Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Five Years Sober

It’s been five years since I used any alcohol. I still see quitting as one of my greatest life “accomplishments.” As I wrote in my journal in March of 2001, “It’s just incredible how alcohol can destroy dreams, or at least bury them so deeply it feels as though they never were….”

And it’s important to me to own that I had a ton of help. No, I didn’t go through AA. I had seen Ram Dass and Krishna Das here in Ukiah just 10 days before I stopped. They were, as always, thoroughly delightful and most inspiring. I made a conscious choice to ask the universe for help. I told my Beloved JoAnn about it, but kept right on drinking.

Then, after a night where I consumed a couple of strong margaritas (damn, I made really, really good margaritas!) a couple of micro brews (Boont Amber, I believe) and two excellent bottles of chardonnay (and no, I don’t remember what brand) I woke up early the next morning, with extreme pain in my gut. I mean, I felt as though I’d been gut shot. Few moments in my life had been scarier, at least up to that point. I couldn’t believe how much I hurt.

After a few hours, and medications such as Zantac and Maalox, the pain subsided. Ever since I was a teenager, I’d spent a lot of time dealing with varying levels of intestinal distress. (Shooting speed hadn’t helped.) But this pain was something else entirely. By that afternoon, I got it that this was my “gift” from Spirit, the help I’d been asking for. The intensity of the pain really got my attention, and gave me a level of motivation to say, “OK! All right already… I’ll quit drinking!

As if it was that easy. Even though I quite drinking alcohol that day, the pain in my gut kept returning. After three days, I got so scared I wound up in the emergency room at the local hospital. Diagnosed with a severe case of gastritis, I started taking Prilosec. My doctor helped by telling me that as long as I kept drinking, or if I ever started again, the pain would only get worse.

Well, I was drinking not to feel pain, especially emotional pain. But I never have been into pain that much, you know? So when it became abundantly clear that drinking would only exacerbate the situation, I realized with a sense of great finality that I was done. What a relief!

Now, JoAnn helped enormously. She had continued to love me unconditionally all through my drinking (at least during the time after we got together in 1995 – I’d been having issues with alcohol at least since the 70s). Almost every night for weeks after I quit drinking she’d rub my feet with Young Living essential oils, and then use an auricular probe on my ears as well. This was invaluable to me, as there were many times when I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, and JoAnn’s loving ministrations made all the difference. JoAnn, my Beloved, thank you! My gratitude know no bounds….

As it turned out, I’d been using alcohol to self-medicate. Once I stopped using, all the pain I’d been assiduously avoiding for, well, pretty much my entire life, showed up wanting (demanding, really) to be felt. That’s the journey I’ve been on the past five years, learning on a much deeper level to feel my feelings without fear, shame or guilt. To ride the roller coaster of life with joy, free from alcohol. I’ve never felt happier, or more proud, than today, five years after I made one of the wisest decisions of my life. Happy anniversary to me!

(For those taking notes, my new book Drunk with Wonder, chronicles much of what I’ve learned about emotions, science and spirituality. If you’re interested in a deeper understanding of these issues, please take a look. You can read the entire Introduction on our Rock Creek Press website, and listen to Chapter 8 as well. We hope to have the actual book in our hands by the first part of May, and audio as well as E-book versions are on their way.)

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