When you’re used to drinking at least two bottles of wine and a few shots of liquor a day, living without alcohol is hard. The cravings are the worst of it. There still isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t want to drink, that I don’t walk past a bar and imagine myself going in, that I don’t look at a glass as I fill it with water and imagine it’s vodka instead.
But beyond the cravings, it’s also difficult to live without alcohol when your whole life used to revolve around alcohol. It wasn’t until after rehab that I realized how much of my former life had centered around alcohol; procuring it, concealing it, drinking it, concealing that I was drinking it, making sure I never had too much of it in public, but that I always had enough to keep me satisfied in private. It was a drain on my time, energy, money, and relationships.
When I got home, I saw my parents had completely cleared out all the bottles from my apartment. They had told me they were going to clean out my apartment while I was gone to help me out, and they wanted to get rid of all temptations. I was most grateful not to have to face the mess or the bottles. But the addict in me was still disappointed that they weren’t there, that my safety net was gone.
Now that I wasn’t drinking, I suddenly had so much time and so much money. It was a great and terrible thing. I had to find new ways to distract myself, to keep my thoughts from racing at night, to keep myself from running to the nearest bar. It was extremely hard at first, but once I developed new habits, ones that were good for me, it became easier to stay in a routine and resist temptation. I joined a gym and started running and practicing yoga to blow off steam and clear my mind, instead of drinking. I started seeing friends more, but going on long walks with them, or going to the movies, instead of alcohol. I played with Princess (one of the things I feel the most terrible about was my neglect of poor Princess in my blackout days) at the dog park and met new people, instead of drinking. Everything I did was to keep me from drinking. I’m not saying joining a gym or hanging out with friends cures alcoholism, but it certainly helps.
Going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings has been the single most excellent tool for maintaining my sobriety. There is a meeting nearby for any time of day, so you can almost always go when you want or need to. If I find myself perusing the wine bottles at a grocery store out of habit, I immediately leave and find a meeting.
Attending my first meeting, the day after returning home from rehab, was strange, but not nearly as hard as my first day of group therapy in rehab. I stood in front of everybody and introduced myself, not ashamed, but rather proud of the progress I’d made.
“My name is Janie, and I’m an alcoholic.”