It’s been 32 days since the last time that I had a drink and I gave it up during a breakup, which is exactly when you really want to drink the most. Every little setback afterward made me want to reach for the bottle, but I managed to find other ways to cope instead. It wasn’t easy; I tried meditation, long walks, writing, going to shows, group meetings, seeking out company, reaching out to friends and family and even prayer. It wasn’t any one of those things that did the trick really; it was a combination of all of the above.
The easy part though, was coming to the decision. I’d been considering taking a break for a few weeks and after the breakup argument with my ex, it felt like the right time. The situation itself was incredibly triggering for me and I feel like the things I said were true, but the way that I said them was bullshit. If I’d have been sober when the argument happened, things would have gone differently; the problems wouldn’t have been gone, but they wouldn’t have been made worse by the way that I addressed them.
I’ve never been a binge drinker. I’ve never gotten sick from drinking or had hangovers, and I’ve never blacked out. That’s the problem that allowed me to continue increasing the amount I was drinking until it was unhealthy; I didn’t suffer the consequences and so I never thought I was as bad off as people that had ‘a problem’. I was also more accustomed to drinking alone and staying away from people and conflict while I was drinking. It’s hard to do that when you are waiting for the conflict to come home to you at the end of the night though.
I’d recently moved to a new city with my non-monogamous partner and I was ill at ease with our poorly defined relationship. There always seemed to be something that was going to happen eventually, but just not yet; an ever dangling carrot. I felt like I was expected to adapt or lose her, even though I’d expressed my boundaries and needs and had been promised before we arrived that I would have if I was just patient while she spent extra time with him before we left. I put my own needs aside for months, growing resentful in the process, and when he immediately expressed a need for time with her that was more days than we’d even been in our new city together for, things really fell apart. I’d been waiting for what I’d been asked to have faith in and it seemed like I’d never have that. I didn’t get the support or commitment that I was promised and I felt like I was on this adventure alone. How I handled that though, is squarely on me.
I played an equal part in our problems, letting my own resentments fester and grow worse, particularly with her other relationship and the ways in which her other partner crossed lines and was let off the hook for them (because she’d recently moved away from him). We only saw each other a few hours a day during the week so there was no time to talk about it then and on the weekends we had so much to do and really more than anything I just wanted to enjoy this new city with her. I put off saying a lot of things that I needed to say and eventually the dam broke. The end of a relationship is never just one persons fault though; we were both to blame for it’s failing and I’ve been working on taking responsibility for my part, offering apologies for it where and when I can. We are all responsible for our own happiness, but we are also responsible for the unhappiness that our actions cause others. I caused Maeve unhappiness and I have regrets about that.
My coping mechanism to calm down was drinking which just made me more irritable and on edge: I was self medicating my anxiety and depression with something that caused more anxiety and depression. I’d already been giving some thought to cutting back, but that night helped me make up my mind that there was no cutting back or slowing down, or bargaining or negotiating with myself over when or how much I would drink. I needed to stop, step back and reassess and I couldn’t do that halfway; I needed to abstain altogether.
I’m very fortunate that I have a good support system of very understanding friends and family. I surrounded myself with the right balance of people who would give me tough love and people who would be supportive. Some of them were gentle and some of them were rough with me. You can’t work through an issue if you only see it from one perspective and I didn’t want everyone to agree with me. I wanted people who would actually help me see the situation for what it was and that’s who I surrounded myself with.
‘I need you’ is a sentiment that I was never comfortable with and saying it made me feel open and exposed like a fresh wound. I have always been comfortable being there for others, but I didn’t want to need anyone myself. Once I accepted that I did though, the people in my life that I reached out to were there for me, in the most kind and compassionate ways. I got check in’s daily from people and support both for the breakup and the drinking and they were patient and kind with me in a way that I wasn’t capable of being to myself. I found myself easily moved by any act of kindness and I realized how starved for that I’d been.
It wasn’t long at all before I noticed changes in myself from giving up booze; I lost weight, the puffiness in my face went away, the dark circles that seemed to always be under my eye started to fade and my appetite changed. My energy level increased; I started doing a lot more without it feeling so exhausting. My libido came raging back to what it had been a few months before when I’d really started to drink heavily. Things that frustrated me and made me angry or sad still managed to effect me, but decidedly less so.
