I didn’t drink at all last night.
Well, water, but no alcohol. And while there have been a handful of similar nights in the past couple of years, since my close friend died, it’s been pretty rare. Since that day, alcohol has been my nightly companion.
I’d cut way down, too, for quite awhile. Alcohol doesn’t go well with my MS meds, because both can be hard on the liver, but I’m not a fan of giving up things I love forever and completely, so cutting back was as far as I ever intended to take it. But then the world changed, and suddenly I was back to an every night beverage again.
I feel like my grieving has changed – it’s become a part of me, instead of something I was doing. I didn’t go through it so much as absorb it, I think. I don’t feel like alcohol is as big a part of that process anymore, but instead it’s taken on a different role. Grief has taken up residence inside me, so now other things – anger, frustration, sadness, fear – my method of handling any of it usually involves taking the edge off with a drink or two. It’s become a part of me, too.
There’s always been something. Some kind of crutch. Nail-biting, gum-chewing, smoking – pretty much all suggestive of oral fixation, really. Smoking was the hardest to quit. I loved it. LOVED it. I’d smoke before getting up in the morning, while walking down the street, watching TV, multiple breaks at work, after every meal, and before bed. I had zero interest in existing without a cigarette in my hand. Kicking nicotine was hard. Kicking the habit was harder. Getting past the idea that I needed a crutch – some kind of barrier between myself and the world – is something I still struggle with. Struggle and mostly fail, of course. Especially given that I’m writing this as I polish off tonight’s beverage number two.
But it’s my shield. Not having it sometimes takes a bit of effort, depending on the day I’ve had, but for the most part, I’m content with knowing I can survive not having it, and that whether I have it or not is my choice. Maybe that’s denial, but I’m actually pretty impressed with my willpower, and I don’t often feel the need to prove myself to anyone but me. I hate feeling judged, but at the same time, I recognize that the feeling comes from me. If someone wants to judge me, that’s their problem. If the feeling affects me, then the problem is mine. And I am my own harshest critic, after all.
So, while the way my coping mechanisms manifest has changed over the years – and will continue to – the fact remains that I always have one. And I am okay with that. I can recognize it for what it is, realize that I don’t need it, but accept that I like it and choose it. And when it no longer works for me, I know I can let it go – maybe for awhile, maybe forever – and that I’ll still be okay, even if I don’t pick up another crutch right away.
But I probably will.