I’ve been dry since July 5th of 2016 and today is December 11th of 2016. That’s 158 days with no alcohol as of this writing.
During the time I was drinking, it’s clear to me now I had a lot more going on. Although I was fully functioning with my habitual drinking, I had a lot of triggers to drink. Celebrating, sadness, and just the day of the week. Some triggers were much more subtle that I wasn’t aware.
As with anyone, my life is a bit complex. I’ve been married and divorced and recently married. I had moved in the past twenty four months away from my adult kids,
Around the one hundred twenty day mark, there was something that occurred that, with help from my wife, showed me that alcohol had become a problem in ways I hadn’t considered.
Something was going on in the household and, uncharacteristically, I completely overreacted. I don’t even remember what the issue was.
And yet the feeling of anger, frustration and irritation was ever present and had built up over time.
I remember feeling as though everything and everyone else was against me. And when I ranted, it was to the first person that I was near. It wasn’t their fault. But my frustration was borderline anger. And with my outburst, I found that my anger was just beneath the surface.
The fallout got back to my wife. At first we were at odds trading unpleasant emails while we were at work.
When we met that evening, she got exasperated, looked past my anger and said something that took the wind out of my anger. Basically she asked me if I hadn’t been numbing out over little frustrations and now they were surfacing.
Then I realized, she was onto something. She was right. She was two weeks further along in the process. And frankly was approaching her sobriety by doing a lot more homework and had the help of an online support group, “Women for Sobriety”.
Her observation flattened me. I had to admit to myself that I felt continuous anger and frustration over the littlest things that would never have bothered me with the alcohol.
She said it could be P.A.W.S.. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. I had never heard of such a thing. But I had to admit, when I looked in the mirror, how I felt and how I didn’t seem to be in control of my feelings entirely, it made sense.
As I examined what was going on with myself, the only explanation for why so many things that I’d never let bother me were suddenly issues, was that I had used the drinking to numb out and ignore so many irritations. None of the issues I had were related to anything of real significance.
What further bothered me was that I had always considered myself to be fairly self aware and really felt embarrassed that I’d fallen prey to something like this.
A few weeks later, I had another outburst. Again, something stupid I over reacted about. I quickly made apologies. This time, I tried approaching something that bugged me, but the inexplicable and constant irrational irritation led me to approach it in an insulting way filled with over reaction, once again.
I apologized to all involved and felt terrible once again. How going sober for three months when I considered suddenly cause such havoc? Clearly alcohol had created an emotional crutch that allowed me to ignore things that a more sober self would have dealt with in better ways.
What could I do about this? From the homework I’d done and the input from my wife, it was clear that persevering is really all you can do. The information I could find doesn’t clearly explain the mechanics between the physiology and the emotional but, my guess work is that it’s very much creating a habit of numbing out. There isn’t a pill, exercise, or switch you can flip and it suddenly goes away. The only means for coping is self awareness and time. Time for your physiology to adapt and the self awareness to catch yourself from the bad habits and adapt to this new normal emotionally.
Another part of me kept thinking, I was only a habitual drinker and this was happening. How in the world do full blown alcoholics ever break free without tormenting everyone around them?
I’m fortunate enough to have a wife who is very aware of what I’m going through and where I am in the process.