The last month has been a portrait of extremes for me. Strange, calm, beautiful, ugly, tumultuous, hectic, normal, happy, miserable, stressful, and scary. I am finally breaking out of my writing inertia to say I am still here. I am still sober. And in terms of my relationship with alcohol (or lack thereof) I've never been on more solid ground. I'm 168 days sober and I continue on my way feeling a hard-to-describe state of pride and self esteem.
Yet I have let a single, isolated situation with an unresolved debt reach so deeply into my life it has left me feeling vulnerable and shaky. Two weeks ago I had my first, and hopefully last, panic attack after months dealing with this situation. I hadn't realised how tightly wound I had become. It was pure fear and helplessness - being rushed to hospital, feeling pain in my heart, my hands and feet numb, emotionally spent and falling apart. Last week I went to my first counselling session to try and unravel why it is I hold on so tightly to the things I can't control, and that don't even reflect on me.
Is this the part of being sober Mrs D pre-warned me about? When you go from the euphoric feeling of early sobriety and then something painful happens and you have to face it square in the face and deal with it, no longer able to squash it down or numb it with alcohol.
This week I have been trying to apply the tools I have learnt in my sober journey to deal with this situation, without compromising my mental or physical health. I've also been reflecting on why it is my choice to go to counselling and not the debtor's. It is my reaction, and poor coping skills, in dealing with him, that led to the panic attack.
My counsellor asked me last week if there were other events that I had reacted in a similar way to, and I said that this was the worst. Things are starting to come back to me. The truth is I have strangled the life out of plenty of uncontrollable situations in my life. The latest situation is merely the peak.
In the past I worried most about what other people thought of me, or about failing at something I really wanted to achieve. These days I've decided, apart from wanting to maintain my reputation and be a good person, not to care about the opinions of others. I've decided I'm finally sick of my fear of failure holding me back. Living sober has given me such a strong sense of who I am and what I want from life yet during the last few weeks I feel I've lost myself a bit. At times I've looked in the mirror at the end of the day and seen a deadness in my eyes, like it is someone else staring back.
This morning I ran a familiar route on Christchurch's Port Hills. I felt the rain washing down my cheeks, and finally felt like I was emerging from the gloom into the light again. I feel like I'm coming back. In my silence of late I have thought of each and every one of my you - my sober friends - and I hope you are happy and doing okay.