Ex-Boozer Chronicles: Dealing with BIG emotions without a drink

Emotions can be a bitch but without them we wouldn’t be human so I guess you’ve just got to find a way to deal with them. Ever since I was a teenager I’d used the ancient technique of drunkenness to alleviate the symptoms of human feelings. It was quite simple: at the moment of afflicted pain take one to two bottles of wine and drink. Disclaimer: wine may cause obnoxiousness, poor decision-making, and possible blackouts.

I craved how the numbing elixir anesthetized my mind and body, and squished any emotion that might be trying to sneak in. Until the next day that is, when I would still feel numb but not in a lovely floaty way, more like someone had torturously injected botox into my brain, and stopped it working properly. However the other day, a week before my 6 month anniversary, I had the bad emotion thing happen, and I felt like I would have chopped off the tip of a finger just to have a shot of alcohol but somehow I managed not to (insert emoji shocked face).

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, simply a breeze darling. No, it was really hard. The day in question had me feeling all the gut wrenching emotions: disappointment, anger, sadness, hopelessness. It was the worst I’ve endured since I began my sobriety journey, and I wasn’t really prepared to cope. Before it was easy, bad emotions: drink. Someone disappoints me: drink. Have a crappy day at work: drink. Feeling mad: drink. Life not going to plan: drink.

I was so conditioned to see drinking as my salvation in any time of hardship that I had no idea what to do without it. It’s kind of a conditioned response in society when I think about it, especially in Australia. How often have you heard someone exclaim at the end of a long work day, ‘I’m going to need a drink after that day!’, and then everyone laughs and thinks how never a truer word has been said, and then they go home and slowly kill themselves with overconsumption but it’s okay because there are memes about it, and that makes it seem acceptable and fun.

On the day in question I was so fixated on my situation that it took over all my head space. There was no room for rational thought or calmness. I tried to self talk myself around but I kept looping back to the same unhelpful thought patterns. At one point I stared up at our alcohol shelf, and saw a small bottle of vodka staring back at me, ‘hey gorgeous’, it said flirtingly, ‘why don’t you join me for a drink? I go great with lime and soda’. However I resisted and replied, ‘no, screw you Absolut, you are a poor excuse for a drink anyway. I don’t even really like you!’, and I stormed off to have a shower. I let the warm water wash over me for half an hour (sorry landlord!) whilst I fixed my gaze on the green bathroom tiles and let the thoughts in my mind curdle. I don’t think I really felt any better mentally after the shower but I definitely felt cleaner, and that’s something.

I set about distracting myself with a TV show I have watched a million times and always makes me laugh, and whilst I half-listened I played Solitaire. I find the simplicity of Solitaire calming. There’s only one goal/focus, and it helps to settle the random thoughts that kamikaze at me. Eventually I gave up on the evening and had an early night. Not that it was easy to get to sleep. I tossed and turned for over an hour as I couldn’t calm my mind. It felt like someone was in there playing pots and pans. I ended up doing a visualisation exercise I had learnt at hypnosis in which you count up to 20, imagining the shape of the numbers, and if you aren’t asleep by 20, you begin the process back down to 0.

I must have drifted off at some point as the next thing I knew it was morning. As the morning haze started to clear I probed my emotional wellbeing, checking in on where it was at, and was surprised to find that although the shittiness was still hanging about making a nuisance of itself, and the feelings were still alight within me, they had dimmed somewhat. I didn’t feel so raw and exposed. I didn’t feel like I could simultaneously crumble into tears any moment, punch a wall in rage, and feel ashamed for being so aggressive. I could see reason. I was capable of rational thought. Hallelujah! In the old days I would have woken up feeling worse as not only would I still have all the initial emotions floating about but I would also have a massive hangover, and an overwhelming sense of disgust with myself.

However, this morning I had a realisation that managed to make me smile, and ignited a sense of hope and pride: I had been tested and I had passed. I’d done something brave. I had taken those unwelcome thoughts and sat with them for a day, and not let them throw me off a bridge into the murky waters that lie beneath. I had waded through the River Styx in my mind and managed to climb out the other side, a stronger and more hopeful person.

For more Ex-Boozer Chronicles click here

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