Day 55: Found at the Ballpark

beer

I went to a baseball game this weekend — not the little league kind, but a minor league game, complete with hotdogs, cotton candy … even mixed drinks in the swanky area where we had free passes. I’m no sports fan, but we had good friends visiting who are, and they had invited us to hang out with them.

I knew this would represent a challenge to my sober path, and I do not take challenges lightly this time around. Had they not been great friends who we rarely see, had it not been an afternoon game, had I not been able to leave at any point, I would not have gone. In the past, I have over-accommodated other people to the point of drinking with them so that they would not feel awkward around my sobriety. What a great plan for how NOT to stay sober. Still, I followed this plan to the letter for a long time.

I’d had a lot of caffeine on our drive to the city and was jittery by the time we made it through the gates. The blaring sound system and crowds didn’t help. I knew that feeling: being in a strange environment, feeling a little anxious, needing to relax.

I needed a drink. I could feel it in my bones. It would counteract all of things I didn’t want to feel. It would make everything OK.

As we walked through the crowds, however, the sun came out and my spirits lifted. The smell of popcorn and the kids running around felt like we were at a carnival. It was fun. It was a celebration! People were smiling and laughing and the slanted afternoon light made everything seem surreal. I was at ease and having a good time, but my eyes kept lighting upon the frosty beer mugs, the glowing amber liquid that people held to their lips and drank. I could feel how it would taste … how cold and satisfying, how the bubbles would tickle my nose, how I would gulp it, because it was only beer, after all. But I couldn’t have one. I wasn’t allowed.

A deep sadness washed over me. This isn’t good, I thought. I need to change this. I felt bereft, but it was more than that. It was a physical pain. It was a yearning that hurt my heart, with the same feeling I got when I was trying not to cry.

And then someone in the universe threw me a lifeline with this thought: A meditation book I had been reading suggested separating yourself from your emotions, the theory being that you could maintain some level of control. You are not your emotions, it claimed. Experience the feeling, but from one step removed.

So I let the feeling continue to wash over me and tried to analyze it. Why was it so powerful? It was nothing like yearning for ice cream or food or water. I stepped back mentally and observed myself like I would a child, because that is where the feeling brought me. There was no adult element in this feeling. It could not be reasoned away and it could not be ignored. What was it? I needed to know the power behind the liquid that had flooded my life, that made me still want to open the floodgates, even after the pain and anger and depression and havoc it had caused.

The feeling was heartbreak. And it hurt.

OK, I had named it. Where did that lead me? When had I felt this before?

It was losing my mom in a store when I was young. It was running away from home at five years old and not being able to find my way back. It was accidentally dropping a puppy in the sixth grade and watching it whimper and crawl away. It was knowing the boy I liked but was too shy to talk to liked someone else. It was watching happy groups of people walk around a college campus and not knowing anyone myself. It was being betrayed by a lover. It was watching my own first child struggle to fit in. It was realizing the battle was over, divorce was inevitable, and wondering how to tell my kids. It was loss and grieving and guilt.

It came from a place without words and without reason. And I understood the powerful draw it had on me … on everyone. I honored that feeling for a minute and forgave myself for wanting to drink because I felt like I was losing something irreplaceable and precious … that I was fooled into thinking alcohol was a friend worth keeping.

I breathed in deep and then let the feeling go. And after a few minutes, it was gone. My eyes welled up and I felt an insane gratitude for everything — the crowds, my friends, the sunshine. It was all good. And I was one step further along the path.

32 thoughts on “Day 55: Found at the Ballpark

  1. That was a wonderful post. You did exactly what you needed to do to distract yourself from the physical response. You identified the emotion, sat with it, analyzed it, accepted it and moved on. I have always been taught the term “amygdala reaction” in conjunction with a response like that. It’s like a post traumatic stress. If we all could do what you did, we could all make it through those physical responses so much better. It applies so much to withdrawing from alcohol. Great job! Do you mind if I refer to this post in my blog and to others in comments?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Please refer to whomever you want! And thank you. I can’t believe I made it to the age of 53 without ever finding out there were ways to deal with cravings. I have just tried the white-knuckle response or the avoiding all social contact response. They don’t work forever. ; )

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    1. Daniel, I read the opening page on your blog but couldn’t comment for some reason, so I posted it here:
      Wow, amazing story! I know what you mean about not wanting to be a professional recoverer. I’ve often thought I was the only one who felt that way. I also LOVE the photos!

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  2. That was such a beautiful post. I could actually visualize everything you were describing (even the beer!). I wish I had had this post while I was away this weekend and feeling like I wanted to be part of the “inside, drinking crowd.” I will use your method when something like that comes upon me again! Thank you!!!! xo

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    1. I am so married to my identity as a fun drinker that I have to throw out all the stops to survive an event like this. My friends were saying things like “It’s really not fun without you drinking. C’mon, it’s so and so’s birthday. I’m buying!” Jeez ….

