This is a post I wrote and then decided not to post. But then I really like what it means to me, and I also feel like if you take it in a gentler sort of way rather than the serious way it comes off you’ll understand where I was coming from. I think.
Willpower is bullshit.
I didn’t will myself sober. I made myself sober. Willpower to me seems like deep in the sea wishing for air wearing a suit of armor and concrete sandals. Out of all the words there are in the world willpower is one of my very least favorite ones. It implies that you probably don’t have any of it and you are weak and unable to even get out of bed in the morning much less change your whole life. It makes it seem like you could just drop by the store and pick some up: eggs, butter, apples, paper towels, willpower….
The other trouble with willpower is this: there are two sides of it. There’s the will to not drink. Then there’s the will to drink. Then it’s a mind wrestling match and without practice we all take the easy way out. No, yes! No. Yes. NO! Yes! NO NO No no yes yes oh, fuck it. Yes.
Thanks a lot, Will Power. You officially suck.
I had to change my mind- change my thinking to quit drinking. I feel like I thought that there was a person I was yet to be, and that person was the one who could quit drinking. Just as soon as I got some willpower then I could start being that new person who could resist the lure of the wine store. Somehow I could force myself to be someone I wasn’t. As soon as different than me me showed up I would be OK.
I am realizing now that the person that I am today has always been here. This woman has always been me, I just haven’t always been this woman. The things that I say that I want in my head (peace of mind, sobriety, patience, contentment, well being, an open heart) are here right this second. They always have been. I only have to pause and look for them, find them. When I tell myself that I can’t deal, or that I deserve things that cause me harm (like booze or too many cookies) I can change my mind.
I can change my mind.
I used to tell myself not to drink on New Year’s Eve because I believed the way I started the new year was the way I would finish it. All day I would sweat and sigh and swear I wouldn’t drink. By midnight I would be wasted and give up- another year ruined. Unturnaroundable. I would make the same decision on my birthday: don’t drink and I would be safe. I could be sober because it was a new year and I hadn’t ruined it. Until I was drunk and wrecked my grand plans again. The first of the month worked for this too: if I could just manage to pile up some days then I would have the willpower to never ever drink again. Day one was a nice neat beginning until I had too much wine on the second.
But really all these beginnings never worked because I had already made up my mind: I was a wishing quit drinker. Plain and simple. A drinker with no “willpower”. There was no possibility of revolution- the year had already started. I had already been drunk on my birthday. It was already the third of the month. I was always choiceless. I was always one hand on the glass and one hand into tomorrow- magical tomorrow when I could make that fresh start….tomorrow.
Willpower? Willpower was marathon training with an eight month old and a four year old picking up smoking again and drinking hard. Hard. I made myself do it because I couldn’t not do it. I couldn’t change my mind. I couldn’t give the children back. I couldn’t undo the promise to run a marathon. I couldn’t stop drinking and I wanted to smoke. I wanted to make it as hard as I could on myself so I could try to change my mind but I didn’t change it. I didn’t think I had the right. I didn’t think I had a choice. My willpower wasn’t the right stuff. It was the total wrong stuff. Countless times. Years of times.
I didn’t quit drinking because of willpower. I quit drinking because I changed my mind. I decided that drinking was not who I was, and that I was going to do everything I could to make sure I didn’t drink. That did not include a lot of hoping and wishing: it included a decision. A decision that I was not a drinker. I didn’t hope I wouldn’t drink: I declared it. I made it a damn law. Rule number one: no drinking. Ever.
I had to see myself not as someone wishing for the willpower to quit drinking but as someone who could make a decision. I didn’t need a word that was so….needy. I needed words like courage. Backbone. Ones like concentrate and pause. Handfuls of words like surrender, peace, and able. Words like safe. And loved. Tough words like surrender and powerless. Big big words like forever. As soon as I decided quitting was something I was doing rather than something I wished I could do I was there: there at the place where I quit.