I hate, hate, HATE rollercoasters! (My husband and dearest friends will completely back me on my abhorrence). The “amusing” rides terrify me to the core with all their anxiety-induced gut-drops, unbeknown twisting and jerking, excessive loopty loops, and ever-increasing speed. Try as I may to convince myself I’ll conquer my fear and magically be amused by the “thrill,” I always depart from the rides quicker than the rides themselves.
Sobriety feels a lot like a rollercoaster.
Early into sobriety, the twists, turns, and drops are much closer together. Twists (aka triggers) are all over the place (i.e. seeing friends and family drinking, sitting next to your husband drinking, walking by wine in the grocery store, seeing memes about moms drinking, etc.). Any and all of these could instantly, without warning, make you grab for the “Oh, sh**!” bar, hang on for dear life, and scream.
Then there are the many (on-going) jolts (aka feelings) you must endure without escaping because you are strapped in tight. Stressful day? Handle it. Angry at someone? Handle it. Tired from toddler tantrums and #momlife? Handle it. Self-critical? Handle it. Sensitive to others words? Handle it. Feeling sad about some news? Handle it. Have no idea how you’re feeling and just want to scream? Handle it. Had a great day and want to celebrate? Handle it. Feeling bored? Handle it.
You also have to prepare for the turns of a sober lifestyle. How do you socialize now? What do you do with all this newfound time on your hands? What will replace those nightly cocktails? How do you find like-minded friends to hang out with? Where do I find support from those who are also on this ride?
Thankfully, the further I distance myself from the bottles, the further apart the twists, jolts and turns feel. I’ve established my foundation in sobriety and continuously seek out new ways to enjoy this way of living.
But what still makes me want to vacate the ride (at times) are really big, unexpected drops. In fact, I’m on the upside of one.
Recently I decided I was ready to share my story on “The Day.” I felt ready to compile all the details of how I found my seat on this ride. So I typed it up, let me husband read it, we discussed it, we disagreed about some points, and then just like that, I dropped.
I know that I can talk about my story with select folks, but the thought of putting it out into cyberspace scares the hell out of me. Will it affect me professionally? What will my closest friends and family think who still don’t know all the deets? Will it impact my husband in any way? I quickly learned that I’m just not ready, and that blew my mind given it’s been seven months!
So down, down, down I went, hanging on with all my might. I cried (a ton), I screamed (probably a little too much), I closed my eyes and got lost in the sick feelings of regret, and I held my breath waiting on it all to pass.
It took me three days! Three whole days of just surviving the wave of emotions that snuck up on me. Three days of journaling, sitting quietly, praying, going through the motions of some of my favorite activities, and a handful of self-care.
Gratefully, I’ve evened out on the tracks once again. I’ve returned to the part of the ride where I can breathe, open my eyes, and just be grateful my stomach is back in its rightful place.
Riding sobriety is no thrill all the time. But as I continue to experience and SURVIVE the drops, I realize I’d much rather handle this ride than to go on riding life with a bottle in my hand.