“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.
I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.”
– The Carter Family, “Worried Man Blues”
One of the great opportunities of an extended period of abstinence is learning to get through a whole variety of occasions without drinking, whatever happens to be on the calendar. There’s bound to be something during that month that seems to call for a drink or two. At first I thought it would be the celebrations that would be hard, but by the time I was ready to try my first dry month, I had already gone to many parties without drinking, even dancing at a wedding sober, and that was starting to seem like a perfectly reasonable option.
No, for me, the challenge has been getting through the anxious times without the comfort of a drink, and it took a while before I had enough practice with short stints of abstinence before I was ready to go for a longer period.
Last fall, I had embarked on what was meant to be a week without drinking, just to get back to normal and maybe lose a bit of weight after eating and drinking too much on a trip. Then, just as that was done, here in California, everything seemed to be on the verge of disaster. A minor earthquake didn’t cause much damage, but it reminded us that we are just waiting for “The Big One” and the news was filled with stories and pictures commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake. Then fires were burning all over, causing massive evacuations and pre-emptive power shutdowns. Even far away from any big fires, the power was out through huge areas and every day, it felt like we were waiting for the next shoe to drop. It was impossible not to think of times we had evacuated in the past or to worry about what to pack if we needed to leave.
This time, though, I made a conscious decision not to drink to cope with the anxiety. I had built up enough “abstaining skills” over the past couple of years to be comfortable just going without, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I wasn’t any less comfortable going without than I was already. Certainly I was on edge. So were my neighbors and all my friends. But this time, I was able to tolerate that anxiety without turning to alcohol to fix things. I kept the car filled with gas, and got some emergency supplies together, and I just let the anxiety sit there.
Those thoughts of having a drink to “take the edge off” popped up from time to time, but this year, somehow it just felt easier than ever before to just acknowledge those thoughts and let them go. Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith in alcohol’s ability to take the edge off. Sure, it works that way for a little while, but little by little, I have learned that it doesn’t work that way for long. As each day went by, I found more pleasure in knowing that, because I was not drinking, I would not have any problem waking up in the night in case of emergency, that I would be ready to drive if necessary, that I would not be trying to make plans while dealing with a hangover.
Somehow, the days went by. As the sense of crisis eased up here, I felt great satisfaction in logging day after day of abstinence, satisfaction and confidence that I could do it again. Now here we are in January, and the threat of fire has subsided in California, but the rest of the world is as unsettled and dangerous as ever. When one crisis ends, another one erupts. There will be times to worry and times to celebrate, whether with a drink or without. I feel more confident now that I can choose to face the worried times needing alcohol to cope. Instead, maybe I’ll just sing that worried song, “I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.”
Post Submitted by: Summer1, Moderation Management Member