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  3. This really is a wonderful post so thank you for going into so much detail. Oh the wee puppy *whimper*. It’s amazing that you were able to do this with so much commotion going around you so well done. You must feel a lot stronger. And well done on day 55!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I still feel bad about the puppy years later. And he turned out to be fine — I think he just got the wind knocked out of him. I do feel stronger today because I typically would have “rewarded” myself with drinks at the game. Then I would have deleted my blog and continued to drink. Brilliant.

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  4. Wonderful piece of writing – and such a privilege for the reader to be there with you to watch how it unfolded. These powers of observation you’ve got will certainly serve you well in all things.

    I wonder if a better title for the entry might be “Found at the Ballpark”? It sounds like you found a lot there, and you’ve likely aided your readers in finding something for themselves as well.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John Paul. With a such a wonderful comment, you can name that blog whatever you want. ; ) Actually, I agree with you — “Found”is a better description. If I was still lost there, I’d be drinking right now. I would much rather be found.

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  5. At twenty-eight years sober, I have concluded that one of the toughest areas for alkies is grief. You have hit the nail on the figurative head with your post. Sometimes I too can actually recognize what it is that “has” me in its grips. I can let it wash over me, and I can get through whatever it is. What is NOT as easy, though, is when you have no idea what “has” you. You are confused about why you’re feeling so down, why booze seems to be calling to you.
    My suggestion is to let it be. Don’t always try to figure it out. The answer might come in a day, a week, a year or….maybe never. The deal is that we don’t drink no matter what. I’ve been in that long tunnel before, one where I cannot see the light at the end. It seems so bleak and like it will last forever. Of course, it usually passes, often sooner rather than later.
    I would like to recommend to you a memoir I wrote called “Starting at Goodbye.” It was published last December, and it’s available at Amazon. You can download the first few chapters for free. It deals with my journey from drunk to sober AND my dark passage through grief.
    I’d like to encourage you to STAY sober. One good thing about having long term sobriety is that I know I’ve gotten through some tough times without drinking. When the next tough time occurs (and it will, unfortunately), you’ll have realized you made it through before. Best of luck to you! http://bit.ly/21FMl0X Marilyn

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    1. Thank you, Marilyn! “Let it be” will be my mantra for my upcoming trip. I would LOVE to read your memoir. I was looking for a Kindle version but will have to wait until after the (month long) trip to order a hardback. I like your no-nonsense attitude about drinking. I often try to make the issue so complicated that the lines blur. It really is just a matter of not drinking, no matter what, isn’t it? I have a hard time not clinging to that drink that is way out there on the horizon somewhere. I know that that is a destructive (and immature, in my case) thought. Time to think like a grown-up.
      How long did it take you to write your book?

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  6. Alcoholics are complicated people! We over think EVERYTHING!!! Truly, I think it’s our brain trying to convince us to have another drink. It’s what’s worked before, hasn’t it? It seems to quiet the mind, to replace difficult questions with…what? Numbing? Ahh yes, better to be numb than to feel, at all costs. That’s my story anyway. And, yes, the good news and the bad news are the same thing: we just don’t drink NO MATTER WHAT. It’s really simple, when you break it down to that. Don’t take the FIRST drink. That’s the one that gets you drunk. I’m sorry to report that that elusive drink that waits out “on the horizon somewhere” is a thing of the past. Once you’ve crossed that line, there’s no going back.I drink to oblivion. I drink to drunk.There is no tippling left in this girl’s life. And, yes, it’s a very destructive thought. I have good news, though: What we replace that fantasy drink with is MUCH better!!! My life in sobriety is waaaay better than any imagined vacation from myself. I’m no masochist. If life didn’t get better in sobriety, well, hell, I wouldn’t be sober!!! Other good news: you don’t really always have to be so “grown up.” I’ve let out that childlike part of me, the part that enjoys wonder–the wonder of a cactus blooming gold in the sun, the wonder of my dog’s face when I set down a new toy. I don’t HAVE to be so grown up in sobriety! Sound good? And, last but not least, here’s the answer to your question: it took me TEN long, grueling years to finish my memoir. Sometimes the grief of losing the man I loved as a forever partner in life was too unbearable to let me write about it. I put down the work for a few years before returning to it. Ten years to an alkie? Wow. But it’s done. I finished it, and I am proud of myself for doing it. I hope you do read it, and I hope you “enjoy” the ride. Have a good trip…and don’t drink–no matter what!!! Marilyn

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