Why I Quit Drinking, Part 3 of 3: Identity Change

I find the term ‘reinventing the self’ interesting. Who did the original invention? – Ursula LeGuin

I’m having a hard time writing this post because the content is so new to me. I kept putting off writing this because I’m grasping at straws, unsure of what to say. I guess I’ll just say what I’m feeling.

Mostly I’m finding that I’m a lot more withdrawn and generally quiet than Clare Who Drank. I want to be at home with my books and my Macbook Air. I shy away from the majority of social engagements, preferring the company of a few close friends, usually in someone’s home. I don’t weigh in on every conversation and I’ve stopped talking over people, a horrible habit I didn’t really recognize until I stopped drinking and people commented on the favorable change. I listen now. Really listen. I don’t think I’m as funny as I used to be (oh well, you lose some) and the need to force my opinion in edgewise has ceased altogether. I shrug, move on. I’m occasionally irritable. It turns out that when you’re sober all the time, you have this new annoying experience of feeling everything. Anxiety is something I have struggled with since I was a small child and is definitely still a part of my life, but now it’s the naive intern and not the chief-of-staff on my Soul Committee.

I wake up early four work mornings per week and work out for an hour before I go to the office. Once a week, I volunteer with horses for a few hours and feel my already low blood pressure dip even more. I pat their balmy necks, bury my face in their tangled manes, dump beet pulp into their feeders, and feel okay again. I’m piecing together who I am by auditioning different versions of who I want to be. Giving up the drinks is something I have wanted to do for the better part of five years and now that I’ve managed to put a significant amount of time between today and the last time I drank, I do feel a little scared. The idea of never drinking again is seriously daunting. I could take a nap just thinking about it. I enjoy all aspects of sobriety but it doesn’t mean that I’m “fixed.” All it takes is a beautifully backlit bar shelf or a pearly glass of white wine across the room to get my brain going, obsessively working out all the details and possibilities of when and if I could drink again, except moderately this time! I know this won’t and can’t happen, intellectually, but it usually takes a few minutes to talk myself back down, like a negotiator pointing out the less finer points of jumping to someone standing on the ledge of a skyscraper.

One of the whispered assurances of AA, although I’m not a participant, is one day at a time. I’ve been borrowing that because it’s fucking effective. I am not going to drink today. That’s all I have to master. Simple, no? And then the next day, and then the next, forever. I tell everyone and anyone that asks how much better I feel, how much happier. I do mean every word but it’s still a struggle and I don’t want to sugarcoat the “journey” (a token recovery word. I think you have to use it to graduate). I am teaching myself methodically that I do not want alcohol. I do not want alcohol. I do not want alcohol. I do not drink. I do not drink. I do not drink.

A lot of people have reached out to me to say that they were touched by the honesty and rawness of the prior two posts in this series. I sincerely have to thank everyone for being so supportive and open to this. Getting real in a blog is like spontaneously streaking across a football field. Here you are, in all your glory. Terrifying but liberatingly real.

Now I’m busy looking the world in the eye and sighing, usually choking on my own emotions. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But nothing has ever been so worth it.

What’s old collapses, time changes, and new life blossoms in the ruins. – Johann von Schiller

Cheers to that.

Why I Quit Drinking, Part 1 of 3: Drunk History
Why I Quit Drinking, Part 2 of 3: Reasons to Run Like Hell 
[You're reading...Why I Quit Drinking, Part 3 of 3: Identity Change]

24 comments

  1. Clare, I’m just now seeing this (not sure how I missed this before) and want to acknowledge you for your incredible journey, and sharing it so honestly. I truly admire your bravery on both accounts.

    “Feeling everything” can be so damn scary, but isn’t that how we know we’re alive? Through the good and the bad. I’d encourage you to embrace both, feel them fully, drink deeply from both cups (for an apropos analogy). We all love to embrace the good & happy moments, but to truly live is to be able to embrace sorrow as well as joy. This may be sophomoric of me, but a quote from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet comes to mind here: The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

    Oh, and on a less serious note… I totally LOL’d at “I could take a nap just thinking about it.” I’m so going to use that! (with attribution of course) “The idea of _________ is seriously daunting. I could take a nap just thinking about it.” So good!

    Thank you again for sharing. You’ve inspired me.

