the drinking brain after 1 year and 10 months of sobriety

Taste of fall this morning. Cool, gusty wind coming off Grand Lake. Lots of waves. The temperature will probably stay below 70. Not cold, but not warm enough for swimming or dragging people around the water on a tube. So, our activities will be land-based. Cornhole, ladder ball, sitting and standing around, talking. All of this is fine and good, and I’m looking forward to it.

Me, these days, always looking forward. But also getting better at looking at the now. And right now it’s pretty good. I’m here with the dogs, with time to wake slowly and drink coffee and write.

I’m growing more comfortable relating to people. It’s not confidence, really. It’s comfort. I’m good with who I am, my flaws, and I understand my past better than ever before. People have much to offer. They have insights, challenges, needs, and desires. The world, as it turns out, is not about me or you. It’s about us and how we relate to one another. It’s about how we take advantage of opportunities to better ourselves, understand others, and carve out our happiness.

The older I get, the more I realize that I can do plenty of things. I know my wheelhouse, so I’m not overreaching, but I’m learning that my core competencies have depths to be explored. And that exploration is advanced and enhanced by letting others in. Meeting. Listening. Talking. But mostly, listening. And the strange thing is the more I engage with others, the more I know about myself. I am discovering what makes us tick.

Communicating is key. For strangers, co-workers, family, and friends. For the world. There are many barriers to break down and overcome, but once we stand on common ground or sit in a booth at a coffee shop, we make progress. We begin to know our potential. The sky opens, light shines, and we begin to see the goodness in work, family, and the mundane.

This level of thinking and approach to life would never have been possible had I kept drinking. Quitting alcohol has allowed me to brighten my days, help others, and let go of anxiety, fear, and frustration. Sure, I still experience those emotions, but it’s not like before. Waking up pissed off at the world, all wound up inside, stuffing frustration down repeatedly so that it built up and had to erupt, mostly over the stupidest things. Issues I created that weren’t really issues at all. But the drinking brain is disorderly in its organization. It believes chaos is the answer. It likes things messy, cluttered, in disarray. It creates a broken reality in which destructive behavior, carelessness, and selfishness are the norm. It’s a ME brain. It’s all about insulating oneself against the outside world because “nobody understands.”

The drinking brain says and does whatever it wants no matter what the situation or company because the drinking brain “tells it like it is” and “just states the truth.” The more you drink, the more “truths” you discover. Soon, you’re swimming in so many of these so-called truths that you cannot function because you cannot relate to others. Except for other drinkers, of course. And so you run with them. You go fishing, and you drink. You watch a game together and drink. You camp and drink. You bowl and drink. You golf and drink. You drink and drink. It’s fun, you think. Relaxing. You’re “just havin’ a good time.” And you do this, over and over again, no matter how shitty you sleep, how awful you feel, and how much regret builds because when you’re in it, that is the truth. Drinking is the answer because you’ve convinced yourself that it calms you, removes the fear, and alleviates anxiety. And when those around you think the same, you get trapped.

Drinking makes you into someone you aren’t meant to be, at least not permanently. I’m an alcoholic, I guess. That’s the term that helps others identify my vice, my flaws, my intentions, and what they should expect from me. But I don’t like that term because drinking is more than the alcohol. There are reasons people migrate to the bottle like bugs to a lightbulb. One is they want to feel better by not feeling at all. The drinker, like a bug, will keep moving toward that warm, fuzzy glow time and time again because they don’t know, or don’t want to remember, anything else.

But they can. And it doesn’t take AA or a priest or jail time or losing friends or hurting family. It takes finding that one moment when you know that it’s not for you, that it doesn’t make sense, that alcohol is, indeed, a poison. And when you understand that, it becomes much easier to grab that fleeting moment of clarity and flip the switch. Begin a different path, away from that promise of warm fuzziness, into reality. It’s not easy. Life is not easy, but it’s navigable. It’s manageable. And letting others in to help, listen, yell at you, play with you, care for you, puts you on the fast track to healing. Because when you open that door, welcoming strangers and family alike, with the intent of just being there in whatever capacity they need, you recognize that you are fixable and good, that you have much to offer, and everything to look forward to.

Be good to each other. Reach out.

~ KJ


2 thoughts on “the drinking brain after 1 year and 10 months of sobriety

  1. Been there too, haven’t touched alcohol in 26 years give or take a few days 🤣🤣🤣. You gotta just keep going and DONT look back. You will be fine if I can do it so can you. Just remember family, and friends can help. Most of all you’re wife and children.

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    1. Thanks for the response. Yep, I’ve no desire to drink anymore. Never even think about it, really. I made the decision to not drink, and it’s been easy, for the most part. Probably because, like you said, I have a good support system. Thanks again.

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