Dirty Words and Dark Secrets

In thinking about my word of the year I have also had cause to consider some of the ‘dirty’ words I have come up against since beginning (officially) this journey last May. The ‘A’ word, obviously: am I? Aren’t I? What does it really mean? Then there are the others that I have also had to confront, reluctantly and full of fear; “depression” “medication,” and one that has been persistently and increasingly insistently demanding my attention: cross-addiction. (Is this one word or two? Is this even exactly the right word? Let it stand.)

A guest post by Veronica Valli on A hangover free life on Tuesday finally gave me a frame for really confronting the issue and I am here today (a bit like church! Ha) to try again to tackle it.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in sobriety is believing that drinking is the problem when it is a symptom of the problem.

Our real problem is how we think and how we feel. We have to develop new and better ways to deal with our feelings and emotions. Because when we feel differently, we act differently, says Veronica.

How much easier it would be to be normal. A “normal” drinker, thinker, feeler, processor of life and living. I wish I was, sometimes, but of course there is no way of knowing which bits of myself would be left and which lost if I could be cured once and for all of the darkness, and the compulsive consumption that I resort to so readily – sometimes in a conscious bid to vanquish the darkness and sometimes just… because. Boredom, possibly, or something more destructive.

In any case, I am not “normal” even to the extent that there is such a thing at all. Alcoholic or no there came a time when I understood that I was powerless over alcohol, and that no relationship with it could ever be healthy. I had to quit, once and for all. Cross addiction is proving thornier. I can’t – well I don’t want to – quit sugar and caffeine once and for all. What a prospect! But the truth is these are not innocuous comforts or harmless distractions for me.

While I will not go so far as to liken, truly, either of these (or for that matter Bejeweled and its time-sucking brain-numbing ilk) to alcohol, there are some distressing similarities at least in my life as I am living it at the moment.

I wake up eager for my first cup of coffee and if my husband, who rises first, has not yet made any I feel disgruntled and cross until it is ready and poured. Sometimes I will drink a whole pot and be left shaky and agitated. I know before the last cup is poured that I have had enough. I know from bitter experience that if I drink coffee too late in the day I will have a terrible night’s sleep, making the next day worse, but I regularly do it anyway. I have a hard time leaving coffee in the pot, and I spend too much on it when I am out.

As to sugar… I have seen it discussed often enough on these pages and elsewhere by people in recovery to know that I am not alone. I always know how much there is in the house and as often as not once I start on a bar of chocolate (or box of cookies or tray of brownies, I cannot stop until it is finished. I hide it from the rest of the family so I won’t have to share. I have been known to contrive grocery orders (a household can always use a colossal stash of extra toilet paper, right?) in order to have a fix delivered late in the afternoon, after being “good” all day and committing in all sincerity to a dessert-free evening. Sometimes, if I really go to town, the late-night load of sugar actually causes me to wake up at 3am, a low-key version of the wine-fuelled wakings of old and accompanied by milder but unlovely feelings of shame and regret.

The less said about Bejeweled the better.

These are not comforts, nor are they harmless. They are hurting me. I am hurting myself. I am impeding, delaying, preventing my recovery. I understand that, at least for now, moderation is not a good strategy for me. I have decided that my last cup of coffee must indeed have been my last, for a while at least and that sugar  is off the table.

For today, it seems to me that the most important thing is really looking at the thing and I must admit that the act of writing all this down has been sobering. I hope that posting this here will give me some of the same sense of accountability that I got, especially in the early days, when I stopped drinking. Simply abstaining from one substance and replacing it with others is not going to be enough for me any more. I cannot truly be sober until I learn to live with and as myself. I am worthy of a full and healthful recovery, and that is surely a thing to be grateful for.


6 thoughts on “Dirty Words and Dark Secrets”

  1. It’s pretty cool cause in your writing I can hear that you’ve made it to another “stage”. My hubs and I talk all the time about how the longer you stay sober, the more you realize that there are layers and layers of things to work on. You could not–but the thing about peeling off those layers is that you get more and more free as you do–and FREEDOM is LIFE– I think. There is a guy in a meeting I go to regularly that always gets annoyed if and when people talk about other things besides alcohol. He says, “we are here because we can’t stop drinking. If I don’t drink today, it’s a good day, PERIOD.” Honestly, I couldn’t disagree with him more. JUST staying sober a day at a time is fine in the beginning–but i think if you’re not looking for more, then you’re not growing. And then I think–wtf is the point?
    I think living life as a sober person is WONDEROUS. It can be hard, but the challenge is unbelievably rewarding, and never stops being worth the work to me. You will figure out the coffee, and the sugar–one day at a time, just like you have and are doing with the booze. Ask others for help. The answers and the willingness in yourself will start to come.
    When I first got sober, I still smoked a pack a day and drank my body weight in coffee. Now I’ve been smoke-free for 9 years and caffeine free for about 7! Each new challenge takes time and some never really end–but perspective shifts I think, and so does our appreciation for each step we get to take on the journey.
    Glad to see a post from you–always enjoy!x

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you very, very much for this comment. It has really touched me. “Layers of sobriety” is very resonant. I think that is exactly what I have been grappling with and I am so grateful to hav you characterize as progress/stages instead of around in circles, which is what I have been feeling. Every time I think I have it figured out I discover more stuff I need to figure out. I think it’s my old binary thinking again – “Am I better yet? Am I ok? No? How ‘bout now? Now? No? What about now?” 😂🙄 You have given me a nudge in perspective. Thank you for reading and being here and for your lovely writing. x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wendy! I am battling mightily today but I am suffering terribly with caffeine withdrawal. I ended up having two cups and I still have a rotten headache. I’m going to have to taper, in fairness to my family if nothing else. 😳😂 No sugar though! 💪

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My major cross-addiction is shopping. I’m really working on that one! There are other less nefarious ones. Sugar was a big one for me until years ago I discovered Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean series of books. If you are unfamiliar, To “eat clean” is to eat nutrient dense foods every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day, always combining lean protein with complex carbs. No processed foods or “white stuff”, ie. sugar, white flour, white rice, pasta. Although Tosca markets her books as “diet”, because that’s what sells, eating clean is a lifestyle and I have found it sustainable long-term. Following the eat clean model curbed my blood sugar crashes, so I became much better able to control my sugar intake. Now after quitting wine again, it’s easier to control any sugar cravings if I “eat clean”. It’s also a lifestyle you can ease into as well. As for coffee (❤️❤️❤️) I can only control my intake if I drink really rich espresso (with cream) in the morning, otherwise I will just drink regular coffee all day trying to quell that craving. It’s great you are at 8 months!!!! Love your writing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s