Wikipedia describes passion as: “a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards or compelling desire for someone or something. Passion can range from eager interest in or admiration for an idea, proposal, or cause; to enthusiastic enjoyment of an interest or activity; to strong attraction, excitement, or emotion towards a person.”
I laughed when I read “eager interest or admiration for…”. The reason I laughed is that when I feel passion for something, I am a raging fire. I burn, baby, burn with passion. When a new idea inspires me, I am a blaze that cannot be extinguished. This is how I live my life out loud. This is who I am. I am all or nothing. The ‘all’ is my real, true self, the self that embraces possibility and believes wholeheartedly in miracles. The self that envisions outrageous potential for ideas and knows she can make them come true. The entrepreneur that imagines a business that inspires, delights, contributes, and brings healing all in one fell swoop. I am a passionate person. On steroids. Until I am not.
The Booze Bitch is a destroyer of passion. She is the witch with the great big pimple on her long, crooked nose. She is indescribably monstrous looking, with her long crooked finger that draws her victim to her helplessly. The Booze Bitch is conniving. One stressful day, one bout of intense anxiety and she calls “here I am, drink up, you will feel so much better.” The euphoria she brings is just what she promised. What she failed to reveal is the brief duration of said euphoria, and the devastatingly low rebound that follow; the 3 AM wakeup call that has you sweating with terror at all the imagined worst case scenarios in your head. The Booze Bitch is mighty clever. She comes deceptively disguised as your helper, your wonderful friend, your fun pal, your companion who will commiserate in misery and in joy. The Booze Bitch has a way of sticking to her victims like the way a painful thorn becomes a splinter that is difficult to remove. The Booze Bitch is heralded by society, enamored by entire cultures. An eager assembly of enthusiastic followers worship the Booze Bitch in all her myriad forms: wine, cocktails, beer, straight hard stuff – she has an assortment of costumes. Slaying the Booze Bitch is essential to happiness, a goal worth conquering if her presence has caused pain and suffering. The most potent definition of how a person can know they have a problem with booze, is if they have the feeling of “needing” a drink, if booze is consumed as a way to destress, to escape feelings, to avoid dealing with an issue. The Booze Bitch can take on a facade of being voluptuous, incredibly sensual. She causes a dependency in our brains, making us think we need her to feel better, when the reality is that she is destroying our lives.
I knew my decision to become sober was solid when I could associate the thought of drinking delicious wine or cocktails (my two methods of intoxication) with pouring poison into my liver and brain, resulting in feeling rotten. All I had to remember was how horrific I felt on my absolute worst days, recall vividly my 3 AM awakenings engulfing me with trauma and terror. When I became able to associate the beautiful looking wine in the glass or bottle with the misery of the bookend emotions of depression and anxiety, the dynamic duo of my personal hell, I knew I’d be successful in embracing sobriety.
Considering that I drank many types of alcohol over many, many years, it is no surprise that breaking up with alcohol was so challenging. Alcohol is such a fun part of gatherings and celebrations, relaxation and social events. I read a book that had its beginnings as a blog, which inspired me to start writing this one!, entitled “The Sober Diaries”, by Claire Pooley. In it, the author delves into the dangerous concept of drinking alone, as she had done for many years. Her wine habit developed into a two-bottles-of-wine-a-day drinking addiction. She shares that drinking alone clouds the boundaries we set for ourselves about how often and how much we will drink. There is no one around to hold us accountable and induce guilt by their presence, even without words. Drinking alone facilities the calling in of the bargaining chips we play out of the back and forth dialogue in our mind. We ponder whether or not we should have another glass, drink on a Monday night, open that $100 bottle of wine on a weeknight, start drinking at 3 PM because it’s Sunday. Our standards dissolve. Our promises to ourselves to only drink on the weekends are repeatedly broken. We make an exception here, an exception there, and before long we are back to drinking 4-5 or more nights per week. Those bargaining chips that annihilate our ambitious goals can start the downward spiral of drinking too much, too often. We are defeated in our attempt to drink in moderation. Failing at something we promise ourselves we will commit to creates distrust in ourselves. When we cannot trust ourselves to keep our promises because we keep breaking them, when we are not following through with what we say we will do, self loathing seeps in and we feel miserable.
When alcohol addiction takes hold, it is impossible to be a moderate drinker. I never, ever had just one. Not just one glass of wine, not just one cocktail. I always had at least two, and often three. I was never a 2 bottle/day wine drinker, but 3 glasses of wine on a very regular basis is still a helluva lot for the body and brain to try to process. Throughout the majority of my first 40 days of sobriety I felt quite awful as I detoxed from so many years of regular drinking. I had attempted to cut back numerous times, and temporarily succeeded many times, but each time I would end up drinking more than I had previously. That’s the way alcohol works, the drinker starts finding reasons to drink more alcohol. The drinker becomes addicted to drinking more quantity of alcohol because our organ systems, in their infinite ability to rid the body of toxins, are working overtime to regulate and cleanse the toxins and return to balance. That’s why it takes more and more alcohol to get to a place of feeling the relief from stress. As the brain becomes ultra efficient at ridding the body of poison, it takes more alcohol to get the feeling we used to get from much less. Our tolerance rises and we “need” more. The subsequent negative consequences of alcohol’s physiological effect on us is directly associated with the increased quantity we consume. What an exhausting roller coaster ride!
Sobriety rocks. My passion has returned and my zest for life is fully intact. I am writing this at 5 AM because my energy levels are soaring and I am inspired. Work is better than ever because my light is beaming again, I am a magnet of happiness. I am feeling proud of myself at last, as I have experienced throughout my life when I successfully accomplished a long held, ambitious goal. I have zero anxiety or depression. I have big ideas for moving forward, and excitement about implementing my visions. My house is cleaner than it has been in a very long time. My closet is uncluttered and organized. My financial situation is improving, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am eager and enthusiastic about my friendships, all my relationships. I am blessed beyond description. I am honored to be on this journey. And all I had to do was slay the booze bitch. Understatement.