The first month was sleep, and boredom, and pneumonia. The first two are pretty common, I think. The third may have just been me.
Andrew left town the day after my first AA meeting, which ended up being the actual first day I spent without alcohol in god knows how long. He was gone for two weeks. I spent that time going to meetings — something like 5 my first week, 4 the next week, and tapering so on until my current level of 1. I spoke to Andrew every day but never mentioned that I had quit drinking. I kept that to myself, for some reason.
I remember the exhilaration of driving to meetings at night, sober. The exhilaration of feeling like I was doing something amazing for myself. That I was doing it, finally doing it. I also remember the panic when I got home each night and realized I couldn’t drink. The panic thinking of trying to sleep without wine. At some point in the evening, usually around 8:00, I would crave unconsciousness and would go to bed.
I’ve since read something that makes a lot of sense to me about why we sleep so much when we quit drinking: It’s our only remaining escape from ourselves. We used to use drinking as the escape valve at the end of the day — now our only option is sleeping, so off to bed we go, often ridiculously, absurdly early. And that’s okay. Also, I remember facing the expanse of the evening and wondering if I would ever want to stay up past 9pm again — if I couldn’t drink, what was the point? But I’m glad to report that in month 2, most of the excessive sleeping has tapered off, and I’m once again staying up later than I should. Sober.
I remember eating candy by the handful, having read somewhere that us winedrinkers need extra sugar at first because our bodies were used to getting so much of it each night through drinking. I ordered sour watermelon candy by bulk and didn’t hold back. As it turns out, I’m now having a hard time letting go of the sugar, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that particular stopgap.
I remember having an internal battle every single evening when I drove home from work past the two, three, four places I rotated my nightly wine-buying. I would hear that little voice, and I had to fight it by almost arguing out loud. When I got home and parked my car, when I climbed the steps up to the cottage, when I was safely inside, then I knew I had won the battle.
Oddly, I kept booze in the house. I was never tempted to drink hard alcohol even when at my worst, though I went to pretty great lengths to make sure the wine flowed. But Andrew bought me a bottle of wine the day before I quit, and I have kept it in the house. It’s a sort of vote of confidence in myself, an acknowledgment that my drinking is just between me and myself, a realization that I want it enough to ignore that bottle of wine. It has been a reminder of my strength. A reminder of my desperation and of my commitment. I like having it there.
My first sober socializing happened the first weekend after I quit drinking. Some friends invited me over for sunset drinkings in the yard of their new house, and I accepted. I was pretty nervous. I felt it might be a mistake. But I grabbed a few bottles of kombucha and went on over. And you know what, it was great. I had a great time. I realized right then and there that maybe my drinking had been hindering my ability to socialized. I felt so present. Undistracted. (Thirsty Still has a great post up that touches on this topic.) Although I will say that having committed to attending an AA meeting after the cocktail hour was a great incentive. And it was absolutely thrilling to drive to that meeting, sober, after successfully navigating my first cocktail event.
I made lists in a journal I bought to help me quit. Every day I would make a silly list, like: 1. Get up early. 2. Walk Petunia. 3. Shower. 4. Work productively. 5. Go to a meeting. 6. Do not drink.
Every day, the last entry was, “Do not drink.” And the next day when I checked off the ones I had accomplished (usually all except work productively – more on that below), I took great satisfaction in checking off the “do not drink” entry.
Maybe the hardest part about that first month was the brain fog. I had this idea that I would quit drinking and my job would be easier — I wouldn’t be distracted/hampered by hangovers, for one thing, and for another I wouldn’t have to skeedaddle out of the office as soon as I could to get that first drink. But that brain fog was NO JOKE. I no longer had hangovers, but I just felt like I couldn’t get my brain to engage. Days and even weeks went by in that first month where very little got done. I was panicked about it. I’m a lawyer, and I had a lot of big deadlines coming up. I quit drinking when I did in part because I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of work I had and felt I simply couldn’t balance my drinking with it anymore. And so I had quit, and I couldn’t get ANYTHING done. It was a horrible feeling. Sinking, desperate. What do you do when your brain just won’t WORK? And on top of that, I got the flu and then pneumonia. I was bitter that I couldn’t even enjoy feeling great after quitting – I still felt like utter shit.
The brain fog passed, fortunately, probably around week 5 or 6. I lost all that time, and since then I’ve been playing catch up, working weekends, 15-hour days, etc. It sucks that I’m way behind schedule now and working all the time to catch up — in all my cases; these things tend to snowball — but when I think of the alternative, it’s just a small price to pay.