I once wrote that if you asked me to describe myself, the word Bipolar wouldn’t show up in the first 10 adjectives I used.
If you had asked me before I quit drinking I wouldn’t have used the word alcoholic either.
Now, I’m pretty sure it belongs in the top 3.
You may have heard the expression, you are what you eat (Hopefully that’s not true, because then I’ll have to start introducing myself as Reese’s Cup). Well I’ve always thought it more accurate to say, you are what you do.
The English language seems to agree with me on this point. Let’s say you’re an accountant. If someone asks you what you do for a living, you don’t respond with “I do accounting.” No, you are an accountant.
Even many family identities have their roots in what people did for work: Smith, Carpenter, Cooper, Potter, Mason, Taylor, Miller, Baker, Spicer, Cook, Fisher, Shepherd, and on and on. Incidentally, I’m glad this tradition has fallen away. It’d be unseemly for my daughters to possess the not-so-proud surname of Drinker.
Sobriety has made me realize that I have no idea what I do, and therefore, I have no idea who I am. For my entire adult life, drinking is what I did, and an alcoholic is who I was – even if I wasn’t willing to admit it.
I’d even find ways to incorporate drinking into non-drinking things. I’m currently vacationing in Maine. My wife’s family has a beautiful cottage on a secluded lake in a rural area of the state. There are tons of activities available from canoeing, row boating, sailing, boccie ball, and mountain biking just to name a few.
So those all sound like healthy things to do… but a boat’s a great place to keep a six pack. And a glass of whiskey is a really good counter balance to a smooth boccie ball roll. And a can of beer is a great motivator to get you over that last hill on the bike.
Week three of sobriety has led me to a startling realization:
I don’t really like any of the things I thought I did. I only like drinking.
It makes sense really. Why did I use to get irritated doing fun things like going to a concert, or going to the state fair? It’s because these things made drinking harder to do.
You might be irritated that it costs 10 dollars to get a crappy beer at the concert, but it really pisses me off. How dare they? That’s just ridiculous! And then… I wish I had stayed home.
I bought a fancy cooler because it has what I refer to as a “smuggler’s pocket.” It’s one of those coolers on wheels that has 15 pockets, and one extra special, extra hard to find one – perfect for sneaking beer through security checks.
10 bucks for a beer? Ha! I’m much smarter than that!
So now that I’m sober I’ve discovered a great emptiness where my “interests” used to be. It’s terrifying – but if I may risk some optimism – it’s actually sort of exciting. I might actually discover what I like doing.
And so I’ll conclude this week 3 sobriety update with my first positive update – This past weekend my wife, two daughters and I did something that I hate. We went to the state fair. I’ve always hated the crowds, and there’s only one goddamned beer tent!
Here’s the thing though – I LOVED IT!
My 3 year old frolicked through the pens of cows, sheep, pigs, horses – filled with the wonderment and joy of childhood. But there I was with her, experiencing the same – filled with a joy of discovery I’ve been denying myself for an age. As she experienced happiness, I felt it too – and I can’t remember the last time I really felt the experiences or emotions of another person. I can’t remember the last time I was actually happy for someone, and the last time that happiness affected me.
I’ve written before about how sobriety has reduced me to the level of a child; how I lack even basic coping skills, and how my reactions to stress are not much more advanced than the reactions of my children. But maybe I’ve been thinking about it wrong – maybe I’ve been elevated to the level of a child; capable of experiencing joy and discovery again.
So week three is in the books – maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t suck as much as I thought.
This is part 3 of a series. The previous part can be found here.