  2. “I’m piecing together who I am by auditioning different versions of who I want to be” – Brilliantly stated.
    I think that isn’t just a recovery thing. I am pretty sure if you asked anyone on the street and they were honest enough to admit it, they are in the midst of auditions. It’s been a movement out of the auditions and into coming home to my own skin that I am finding who I want to be is who I was always created to be… I just didn’t have buy it, and some days I’m tempted to go try out for a different part.

  3. “I am thawing”…. What a powerful three words I think for anyone trying to “find themselves”, and a beautifully written post as well.

    Thawing… that is what one can choose to do, for today. If you use the analogy, drinking is like putting yourself back in the freezer, and when you choose to stop again, you will come out stale, only to have more freezer burn, only to start defrosting all over again.

    I think the world is hungry for truth and Bravo! to you for streaking across the with your heart wide open. Cheers to you, Clare.

  4. Beautiful Clare, beautiful beautiful Clare! Oh how I love your writing, the beauty of your honesty. I am smiling a smile of relief for you…relief from a worry I never had, but now gratefully skip over rather quickly having peered straight into you. (Wow!!)
    You did it – and you did it early. How old are you? I’m 46 and only really reached this stage in my life in my early 40’s. I am feeling rather blissful to see one of our generation face this type of thing head on and with the wisdom that will stay with you forever…. Thank you Clare – for following this path…for you and for everyone who you are sharing this with! A huge bravo to you!!
    So, you know, the financial foundation of the California T’s has been built on the brilliance and intelligence of a highly highly functioning alcoholic. A man who advised Presidents and then went home and faded away each night. The legacy he left is both beautiful and bittersweet in so many ways.
    I would trade all of that security in for what you have here.
    If I could have given him anything it would be what you have given yourself – the clarity and the self love and the courage to honestly explore and not make demands of sobriety, to just be with it and see where it would truly take him. I watched him live out the last days of his life wondering so many things. It was very hard for him.
    Now, you my dear Clare, have traveled that same road. I am crying – crap – but no!. Tears of happiness!! When that particular dragon moved in you approached from an entirely new direction and I can’t wait to see where it takes you! Already you are soaring – you may or may not feel like it but you truly are…now just to get comfortable up there :)

    From an anxiety ridden, overanalyzing championship worrier, daughter of a certifiable crazy guy (Cactus), but proud card carrying Tischer – I salute you! BRAVO FUCKING BRAVO CLARE! You inspire me beyond measure!
    Love you,
    Tracy

  5. Clare, I am tearful and speechless. And, Tracy, Bravo fucking Bravo to you and Clare. Backpats from a straight and still crazy after all those beers — father and uncle. Namaste
    Joedad

  6. I am so proud of you, Clare. I know, in my own way, the strength required to cut out a necrotizing part of yourself – one fed by drugs or alcohol. And unfortunately, when that part is gone, so too are the friends that fed it, the lifestyle that revolved around it, and the dizzing pleasure it could bring. I know this journey is hard, and I am so, so proud of you for taking it. Good luck in your metamorphisis. And by the way, you are such a wonderful and beautiful writer, capturing a painfully raw aspect while highlighing the bittersweet joy. Take care, friend.

  7. Clare your reflections are astounding! I am taken back at the honesty you have with yourself and willingness to share. Thank you thank you thank you (with a kindly reminder that YOU ARE AWESOME [triple exclamation point]).

  8. Clare! I knew I had missed this series of posts when you started blogging again and I kept meaning to go back and read them and finally did. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I follow the comedy community pretty closely, which is full of a bunch of introspective sober people, and it has been really interesting to hear them talk through their former addictions, especially the way many were stunted at the age when they started self-medicating. My own drinking made me uncomfortable for the first time at the very end of 2012, and it’s embarrassing how reluctant I was to even have that conversation with myself.

    Keep being awesome!

    1. This is very, very kind. Writing non-anonymously isn’t as appealing for me anymore as I find myself doing a ton of filtering. I envy my sobriety blogosphere friends that write under a pen name because they can say pretty much anything.

      1. Clare,I understand Gai’s blog. It is dignified and respectful. Your blog is a pearl in a coal bin. That we we wear our hearts openly,bravely and humbly on our sleeves is how we willingly avoid the brilliant disguise. Do tell Gai that fathers want to make all things well and perfect for their daughters, but we are not perfect and sometimes just cannot fix things. This feels awful beyond articulation, but in no way diminishes our love and admiration of our daughters. It assures us that our daughters are whole.

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