When she was 5, my daughter desperately wanted to jump in the swimming pool. With her hair pulled back in a ponytail and her blue “Frozen” swimming goggles over her eyes, she repeatedly held her nose and her breath, only to step timidly away from the pool. She’d been in the pool before, but she’d never jumped into the deep end before.
I stood patiently in the water ready to catch her thinking “what’s the big deal? just jump.” But to my daughter it was a huge deal. No amount of coaxing from me could lodge her free from the side of the pool. She had to make up her own mind to take the leap. So I stopped encouraging, in fact, I tried my best to act disinterested. A short while later she did it. She held her nose and closed her eyes, despite her Frozen goggles and jumped in the deep end of the pool. Not just once, nope. Once the ice was broken she did it over and over again. To the point where she quickly couldn’t understand why she hesitated at all.
This is where you’re meeting me. In my case, it’s not a pool. It’s sobriety. Not a dip in the shallow end of sobriety (I’ve done that before, a day here a week there), but a cannonball in the deep end of lasting sobriety. Like my daughter and the pool, I know rationally the risk is low and the reward is great, but also like my daughter, it’s going to take a lot to bring myself to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not naive to where this metaphor breaks down. Being sober, at least initially, won’t be as simple as treading water in a pool. I expect it will take work. I hope to write many stories about my plunge into sobriety, with the goal of helping myself stay accountable to this amazing community of like-minded folks I’ve discovered online. But then again, I expect that it will bring me the joy of a backstroke on a sunny day. I want the promise of weight loss, simplification and freedom.
What makes this time different?
What makes this time different is simple, I’m out of people to get sober for. For years, I’ve been telling this friend or that friend or my wife or my family that I’ve stopped drinking. Then at the next event or family gathering they’d see me drinking. Like the boy who cried wolf, my words started to ring hallow.
I realized that telling people I was not drinking elevated me, in my mind. This is concept that Anna Grace talks about in her book This Naked Mind. She explains that people will sometimes react negatively to your sobriety, because they know inside they shouldn’t be drinking and they might also know how hard it is to stop. So if you’re not drinking you must have something that they don’t.
The problem with all of this is, you’ll never stop drinking if you’re doing it for someone else. In fact, every time I tried to stop drinking as a requirement for someone else, it lead to resentment and FU drinking. That’s the term I coined for when I exert my independence by poisoning myself with booze to show someone else that I can think for myself. Silly, but it’s how I thought.
My 24-hour AA coin says, “To thine own self be true”. And that’s what makes this time different. I’m out of people who will believe me when I say I’ve stopped drinking. The only person left is me.