The one thing that got worse was my sleep; I’ve always suffered from bouts of insomnia, but after giving up drinking, I realized how much I’d use booze to wear myself down. Who needs sleep though anyhow, right? All sleep does is eat into your time thinking about a breakup and we all know how productive devoting headspace to that is.
I’m passed my 30 days now and I don’t regret the decision at all. Sure it’s been hard at some times, but it’s given me an opportunity to work through a lot of what I needed to and helped me avoid the avoidance of coping with what happened. At the same time I abstained from sex and romance and I gave up caffeine too. I felt like I needed a reset so I could move forward in a healthy way. I had work I needed to do on myself and I used that time to start doing it.
One of the things that helped me was finding a support group that wasn’t so interwoven with religion; I feel that tying your sobriety to your faith is a way to end up questioning both and I probably wouldn’t have made it past a meeting or two with some of those groups. A friend recommended a different group to me that is based on buddhist philosophy instead and that was something I could work with. It’s one that a lot of people use to supplement their work in a 12 step program like aa or na, but it’s more of a mindfulness community than a recovery program.
I went to my first meeting on day four and I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to expect. We followed a 20 minutes group lead meditation about mindfulness and sitting still was definitely a challenge, but I considered the words that they said and breathed in and out the anger that I had bottled up inside of me because of the breakup. When it came time to share, I didn’t offer anything. The group leader asked one last time at the end of the meeting if any of the new people had anything to say and before I knew it I’d spilled my guts about everything that I was going through; the breakup, giving up drinking and what it was like going through both losses at the same time. I stayed after and spoke to people who had gone through what I was going through and hearing their story made me feel a lot less alone in the world.
The part where most of these programs lose me is the part where they demonize sex or sex work. Working in adult entertainment, it’s hard for me to choke down the notion that because sex is a vice for some, pornography is damaging to everyone. I simply cannot abide by that notion. The good thing though is that with any kind of support program or advice in general, you can take what you need from it and toss the rest away. Like clockwork on day 30, the group meditation covered the part that condemns what I do for a living and I decided to step back a little and ween myself off of their kool aid. I’m really grateful that I can take away some mindfulness habits from them that I will continue to use and for the support they gave me during those early days. I feel pretty capable now of continuing on my own, thanks in no small part to my time with them and I’ll probably check in from time to time.
Therapy is also something that I’ve been trying. I found a therapist who is sex positive, queer friendly and is ok with non monogamy and my work in adult entertainment! (If you’ve ever searched for a therapist, you’ll appreciate what a rarity that is and how unlikely I would have been to find that in a smaller city). We talked intensely for a few hours in the first session and she validated some of my suspicions and helped me look at some other things in a more productive way. She was very direct with me in a way that I really needed and wanted; you don’t fix a problem by avoiding it or skirting it, you have to face it head on. You don’t change a habit or get over a relationship by validating only your existing point of view, because that’s how you got into that mess to begin with.
I can point my finger at anxiety, depressions and my drinking as having played a part in my own actions and behaviors during the breakup, but that doesn’t remove my personal responsibility and the only way to avoid being doomed to repeat the same situation was to confront them and do the work. I needed to show up for myself and in the wake of the realization that my relationship and reason for coming to this city were both a failure, I’d stopped doing that. I’d taken responsibility for everything because that left me to fix it (and I really, really wanted to), but I wasn’t the only person to blame; I was just the only person willing to own their mistakes.
I’ve used the past 32 days to really dig into what did and didn’t work in my relationship, what did and didn’t work for me in my own life and wether or not abstaining from drinking will be a permanent or temporary change in my life. I’ve been able to do so with a clear mind (albeit a broken heart) and I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. I have no regrets for giving it a try with Maeve; I want her to be happy and it seems like we were just in too different of a place in our lives, no matter how much we loved each other but I’m thankful for the time I spent with her. Somewhere along the way I lost sight of myself and got too focused on the outcome, rather than the process. We made it here physically, but neither of us showed up here the person we said we would be, for ourselves or each other. I know the person I am today isn’t who I was even a few weeks ago and I’m thankful for that too. I just wish it hadn’t taken losing her to figure this all out.
This is where I’m at now: I’m starting over, in a new city, by myself. Any choice I make can be for me and without compromise to who I am or what I need. I’m making decisions based on what’s right for me now rather than in a promise for a distant future. There’s no going back, but that’s ok; there’s definitely a lot to look forward to.