Tuesday marks my 6-month-soberversary; so I wanted to look back at some of the changes I've experienced and give a few updates.
To start with something simple, let's talk about food.
I wrote on Day 15 that, without alcohol in my diet, my healthy meals seemed "so bland and chaste." As if my body only craved clean food to counteract alcohol, and without the latter, I suddenly desired more savory things. Yeah, that only lasted for like a week. While I did experience sugar cravings, typical for alcohol withdrawal, I came to crave healthy food even more. Within a few weeks of giving up alcohol, my stomach bloat went down, my senses tuned up to 11, and I became very aware of my body and how certain foods made me feel. Clean, healthy, non-processed food made me feel amazing, strong, a powerhouse running on pristine high-octane fuel (is that a thing? I don't know car analogies); unhealthy food made me feel thick, slow, like crap. So it turns out, I'm eating healthier than ever before.
While I didn't crave any crazy foods, I did start needing something more from my beverages. Previously, coffee, water, and wine were my go-to's, but without wine in my diet, water got old real quick. So after 25 years of declaring anything carbonated "gross" (mysteriously, beer didn't count), I've developed a taste for sparkling water. I'm living on the edge, I know, with Grapefruit La Croix.
Perhaps the biggest food-related change is that I've started cooking. Okay, cooking may be overstating it, as I'm really just throwing chicken breasts in a crock pot every week, but that's more cooking than I've done in my entire life. Since college, I've lived off microwave meals - veggie burgers and frozen vegetables, mostly, when I'm not eating Trader Joe's prepared salads - and any meal preparation beyond the occasional holiday party was of exactly zero interest to me. But, perhaps because I started craving real, whole food, and perhaps because I suddenly gained extra time, I've now gotten in the habit of preparing organic chicken breasts for myself every week, typically yielding 4-5 meals. Side effects include saving money, and tangentially, losing weight, which is probably more a result of forgoing 1800 calories/week of Chardonnay.
I've only lost a few pounds (2-3?), but I've seen changes in both my frame and my fitness. I've bounded up mountains I was slow to climb before, and it's been said by both a tennis coach and my team members that my game has noticeably improved. I also haven't gotten sick - not even a cold - since I stopped drinking, which may be unrelated, but when I've lost weight in the past, my immune system revolts and I come down with something. But my body feels balanced, and mostly, so does my mind.
One of the most welcome changes of the past six months is that I don't have any anxiety. This may also be because my job has finally steadied itself and my workload has decreased to a more than manageable amount; it's probably also because I'm not in a relationship, which always seems to take up nervous space in my brain, no matter how well things are going. But I have to think that sobriety has something to do with this.
Speaking of dating, I'm not doing any. Not by choice, necessarily. I took a few months before getting back online, where I struggled with what box to check about my drinking. At one point in my life, I had put "regularly" - had to weed out all those lame light drinkers! For the past few years, it's been "socially", I think, but now I decided to check "never" because, well, it's the truth. I had to delete at least five, and likely more than 10, references to alcohol in my profile and Match Questions (Q. Do you enjoy the taste of beer? A. God, yes.) though I didn't write that I was capital-S-Sober anywhere. If you look at the rest of my profile, full of hiking photos, you'd think I was simply too healthy to care about alcohol. But apparently there aren't a ton of guys who are looking for that on OKC, because my inbox has been unusually empty. That could also be because I am officially Over The Hill now, at 41, though I did change my age to 39 and that hasn't really helped. I go through phases of being incredibly frustrated and sad about this, and then accepting that I probably shouldn't be in a relationship right now, anyway. They say you shouldn't date for your first year in recovery, and I guess the Universe is taking care of this for me. So be it.
I did have a bit of, not anxiety, exactly, but distinct dread, about turning 41. Birthdays usually fill me with dread anyways, but throwing parties with my friends and lots of alcohol has always made me happy and grateful when the day inevitably comes about. With alcohol not an option for me this year, there was very little I genuinely wanted to do. I considered doing a big picnic, or poolside cabana, but neither of those things felt right to me; they felt like something the old me would do, like an out-of-style suit I had no interest in fitting into. Instead, I let inertia take over, and things unfolded perfectly. An angel from my tennis team, who knew nothing about my sobriety or that I was feeling out of sorts, insisted that "the tennis girls" get together to celebrate. I told her I wasn't drinking, but without batting an eye, she organized dinner and we had fun, real conversations that I remember. They drank, but I didn't, and I didn't mind; I treasured the fact that these girls who I don't know well at all were all so eager to know me and make my night special. The following day, I did a hike with my best friend, and the hours of deep conversation further nurtured my soul. This, to me, has been the best part of getting sober: I am fully present for every conversation, and as a result, my relationships have grown deeper. I feel 100% like a real, whole person with a brain and a heart and emotions; not some shell making small talk, waiting for my next drink or to be home alone so I can calculate my thoughts in isolation.
The last update I wanted to give was that I finally started going to AA. Well, "going" may be overstating it. I've been to four meetings - the same Friday night meeting four different times - and I'm still on the fence about how much I'll go in the future. I don't feel like I "need" to go - I feel strong in my sobriety without it. But I know that having a sober network is paramount to long-term recovery, and anyway, I'd like to make sober friends NOW, because, well, dating and social life. Unfortunately, this one meeting really hasn't yielded any. It's a Beginner meeting, which means many of the people are coming from rehabs, not necessarily of their own will; they are palpably shaky and fragile, which is actually incredibly humanizing and beautiful to see and share space with, but these are not my people. Alternatively, the rest of the room seems comprised by old-timers - people who have been coming for 10, 20 years and all know each other. Between the two groups, no one has ever said "hi" to me, and I'm hesitant to say hi to anyone else. I'm afraid I'll say something I shouldn't, or get roped into more than I'm ready for.
So why do I keep going to this same meeting? For one, it's convenient. It's at a good time on one of the only nights I really ever want to go, and it's nearby with ample parking. Also, now that it's familiar, it's easier to just show up here than deal with the unknown. But the main reason I went this past Friday, and the Friday before that, is because of Harvey.
Back in 2008, I visited a psychic who told me that she saw me in AA meetings and that someone named Harvey would be a teacher. It was a pretty disturbing read. I wasn't in AA at the time, or even close, though I knew it was a likely possibility she was seeing my future. I definitely didn't know a Harvey, and hadn't ever met a Harvey before or since... until my second AA meeting when his name was announced to give someone a cake for their birthday. This older gentleman got up, and I sat transfixed throughout the rest of the meeting, wondering if I should find a way to say something to him (Hi, a psychic from 9 years ago told me about you) or just let nature take its course. I chose the latter, figuring if this was real, we'd connect eventually, but it hasn't happened yet. He attended the two meetings I went to after that, and had a cake for his own sober birthday, so I know that he has something like 27 years and is clearly one of the old timers, well-known and respected in the group.
The psychic did say that her Harvey was 37 or 38 - five years older than me at the time - so not everything adds up. But the intrigue is enough to keep me coming back for now, and who knows what that may lead to...