monkey off my back

One guy's experiences as he quits drinking

Fade to grey

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I just wrote something and deleted it. The post wasn’t deeply sensitive, emotionally challenging or secret… it was because I was bored senseless listening to myself.

For the first few months after quitting, alcohol still really dominated my life, even in its absence. Fast forward a few months and when I write about alcohol my energy levels dim and I struggle to think of topics to write about.

I know that alcohol has had a profound effect on my life, and that it will continue to do so, but it isn’t in the forefront of my mind. I’m pretty future-focused and I like to jump between goals, hobbies, obsessions and interests – so looking backwards and ruminating doesn’t get me going.

There are things which I’m really passionate about and they have slowly been filling the void left by many empty bottles. At the moment I get excited about photography. About the special lenses I just bought for my SLR. About running and my upcoming half-marathon. About the overseas holiday I’m about to go on with my partner. Even about my work!

Even the things which cause nasty sensations are in the future. I’ll be coming back from holidays just in time for the next round of medical scans and tests in August. Testing periods are always nerve-wracking and I’m always half-planning what could happen. Another round of surgery. More time off work. Are our finances secure? How much paid sick leave do I have accrued? Will they switch to external beam radiotherapy this time? Bleurghh – I get a bit anxious when I dwell on it and I feel tight in my chest and gut.

My memories of drinking are fading slightly and they have less emotional impact. I can remember how I felt – but the memories don’t have the same emotional oomph or visceral sensation. It’s like I remember a situation with words and images but the emotional sensations are getting hazy. Occasionally I’ll read someone’s blog post and it’ll trigger a reaction but it doesn’t happen in general everyday-life.

One feeling which I’m glad is gone is guilt. Guilt is one emotion which really gets under my skin. It’s probably my perfectionist streak – I hate it when I’m responsible for something because I was negligent, sloppy, selfish, self-absorbed or thoughtless. I felt guilty a lot while I was drinking – guilty that I was letting myself down, guilty for the impact on people around me, guilty that I was lying every day, guilty that I was in a detached numb stupor each evening, guilty that I was taking money from our joint account because I couldn’t control or afford my drinking. Bleurghhh.

I don’t miss that feeling and I don’t get it from many other areas of my life. I do things as well as I can in a given situation and my actions generally match my values. Things might not always be perfect but it was usually the best I could do when juggling several different issues. That’s a big change and I love it.

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