truer selves and finding my balance

I am back from almost a week of camping. It was fun, fulfilling, and exactly what I wanted, which is not something that can be said for every vacation. Even with the rain, snow, hail, ticks, and various other minor inconveniences, it was just right.

Drinking-wise, I didn’t have anything to drink during the five days away, and I didn’t have any drinking urges, and I didn’t think much about drinking (or not drinking) at all. Then, as we were driving back last night, it occurred to me that I would like a drink when I got home, so we grabbed a six pack and drank beer on the couch, freshly-showered and still dazed from the shock of being home again. Three beers; within moderate limits.

For a lot of people, camping and drinking go together. Not for me. Actually, when drinking started to become a growing part of my camping and hiking adventures, that’s when I started to realize that drinking was changing who I was (dimly, anyway, through the confusion created by my alcohol-soaked brain). We all have passions that help drive our choices in life, and spending time in wild places — hiking, paddling, backpacking, camping, or just being — is one of mine. When I talk about hiking or camping, I’m talking about part of the bedrock of my truest identity, that version of myself that I am trying to fight my way back to. Alcohol was never a big part of it, and ended up eroding more of it than I’d like.

So, for the last five days, I felt like my favorite version of myself again. It was not perfect, but it was intensely profound. I am still trying to process it. It was a glimpse of who I used to be, or who I hope to be, and it was (necessarily) of limited duration, because I knew I had to come home and resume normal life again. But it didn’t feel like a complete fluke either. It felt almost…normal?

I’m still not sure if wanting a drink when I got home was habit (getting home, especially while tired, is an obvious trigger for me), or something more like mild grief over the end of a vacation. I guess I don’t need to pick it apart too much, other than as past of my continuing quest to figure out when I can (or cannot) go ahead and have a drink.

What I do know is that part of me felt resentful for coming home and having to start thinking about this again. I expect I am not the only person trying to change her drinking habits who gets frustrated by how much time, energy, and attention this takes. The version of myself that I most want to be focuses her attention, energies, and passions on things other than drinking (or not drinking) — community, friendships, hiking, exploring, hobbies, etc.. It was really nice to get to do that for this past week. It was kind of deflating to come home and realize that I probably can’t just keep coasting, that I have to get back online and log my drink count into Abstar, and make sure I keep holding myself accountable. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get to relax and just count on my new habits to keep hanging around. Probably not entirely.

The flip side of this is that because changing my habits takes so much energy, it’s tempting to treat it as a full-time hobby in itself, until “the struggle” — all this work involved in changing my habits — actually becomes part of how I define myself. Which isn’t my objective either. Somehow, I want to find the trick of paying just enough attention to make sure I keep making changes, but not so much that I forget to rebuild more enriching parts of my life. It feels hard to get the balance right. It feels worth it to keep trying.

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