Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The big adjustment

If you are embarking on a mission to remove alcohol from your life and get sober, it's no understatement to say it's probably going to be one of the most monumental processes you're ever going to go through.

I remember when I first quit drinking it was like I was an intergalactic traveller that had been plonked down on an entirely different planet. I moved around as though I was hindered by a ginormous spacesuit, struggling to interact with others or even sit comfortably with myself for any length of time.

I lurched from emotional state to emotional state - one minute deeply sad, the next irate, then nervy, followed closely by bored. Anything slightly troublesome or problematic caused me to jerk uncomfortably into action. I'd frantically look around for some sort of remedy for my woes.

Oh, I'm sad! I need something to take this sadness away!

Yikes, I'm grumpy! Quick help me deal with this anger!

OMG I'm bored! How can I make this boredom go away!

I was looking for quick fixes. Fast solutions. Easy remedies. Because of course that is what I was used to. My usual fix/solution/remedy to any sort of feeling (but especially the uncomfortable ones) was just one pour away. It was alcohol. Alcohol had always been my main man, my go-to problem solver, my beloved cure-all.

So with alcohol out of the picture and life stuff keeping on happening, the biggest adjustment for me was learning how to relax about my feelings and stop grasping for instant solutions. To put it bluntly I had to learn how to chill out and slow the fuck down.

And this is the big adjustment in sobriety I think. This is the crux of what getting quitting booze is all about. When we remove our liquid solution we have to learn to relax into whatever is going on - as uncomfortable as it may be - allow it to occur, allow feelings to be just as they are, trust that things will shift and change, and chill.

Sounds easy but in practice it is not and I have to be honest and say it took me an awfully long time to do this. But now, six years after my last drink, I am a far more chilled out version of myself than I ever was. I am used to feeling the whole range of my emotions. I have stopped looking for something, anything, to help me deal with shit. I have relaxed.

There's a great mindfulness saying which is 'respond don't react' which would make a very good mantra for people getting sober. When we're in active addiction we are reacting constantly - taking quick actions based on immediate, surface feelings. The problem is when we do this we aren't pausing to give the wise, calm parts of ourselves a change to get involved. Acting responsively, on the other hand, is much better because we're pausing to take stock and giving ourselves time to respond in a calmer and more considered way.

To live reactively is quick and hard. To live responsively is gentle and soft.

To live as a boozer is quick and hard. To live sober is gentle and soft.

This is the big adjustment. It takes time and it takes work. But know that the longer you go not drinking the more naturally you will calm down into a more responsive way of living.

And trust me, that's a great way to be.

Love, Mrs D xxx


  1. Really getting into the mindfulness/meditation stuff these last few days.... today I've had no distractions at all.... no music, radio, tv.... etc (just a bit of LS and like 5 seconds of FB) .... I can't remember the last time I've had a day so free from noise and distraction...... never probably..... let's see how long it goes on for and what difference it makes.....

  2. Mrs. D... You have been an inspiration to me. Been reading your blog for several years and finally found the time and place to end up where I am now at 8+ months sober. Journaling was one thing that has kept me focused on track at continuing to stay there. I love the paragraph in your post today where you talk about "removing the liquid solution and learning how to relax into a situation." That one has been copied into my journal for future reference this morning:) Hugs to you for being out there helping me and probably thousands of others continue to make the effort to get a handle on our alcohol issues.

  3. Love this post! "To live sober is gentle and soft." Amen.

  4. Mrs. D. I am new to your blog! I am 2 months sober and I actually started a daily meditation practice 2.5 years ago; I truly believe that becoming less reactive and more responsive (even while still drinking) was a big part of the alcohol equation. Boy do we have to keep reminding ourselves of the 'hardness' of drinking' in these early days.

  5. This is just what I needed to read. Almost a year and just returned from visiting my daughter in Dunedin - sober and without the crutch of alcohol.

    I have been thinking about where to from here and your post says it all.

