Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Obstacle Course



I read loads of sober blogs, and I get hundreds of e-mails and comments from readers of Mummy was a Secret Drinker.

The ones that really make me want to cry, and yell in frustration, are the ones written by people who do the first few days over and over and over again.

They do four days sober, then back to day one. They manage ten days next time, then go on a bender. Three days. Four days again. Ad infinitum.

I get it! I really do. I've been there. We all have. And you do just have to keep persevering until one day it just sticks.

But now, with the benefit of six months of hindsight, I just want to grab them in a big bear hug and yell "Nooooo! You're doing the hardest part over and over, without ever making it to the good bits!"

And the problem is, the longer you spend wallowing around in those early dark days of despair, the more you manage to re-enforce the idea in your subconscious that that's what sobriety is all about.

So, if that's you, then think about it like this:

Imagine you're standing in a field which you've been in for a long, long time. Initially it was beautiful - filled with wild flowers, friends, sunshine and fluffy bunnies (maybe the bunnies are a bit too much? But, hell, I'm going with it).

But, over time, it's got more and more miserable in your field. There are still some sunny days, but there's an awful lot of rain, and some terrible thunderstorms. You keep thinking the flowers are growing back, but they die before they bloom. The bunnies are few and far between.

Then you start meeting people who tell you about another field, not too far away. They've seen it. Some of them live in it. It's everything your field used to be, if not more so. And they appreciate it so much more because they've seen what your desolate home looks like. They used to live there too.

"Hey, come and live with us!" they tell you. Because they're not mean and selfish. They know that there's plenty of room at their place for everyone, and they genuinely want more friends.

You really, really want to join them. But there's a hitch. There's a huge great obstacle course in the way. You can't see the whole course, only the obstacle directly in front of you. And you can't see the promised land on the other side. You have no idea how big the course is, how long it takes to get through it, or whether you're up to it.

But you know that you can't stay where you are. It's only going to get worse. So you take a leap and throw yourself at the first obstacle....

Initially it's not too hard. You've got bags of energy and enthusiasm. But, after you've been over a twelve foot wall, through a leech infested, waterlogged ditch, and dug under a fence with your bare hands you're exhausted. Fed up. You have no proof that this place even exists. You have no idea if you can ever make it that far, and you're desperate to go back to somewhere familiar, where you're not so tired, and cold and scared....

.....so you go back to your field. And initially it's great to be home. The other people stranded there welcome you back with open arms and tell you that the alternative field doesn't really exist. You're comfortable. You know what you're dealing with. You think you can see the sun coming out and a bunny in the distance....

....but you were fooling yourself. There are no bunnies left any more. The thunderstorms come harder and harder. Eventually you throw yourself at the twelve foot wall again. You brave the leeches again. You dig the tunnel. You make it to the fifth obstacle this time before you go back to the beginning.

You go back because you have no proof. You don't know how long it takes. You don't know if you can do it. You're exhausting yourself by doing those first few obstacles over and over again. It's just too hard.

So, if that's you, then listen to this. Because I do know (as do many people reading this who I'm hoping will back me up in the comments below). I am going to say it really loudly:

IT DOES EXIST! IT'S EVERY BIT AS GOOD AS YOU'RE HOPING. IT TAKES ABOUT 100 DAYS TO BE ABLE TO SEE IT, AND ABOUT SIX MONTHS TO GET THERE. YOU CAN DO IT.

The truth is that the hardest bit of the obstacle course is the beginning. So you really don't want to keep re-doing the wall, the leeches and the digging. Once you're through those, the other obstacles get easier, and they're further apart. And you get stronger, and fitter and more able to cope.

One thing to look out for is 'false summits'. Sometimes you think you've got there. You've seen no obstacles for ages, and you think THIS IS IT! Only to be confronted by a whopping great wall. (See my post on Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms).

But by now you know how to scale those suckers. It's no biggie. You almost start to get a sense of achievement from making it to the other side of each one. After all, a field with no challenges at all in it would be a little....flat and featureless.

So, my fellow adventurers, pack up your bags, say goodbye to your field, throw yourself at the obstacles and KEEP ON GOING! Do not look back until you get to the end!

Something that might help you get over the obstacles is the SOBERMUMMY FACEBOOK PAGE. Every week day at wine o'clock (6pm) I'm posting inspiration, information and some good laughs to keep you going. If you click on the link HERE and 'like' the page then Facebook will keep you updated.

