Red Flags

It's Day 4 of being sober (again) and I won't lie and say that Day 3 was a breeze.

While it wasn't brutal, I was idle. I was craving. I was thirsty.

But, I took the time with each craving to STOP and become aware of what I was feeling at that moment and the moments and events leading up to it. Was I thinking about the future? Was I stuck in a moment of the past? Was I maybe just hungry or tired?

After years of taking the backseat to my cravings and allowing them to take the wheel, what I had actually and accidentally done was create a continuously deeper trench, as though we were driving on rails and it was always to the same destination.

The bottom of a bottle. And then another. And oftentimes, another.

I never stopped to consider why I was climbing in the car – I just knew it would take me to where I wanted to go.

To feeling numb, as quickly as possible. To fixing whatever was causing the discomfort that was in turn causing the craving. I never stopped to consider that the craving was just a red flag.

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You see, I had it all inside-out.

I always assumed that the craving was the actual problem, and that I needed the wine to appease the craving.

But the problem was never the wine. The wine was just a patch that numbed the problem. And after years of creating that trench by reacting to my craving with drinking immediately, every time a craving would hit – into the backseat I'd go and like a child on an amusement park train, off we went to Numbville.

I was never in control.

I'm sure this is common with most addicts and alcoholics. After decades of taking the same, shortest route possible to what you think is the "solution" to your pain or discomfort – it's hard to imagine taking the backroads.

But what if the craving is actually a red flag? A way that your body is calling for attention, like a tiny siren inside you that makes you anxious and uncomfortable to alert you that something is wrong.

My approach yesterday to put my cravings in the backseat for a change was to start listening.

And guess what?

It worked.

I started being mindful of the moments around my cravings, and they were 100% of the time connected to situations or thoughts that were making me uncomfortable. And the craving was just my brain's way of offering the fastest solution to making me "comfortable" again, as quickly as possible. Thanks, brain!

My biggest hurdle was always getting past the craving to start pouring wine at lunch. I'd clock-watch until it turned to 12:00pm and that first burn of shiraz hitting my gut would overtake the fire that was smouldering in me all morning. Then I'd barrel through, not having had breakfast, or lunch, and sometimes skipping supper. I could go all day (or days) without eating. But drinking 3 Litres of wine a day was easy.

Well, it turns out, I was just hungry.

Long story short, I had an eating disorder through most of high school. I'm pretty sure there's still an insecure fat boy living inside me, doing his best to not be "that fat gay kid". The thought of eating still triggers an anxiety in me, which my brain quickly responds with "But wait! Let's go for a quick drive to Numbville and that gross feeling will go away!" 

And we drive as fast we can.

Through listening to my cravings, I'm starting to learn their language.

I've turned them inside out. Instead of hearing the craving as "it's time to drink wine" I'm translating it into "what is making me uncomfortable?"

Then dealing with it.

So far, every discomfort I've recognized connected to my cravings are related to things in the future or the past – or my perceived idea of how what's happening in the present will affect the future.

It's almost always borne out of moments of me trying to control things I simply can't.

So when a craving hits and I recognize that I'm tired – I rest. If I recognize that I'm dreading a business call – I simply make it and get it over with. If I tune in to my body and realize I haven't had breakfast or a snack but am craving a drink – I eat.

I never actually wanted the wine. It appears I just wanted to feel comfortable.

And who doesn't?

Here's to another day of learning the language of my cravings, and learning a hell of a lot about myself.

Sober, alcohol free recovery blogger.

Photographer. Writer. Ex-Blackout Artist.

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