Eight and a half months into my Sober Journey, I could never have imagined it would be like this. I had not envisioned that I could manage a birthday sober, a Thanksgiving sober, a Christmas and New Year sober, all during a frickin’ pandemic. I have experienced isolation, quarantine, employment endings with layoffs due to COVID not once but twice, financial insecurity and loads of uncertainty. In my case, emotions are accentuated by the fact that I am single and sometimes feel very alone while simultaneously keeping to myself and not reaching out to my community – a bit of a Catch 22.
I am simmering in sobriety stew. The roller coaster of emotions hasn’t been as extreme with ups and downs, but I feel flat. I am a boat in a storm, a tiny boat holding on for dear life while the waves crash and plummet, threatening my sense of safety. I am searching for a renewed sense of peace in my mind and spirit, and it comes to me in fleeting stages, but disappears too soon. I miss feeling eager and inspired. I miss the energy I grew so accustomed to enjoying, the energy that made me burst out of bed early in the mornings, energy that got me out on the water on my stand up paddle board. I long for the return of the energy that inspired me to write encouraging words on my blog in a voracious manner. I miss the inner drive that gave me courage to write and share my life from my most vulnerable, authentic place. I truly believed I was going to feel full of vitality and inspiration forevermore once I made it through the first 40 days of misery during early withdrawal.
The Sober community is a sanctuary for those of us experiencing all the myriad of emotions that come with quitting an addiction. I have learned from wonderful souls who paved the path in front of me, who have been where I am now and made it through. I have learned about Anhedonia, defined as the complete lack of pleasure in things that used to bring us joy. Anhedonia can occur when the brain is depleted of its natural chemical balance due to years of addiction to a toxic substance. The brain is genius in its ability to come back into equilibrium when we load it with venom in the form of alcohol or other drugs. Once we stop ingesting alcohol, the brain has to find a new normal. The return to health takes time, sometimes years. Our brains slowly adjust to not having to compensate for the ingestion of a poison it must eliminate. When the brain works overtime to eliminate toxins for extended periods, we become deficient in important nutrients, and our bodies work hard to try to come back into balance. Without the nutrition, supplements, and mind-body healing necessary to rebuild the hormones and neurotransmitters that have been seriously depleted, we can feel pretty miserable.
I learned about Post Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, PAWS, around five or six months sober. This is the experience of withdrawal after early sobriety that can bring back feelings of discomfort, cravings for alcohol, boredom, a sense of loss, sadness, lack of pleasure in activities that used to bring joy (related to anhedonia and depression), mood swings, low energy, insomnia, chronic pain, irritability, and a myriad of other symptoms. PAWS can last for months or even years, depending on how long and how much was involved throughout the addiction. Many experts point to PAWS as the leading cause of relapse in sobriety. It is essential to understand that PAWS happens because we are in need of further emotional, mental, and physiological healing, and need to find the proper resources in the form of supplements, nutritional therapy and support to help return our whole being back to a place of ultimate health. We must replenish what we depleted over years of addiction. This is where I am currently. I am determined to stay the course, knowing the only way to the other side, back to my happy place (or more likely, to a new and even more wonderful happy place!), is to manage to navigate as best I can through this stormy sea in my little boat. I am doing the best I am able to exercise every day, spend time in nature, keep my nutrition optimal, drink loads of lemon water, read and absorb all the excellent information written by experts in the addiction communities, connect with others who have been here, and trust that I will eventually land exactly where I imagine in my mind. I envision feeling empowered, strong, compassionate, healthy, healed, emotionally stable, physically powerful, a rejuvenated, blissful sober person. The journey is not an easy one, but the alternative is a living hell. Life is so full of wonder and beauty, and I want to experience all of it; the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter what, I am very aware of how blessed I am to be here during this amazing time in history, with all the privileges with which I have been endowed, row, row rowing my boat through the storm. I look forward to sharing how wonderful it feels to get to the other side! Happy New Year to everyone, may all your hopes and aspirations come to fruition in this new 2021. Thank you for being in my life.