February 4, 2018 I committed to 30 consecutive days of sobriety.
No wine. No beer. No 8am Hair-of-the-Dog.
Nothing but my own sober self to spend some much needed quality time with.
You know, so I could start sorting out some of the clutter in my head. Just 30 days of clarity to try and make sense of the mental clutter that weighed me down and helped me sink back into drinking all day, every day.
Drinking every day – regardless of a solid month in rehab – and regardless of my deep, impossible-to-ignore desire to no longer drink.
Today is Day 29 of my 30 Day Alcohol Experiment.
This is usually where I stop almost everything that I start.
Right at the finish line.
Just before reaching the top of the mountain.
It usually doesn’t matter how long I’ve been running or how far I’ve climbed. This is the point where the anxiety always swells up like a tsunami and washes me back to the beginning.
And I let it.
I have always allowed myself to get dragged away in the undertow the closer I get to shore.
For as much as I write and as much as I talk, I admit I don’t really know very much. I know how I feel – and that’s about as scientific as things get over here.
And feelings are crafty little things.
They’re like an army of Transformers that live inside you – morphing, changing, turning from one thing into another.
They are never static, and one thought can turn them into something entirely different.
How do you give a name to something like that?
Naming something takes the fear away. Labels and definitions begin filling the void where uncertainty and the unknown used to be. Labels and definitions help to contain something, creating edges and boundaries – applying limitations to something otherwise limitless: This feeling is sadness. And this one is joy. This is empathy, and this is regret.
So here I am, not knowing what to name my chronic inability to finish what I start.
Procrastination? Fear of success? Fear of failure?
They all sound too cliché, even though fear is probably at the deep and dirty root of it. Neither ‘fear of success’ or ‘fear of failure’ make sense, since I start projects and journeys in order to succeed.
It doesn’t make sense to start things you have no intention of finishing, or that you intend to fail at.
So why is it that when I get so close to my goal – so close that I can see it on the horizon and almost feel it in my hands – that I throw my hands up and abandon ship?
I’m not even exaggerating here, kids.
I do it all the time.
Maybe it’s the classic Rabbit & The Hare story. I fly too quickly out of the gate and spend all my momentum in the startup and not the finish.
But even that doesn’t feel quite right.
It’s just weird – because where I am right now is in a place where I honestly do NOT want to drink. Not at this moment, not tonight, not tomorrow, and not on our vacation in New Orleans just 10 days from today.
So why am I feeling this crazy anxiety over actually accomplishing what I set out to do? Why does wrapping up tomorrow’s 30 Sober Days make me want to be physically sick to my stomach?
I feel as though a bomb is about to drop.
I should be celebrating.
The more I ramble, the more it’s starting to make a little more sense to me (thanks for sticking with me here).
Maybe it’s the infinite unknown of what happens after accomplishing what I set out to do, that sends me into the backward, downward spiral? Maybe all along I’ve been forgetting to look at and aim for the next step that comes after finally reaching this one?
Maybe I’ve always just seen the forest, and overlooked the trees?
I admit I’m a “big picture” sort of person, and I also admit that I think it’s time I become a little more of a “task oriented” sort of person. Knowing my next step, my next goal, might take away the terror that kicks in when I see the finish line and immediately get the “Holy-shit-what-now?” feeling.
That’s the scary part.
It’s the moment when the training wheels come off and you’re suddenly on your own. You’ve accomplished what you set out to, and now there’s expectations of what you need to accomplish next.
Maybe I’ve made up the idea that everyone else is expecting something from me, and I can’t let them down. That’s a pretty narcissistic idea, come to think of it. Now would be a really good time to remind myself that everyone else is knee-deep in their own shit, and what I’m doing with my own life is likely pretty low on their scale of things they lay awake at night thinking about.
But, it’s a theory – albeit a really self-interested one.
Am I afraid of letting everyone else down, if I fail? Am I afraid of what they’ll expect of me next, if I succeed? Am I afraid of allowing myself to live the life I’ve dreamt of? Am I afraid of feeling like I deserve my dream life?
Am I afraid of owning the fact that I’m worth it?
Who ever told me that I wasn’t? Probably me. Maybe it was mass marketing. Maybe it was those grade school bullies from 30 years ago or maybe its the newsstands that tell us what “true success” is “supposed” to look like.
So many theories, and I think each one has at least a little bit of truth to it.
What I need to do is stop stopping.
Coincidentally, the first entry I made when I started writing again on Day 1 of this 30 Day “experiment” was titled “Never Stop Starting”.
And here I am, encouraging myself to finally stop stopping.
To keep going. To keep climbing. Keep swimming. Keep achieving. Striving. Working. Growing.
To stop being fearful of the unknown and infinite that sprawls out after the finish line, but instead to line it with smaller, achievable goals that lay out a path for me to follow.
My challenge has never been in the starting – I excel at beginnings.
Maybe I just need to start looking at endings and accomplishments from the other side. The side that looks like the beginning of something else.
The first step of the next step.
Forfeit is the only thing worse than failure.