I had to look up what day I am on. When I set out to quit drinking I told myself. 90 days. Give your mind 90 days without alcohol and see what happens.
In the beginning, the number was a big deal. “Holy Cow, I actually went a week without drinking.” “I cannot believe it’s been two weekends since I drank.”
Now the number is really just an indicator of how much time I’ve given my brain to heal. I’m realizing that my recovery didn’t start the day I quit drinking. It started the day I started to get curious about why I drank the way I did. It started when I suspected I had a problem.
But it wasn’t until I stayed off alcohol that I began to see my life through clear lenses. I can actually identify why I drank. I can see the self sabotage. The co dependency. The people pleasing. The need for approval. The desire to numb out what I didn’t and who I didn’t want to address. I had to allow the fog to lift.
It’s about taking the time to feel all the emotions you blocked out for so many years. Your brain needs to remember how to function on a normal level. And you need to see your life and yourself in the raw, unfiltered state so you can make the changes necessary to want to live without checking out everyday.
I don’t need the number of days to prove I am ok. I need the time off alcohol so my brain can heal.
I’ve read that alcohol stays in your blood for up to 6 hours. 12-24 hours in your breath and saliva and up to 90 days in your hair. But it’s how it restructures the brain overtime that affects your memory, emotional well being and senses. In my case, I have been drinking since high school. Every day for the last 5+ years. Plenty of time to do some damage.
Just two weeks of sobriety after alcohol abuse can begin to reverse brain injury..the first two weeks I noticed extreme mood swings and irritability. It took a good 4 weeks for this to calm down but I still experience it in certain situations. That’s why a routine and planning my day is key. Exit strategies, self care and a support system who truly understands.
Alcohol literally shrinks your brain and causes cognitive damage. That affects memory and emotional stability. History of depression or other mental illnesses? Childhood trauma? Then you’re even more susceptible.
Alcohol doesn’t just numb your feelings it numbs your senses too. Food tastes differently to me now.. smells are much more potent since I have quit.
They say the first 90 days is crucial when it comes to social interaction. For someone who has drank almost her entire life..I don’t know how to socialize comfortably without alcohol. Maybe it’s social anxiety. Maybe it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s being an introvert. But what I know for sure is that my brain assumes I will drink when I’m doing certain things, with certain people and at certain places. Socializing sober is like learning a new language. Drinking is my socializing mother tongue.
I find that it’s way easier to “speak sober” or socialize with sober people as opposed to drinkers. People who also are in recovery from alcohol abuse. They get it. They get me. I get them.
But when I throw myself into a social situation with drinkers… I forget my socializing sober language. I’m stumbling to find the right words..I’m self conscious, awkward..quiet.
My native socializing language is drinking. My brain says if I drink I will feel comfortable. The brain wants to respond with the easiest route. It’s doing what it was taught to do.
But that’s not forever. When I talk to people who have been sober for over a year..they tell me that it’s not hard anymore. That they can speak the sober socializing language around drinkers with no problem.
Researchers say your brain has to restructure. Learn the new “Language” and it can..but it takes time. They say that’s why it’s smart to stay away from triggers in the first 90 days especially.
That’s why the two trips I have taken in the last few weeks were so hard and in many ways painful. The restructuring wasn’t completed. My brain wasn’t there. I wasn’t ready.
I read every night trying to figure out the why, the how and the what next. I don’t crave a drink every day anymore. I do crave knowing the real me. The stronger version of me. Some days I think I have found her. Other days she’s nowhere in sight.