I look back at recent posts and in some ways it feels like I’m in stasis. I’m still in my Northwest-winter funk. Work is still feeling kind of Sisyphean and meaningless. My mom’s health continues to fail–her symptoms ebb and flow, but her heart is operating at about 20% of its optimal capacity. We knew this would happen someday; it’s the result of damage caused by a drug combination that likely saved her from dying of lymphoma a decade ago. Time to pay the piper, I suppose. But now that things really appear to be sliding, I’m scared. Scared for her, scared for my dad, scared for me that I could lose her with our complex relationship still, well, complex. (I’ve realized I have an assumption that everyone else in the world has perfect closure when they lose a parent and I’m the only one with loose ends–and yes, I also realize this line of thinking is nuts.) My pink cloud is nowhere in sight, and once or twice lately I’ve wanted a drink in a way I hadn’t in a long time. That voice (Wolfie or whatever you want to call it) started speaking to me:
“What’s the big deal if you have one glass of wine? It would be just one day out of nearly 6 months sober. You’ll get right back to it.”
“It isn’t fair that you can’t drink with all the stress you’re under. Anyone else in your shoes would feel perfectly justified having something to take the edge off.”
“You think things are tough NOW? They could get worse–how are you still going to stay sober when things really hit the fan?”
(I kind of like how my version of Wolfie doesn’t even necessarily try to get me to drink right then and there–he just wants me to feel bad because I can’t. What a dick, right?)
And yet–here I am, sober, and more or less okay. I stayed sober this week when a possible job change at my company fell into my lap on Monday, though even the prospect of an exciting new role fills me with anxiety. I stayed sober yesterday when I had to tell my boss (per company policy) that I was likely to pursue the transfer, and when she threw even more ambiguity into the mix by dangling some enticing possibilities within my current job in front of me. That she was both sincere and supportive of whatever choice I ultimately make somehow made it even harder–I’d preassigned her a thwarter/villain role that she refused to fill–but I didn’t use the uncertainty as an excuse to drink. I didn’t even drink later that day when my dad called to say my mom’s heart failure was officially Stage 3 and the only real cure would involve a transplant. Or this morning when my VP handed me yet another plate to spin. Or this afternoon when my sister, a deeply toxic and destructive person from whom I keep a careful distance, emailed to say she thinks we should ‘start again.’ Time and again this week I thought ‘okay, this is it–the center cannot hold’ and felt sorry for myself for not having the ability to drink like a ‘normal person’ and was sure I’d never calm down on my own, without the help of wine.
But you know what? I did calm down eventually, every time, and without a drop to drink. I’d go for a run, or talk to my husband, or pick up a magazine, or hell, even just Farmville my way through it, and at some point I’d realize the intensity of the anxiety or emotion had eased, and there I was still sober. Learning that my body and mind can work themselves down from the peaks of stress they’ve hit this week has felt sort of like finding out I can manufacture my own penicillin–weird and unlikely, but also an incredible source of comfort and security. It’s powerful to know that no matter what life throws at me, I can be okay–more or less–under my own steam. That I can let it all flow around me and the center will hold. I may not like much at the moment, but I really like that.
It’s Day 179 and tomorrow is my 6-month soberversary.