fight yourself whilst also trying to save yourself, because as much as the addiction saved us from what we wanted to forget about our lives, it will never make it go away. It will never be enough. With help, that impossible process can be made possible. A life that seems too painful to bear becomes kinder, and somewhere we want to be. And with every step towards peace and serenity we take, the air we breathe says ‘welcome home’.

-Emma Catherine

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