And Helped Me Learn to Face Difficult Emotions
In May of 2019, I wrote a journal entry stating I was going to undertake a 100-day sobriety challenge. According to my entry, I was certain this was going to be the action that would ultimately catapult me into long-term sobriety.Three days after that entry, I wrote, “I had three beers yesterday. I guess three isn’t bad, but I didn’t make my 100-day challenge. I suppose one of these days I will quit.”
Since the summer of 2014, I made numerous journal entries of this nature. Lofty goals followed only days later by justified failure. I became increasingly tired of my drinking but I could not find the will to quit. I continued justifying my drinking because I did not fit the picture of someone who had a serious drinking problem, at least on the surface, so why should I need to quit?
In early June, I finally found my reason to take the plunge into sobriety. I took my dog, Rocky for a surgical consult because he had been limping intermittently. I discovered that Rocky had suffered a torn cruciate ligament in his right hind leg. The surgery of choice to repair the tear and prevent future issues is TPLO.
TPLO or tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy surgery involves cutting and repositioning a portion of the tibia so the dog does not need the ligament and the leg functions normally in its absence. The recovery time from this surgery is twelve weeks.
For the first three of those weeks, Rocky would be confined to a crate, only allowed out of the crate to relieve himself four times per day. He would also be wearing a cone so he wouldn’t lick his wound and risk infection. An infection could complicate the healing time and in severe cases could be deadly.
I love Rocky and felt he was counting on me to take care of him. I was afraid that if I was drinking during his recovery time, the resulting inattentiveness would derail his recovery. I might forget to give him his medication or allow him to lick his wound. I also took into account the expense of the surgery. Mistakes could be costly. I decided when his surgery day came, I would quit drinking for the twelve-week recovery time.
Two weeks later Rocky had his surgery. Day after day, for the first three weeks, I removed the cone so that he could go out and go to the bathroom and eat his meals. I always had a watchful eye on him to make sure he didn’t lick his wound.
When he whined, I assessed whether he was anxious because of his cone or was in pain and took the steps I thought would be best to make him comfortable.
Several times I thought about what it would’ve been like if I had a few drinks, lost focus and he licked his incision. If his wound became infected because of my carelessness, I knew I would have a hard time ever forgiving myself.
Rocky’s recovery went very well overall, but I would categorize it as a stressful experience fraught with worry. Fresh into sobriety, I was trying to deal with so many emotions that I would normally drink away. I had been seeing a therapist for help on how to handle difficult emotions and solve problems as they arise, but I had been practicing what I learned very intermittently.
Facing my fear of failing with Rocky, fear of failing yet again with sobriety and a host of other emotions and negative self-talk, I was in a situation where the rubber met the road. I no longer had anywhere to hide and my fears of failure came to the forefront.
The experience gave me a jump start on one of the biggest challenges of early sobriety — facing and managing emotions. I started using the techniques that I had been taught on a regular basis and low and behold, I started feeling more comfortable facing life’s uncertainties.
As I faced situations that incited feelings of anxiety and welcomed those feelings, I was able to uncover the beliefs hiding underneath. I realized that my intuition was intact but I didn’t completely trust myself. With every situation that I encountered and successfully navigated in early sobriety; my self-trust increased.
By the time Rocky fully recovered, I reached 94 days of sobriety. I was convinced I had made it over the hump that would lead to success and wasn’t going to stop. I once read an entry on Belle Robertson’s blog, where she compared sobriety to a little car rolling downhill gaining momentum as it rolls.
Sobriety is challenging at first, but once you start facing and conquering life’s ups and downs, it gets easier and easier. Now, over eight months sober, I have even more momentum. I don’t plan on ending this journey now, I am interested in where the sober car will take me.