    Thanks so much
    Michelle xx

  6. Hello Mrs. D! I found your book on Amazon a few months ago and enjoyed it very much. Sobriety/recovery/life stories have been my favorite book genre for some time. Only after reading yours did I realize there is an online community and many blogs, thanks for that! I am not sober yet. Reading your book I was amazed at how you "got it" at such an early stage, I have been resisting and in denial for quite some time, and though things are not completely horrible (no duis, no jobs lost, marriage intact ( even though my husband has 15 years sober, he doesn't pressure me in the least to get sober) I know that I need and want to be sober. I took your suggestion and am reading "Give Up The Drink Easily" and am finding it helpful but one issue Jason doesn't address is how alcohol can shut down and quiet those annoying and uncomfortable emotions. Now, wine does put me in a bit of a numbed state, but compared to dealing with scary emotions at any time, that feels kind of safe. You write in your book how you learned to go through all your life experiences "raw" and to cry and cry, and that's all scary to me. I didn't start drinking heavily into my early 30s and before that I was told "Don't be emotional like your Mother" by an immediate family member, told by a coworker "Oh the boss said, you are in one of your 'moods' today!"

    Thanks for being out there, this is my first online comment.


  7. Like Cat I am very new to commenting, although I have been reading your blog along with others for some time. I am 80 days sober today and that is thanks to the online wisdom and advice I have read. Here I think you have set out the problem of addiction in a "nutshell". Thank you so much.


  8. Exactly! Living quick and hard catches up with you, big time. What I found is that the alcohol itself causes you to be anxious and on edge, even when you're not drinking. Then you have to drink to fix the problem alcohol caused in the first place. Vicious cycle complete.

  9. It is the best way, ever!
    I love living softer!

  10. I really enjoyed your blog, and this post. I completely relate to that feeling of experiencing 1000 emotions at once in early sobriety.

    I just started my blog: http://delaneymichellesullivan.weebly.com/blog

  11. This is great to read. I absolutely react & seek immediate fixes, alcohol & sugar are my go to. Reading this post inspires me to find that 'gentle & soft response' Thankyou!

  12. Hi I am just reading your book, it's amazing, yet it scares me as I have fallen deeper into addiction than you, I have been hiding booze for months - probably more. The most scary part is what you say about coming out, I just can't do that, my new partner would be mortified that I had a drink problem and more so that I had kept it such a dark secret, drinking before he came round etc etc although a part of methinks he must know. I can't risk loosing him so will have to go this alone, trying to cut down and be a normal drinker is the inky way for me. Will this work?

  13. For someone who is trying to quit alcohol and still not completely not over alcohol yet, hangover medicine can come handy.

  14. This. Every single word. Wow. Day 36.

  15. So inspiring and true every word and so helpful for me right now
    Day 3...
    Thankyou Mrs D.

  16. "To live reactively is quick and hard. To live responsively is gentle and soft".....I love that. I fought off some serious reactive thinking tonight and it was not pretty. I feel like I'm in that space between the two....somewhere between reactive and responsive.

  17. I don't even know what I am? Alcoholic? Surely not. I drink most days but make myself stop at 3/4 of a bottle at home (if I can). Hide drink? Shit yes. Resentful if people drink my drink? Absolutely. Stand in the pantry and swig from the bottle followed by quickly brushing my teeth? A few times. Make deals with myself about not drinking during the week and then failing to make it past Tuesday? Too many times. Not to mention the times I have been free to drink biblically and drink way too much and have blackouts of hours of time. I function normally and achieve heaps in the day so even though I have broached my drinking with friends (the edited version) no one thinks I have a problem. 2 days no drink and I don't ever want to drink again but I'm scared.

  18. I'm starting this journey again. Day 3 and I'm so scared of failing again. I made this Mrs and it is my job, alone, to clean up. It's lonely and scary but I'm so tired of drinking. I don't even enjoy it anymore.