We’re watching Shameless over here. Not quite binging it. But close. That show is damn fearless. Nothing escapes it’s irreverent probing. Everything feels gut-punchingly profound, without ever being preachy. And nothing is ever simple.
We’re on Season 8. Admittedly, there are lots of great storylines swirling around, but Lip’s sobriety is what’s getting me this season. Check out Jeremy Allen White talking about what sober Lip is like:
Oooff. The pains of early sobriety. No shit, it’s completely starting over. From scratch. Why? Because obviously, if you’re sitting in an AA meeting or you wake up in the bathroom where you passed out or you have zero idea who you slept with (talked to, argued with, or punched) last night, you have no idea how to manage your own life. And that is the honest to God truth. So, you start over.
How? You take that moment of grace you’ve been offered (make no mistake, it is a gift. And it won’t stick around forever), and you start working your ass off. On what? Yourself. It’s a serious, arduous process, this getting sober. It’s likely all you’ll think about for the first year or so. Does that make it a selfish process? Yes and no. Yes because your sobriety always exists top of mind—and it has to drive all your decisions. No, because part of getting sober & staying sober, is getting out of your own damn head and into the world to be of service to others.
And it takes commitment. Stubborn, dogged commitment. To not drinking. That’s the key: not drinking no matter what. Not if your dog runs away. Not if your girlfriend breaks up with you. Not if someone dies (a random celebrity or someone you love). Not ever. Not for any reason. It can’t even exist as an option somewhere in the back of your mind. It’s got to be annihilated. Obliterated. The idea that you can take that first drink for any reason has to die.
Early sobriety is about staying present in the moment. Wondering what your entire life will look like if you never drink again? Oh, you’ll wonder. But it’s useless. Until you start to heal–to move from simply not drinking to really getting sober, to participating in your own recovery–you’re gonna have NO IDEA what life will look like if you don’t drink. And if you try to imagine it, you’ll believe you will die of boredom if you try to live sober. That’s because, right now, your brain is entirely fucked. It’s telling you stupid shit, and you believe it, because that’s how alcoholism works.
It’s all a lie. You don’t need a drink. Not to cope. Not to sleep. Not to take the edge off your anxiety. Not to deal with your kids. If you’re an alcoholic (and, by the way, I’ve never known anyone to wonder if they had a drinking problem that didn’t actually drink problematically), thinking you need a drink is like thinking you need to take a shot of cyanide. It’s poison. It will kill you. But first it will take everything you love.
“GOOD GOD, that’s bleak,” you’re probably thinking. Hell yeah, it’s bleak. That’s why the first order of business is to not take that first drink. Do what you’ve got to do. Go for a run (Lip runs all over town in Season 8). Pray. Do yoga. Drop and do pushups until your arms give out. Put your white chip (that’s the surrender chip in AA*. The one that says you give up & need help. Very important, that chip) in your mouth–when it melts, you can take a drink. Call someone. Drive to a homeless shelter to volunteer. Eat an ice cream sundae (sugar is life-giving the first year). Do what it takes.
Why would you want to bother with all this? Because in this moment of grace you’ve been granted, you understand that you want to live. Not survive. Live.
You are worth it. Whether you believe it right now or not. I believe it for you. Put down the drink.
*My sobriety is part of the AA tradition. I am not a Big Book Thumper. I diverge from AA in some of my thinking. A lot, maybe. But I still believe that it is one of the very best ways to get sober. Why? Because it worked for me. Find what works for you. But going it on your own rarely works. The shift from active alcoholism to sobriety requires support, huge life changes, and usually therapy. Told you it was work. Don’t worry; you’re still worth it.