Love SM x



26 comments:

  1. I needed this post today. I am finding the cravings terrible this evening. 13 days in, and struggling struggling struggling. Annie x

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    1. Annie, I e-mailed you. I hope you got through yesterday ok.... If so, YOU ROCK! If not, YOU STILL ROCK! Love SM x

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  2. Am just over 4 months in and memories of that first week or 2 keep me going. It really does get easier! Not easy at times but easier! I don't want to go back x

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  3. Gosh, that was timely. It was Day 15 last night and I had that Sunday night feeling. Nice glass of red (or two or three) with a roast on a stormy NZ evening felt like it would go down a treat. The voices began. I was this close (finger and thumb next to each other) And then, begads! I get your latest blog in my inbox and thank the Lord, I managed to stick it out. It was a close shave so a hearty thanks because this morning I am so very relieved that I feel refreshed, and ready for a productive day. Hanging out for those bunnies though...x

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    1. Yay! So glad you managed it Pom! Well done you! Xxx

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  4. Love the analogy SM, sometimes it rains and is stormy in the new field the but the sun always comes out again and everything looks better and the air smells clean afterwards because in the new field the storms always pass. I feel like I am now standing just inside the new field. Glad to be here but a bit nervous about going all the way in. Thank you for being so welcoming and beckoning us. Have a great day. xx

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  5. at over 4 months now I think I'm having a little storm of my own. will keep on going though, through the wind and rain.

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  6. ha. true story ;-)

    think you described the journey well, SM.
    and yes - the other field is certainly brighter with way more sunshine.

    (mefixingme...blogger wont let me in?)

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  7. What an awesome post. I'm saving this on my sober pinterest board. Day 3 for me, all I can see is the first obstacle, but I'm feeling hopeful.

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    1. Hey, mojojojo! Hope you're still climbing those obstacles? Merry Xmas! Love SM x

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  8. I'm battling on for a dry February after doing dry January. I just adored how you used this imagery to describe the journey to sobriety - I can see it now! I've got visions of little bunnies scampering and tall foxgloves swaying in the breeze! Thank you Clare! XXX

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  9. I'm back to day 1 today as I'm sooooo miserable in that horrible field knowing what the other field is like. Thank you for your wonderful blogs SM - I haven't stopped reading them since my 'fall' late November and will spend a good chunk of today going back over them. You're amazing! xxx

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    1. So sorry about the tumble! So glad you're back! Huge hugs xxx

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  10. Wow SM! The one post I didn't read until now! Thank you for your words of encouragement back then! I will refer to it when the shit hits the fan! Or anytime the wine witch decides to f with my head!
    Love you!
    Mel

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  11. Thank you so, so much for this advice. I am at the wall right now, trying to scale the darn thing. I'm at day 62...I've been at day 62 several times. I keep going back to the start. This time I'm going to get past this obstacle, to that field you talked about, with all the sunshine. The one that DOES exist.

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  12. Hi SM and thank you for writing what I think is one of the most powerful blogs on Alcohol FREEDOM! Do you know how many times people on Soberistas post a link to this blog to help someone?? Seems like at least once a day!!

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  13. I needed to read this thank you. Made to 104 days then caved. BUT didn't enjoy it which I think is a massive step in the right direction.

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  14. That's exactly what it's like! I've had countless day ones, like, A LOT OF THEM and it was nice and welcoming at first when I drank again. People were supportive -- they missed me -- but the next day the thunderstorms came back in and didn't leave until I got sober again. You've described it perfectly, and you've gotten me excited to get to 6 months. Thank You!

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  15. I love this - thank you for writing it and inspiring me when I am still struggling to get out of those dark days xx

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  16. Beautifully expressed. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I'm on my umpteenth Day 1. I will dig in and prevail.

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  17. Hi, SM! I know you wrote this ages ago, but I have only now found your amazing blog (via Soberistas). I am back to Day 3 yet again after having done two 10 day stretches just in 2017. For some reason that day 11 is a stumbling block for me. I feel it was such a blessing for me to find this blog post. The obstacle course analogy really resonates with me (as does most anything you've written!). I am so sick of Day 1's. So, thank you so very much for sharing this blog with us. I will be depending on it heavily to push past day 10 (fingers crossed). xx With much gratitude xx

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