Don’t blow up the whale

(This was originally a post I wrote on my online support group site. Putting it here as a reminder to myself that this is all still true! And because this line of thinking has a great deal to do with the name of this particular sober blog)
Well, today was day 70.  This week has been rough. My peace has been rumpled and I’m finding that my inability to moderate applies to a lot of things. I’ve been going hard, pedal to the metal since day one and all of a sudden it hit me last night: I’m exhausted!
Sleeping has been a real struggle and somewhere in all those wakeful hours as I’m lying there in the dark, I begin with thoughts along the lines of ” I really need to stop eating so much chocolate. I should probably get some more exercise too. I love the idea of sobriety tattoos. I should get another good sober memoir to read”. Then my brain starts going a little bigger:  “I need to de-clutter this whole house, I should train for a half marathon. I should tell my other friends and family that I quit drinking…” etc. etc. and then my brain starts to really lose it’s sense of proportion until I’m thinking: ” I need to quit nursing and find a less stressful career. I should just grow a pair and post about my sobriety on Facebook. I should become a lighthouse keeper on some remote island. I should write a book. I think it’s time to end this marriage.” Future tripping, escalating, mind racing nonsense. It’s real conducive to sleeping.
Perhaps this is part and parcel of hitting this phase of sobriety where it’s still so new, but some of the novelty is wearing off and now it’s really starting to hit me how much work there is.  I have a million issues to deal with. The drinking is done, but the journey is starting to head steeply uphill.  And the lack of moderation part of me (which drove the bus for too long and look how that turned out!) has this idea that in order to do that,  I need to just burn everything down and start over. There’s this little part of my brain that sneaks in when my guard is down and declares “now you’ve identified the problem, I think you should just fix absolulety everything right. freaking. now.” Perhaps that’s the old alcoholic/ can’t moderate brain in its’ death throes but it’s a giant pain in the ass. And real bad for my eye bags.
There’s this panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach that goes against everything I’m learning. All the wise, prudent “sitting in the moment and feeling all the feelings, just because you feel it doesn’t mean it’s real or that you have to act on it right away” type stuff. I have to tell myself to slow down a thousand times a day. Remind myself this is new, one thing at a time. (I’m assured by folks with more sobriety who tell me if this is just another phase that passes.. and that your brain learns to chill out a little *please sooner rather than later)
Last night, at 2 am, I found myself reading an odd article about how to get rid of a dead whale that has washed up on the beach. ( Link here, if you find yourself with insomnia and curious about deceased whale removal):
The problem: 80, 000 pounds of rotting whale on your pristine beach. How do you get rid of it so the tourists and the surfers can frolic in the sun without a giant carcass blocking the view, the scavengers, the God-awful stench?
And it struck me: that’s a perfect metaphor for how I feel about alcoholism and this journey into sobriety. It used to seem like an insurmountable problem. I mean, where do you even begin?
The article talked about how the whale can be towed back out to sea, or painstakingly cut into pieces and hauled away to a landfill… or, in the case of an ill-fated town in Oregon, back in 1970, they decided to blow it up with dynamite. Really.
There’s even a YouTube video:
Let’s just say that it did not go well, and everyone who came to watch ended up covered in particles of rotting whale blubber; the biggest chunks actually damaged vehicles in the area and the whole thing ended up a million times worse.
The article concluded that the best thing in the long run is to allow the whale carcass to decompose naturally, which takes time and sunlight and salt air… and time.  Lots of time.  But eventually, the smell fades, the scavengers leave and all that is left is a set of bleached bones that were once a giant whale. And the bones are intact, a memory of something that once was.
I think we’ve all seen those “Take it Easy” bumper stickers a million times. I know it’s another one of those seemingly cliché’ phrases that end up actually being wise when you get past the seeming schlock. I know it’s a big concept with the AA crew and for good reason.
I simply have to take it a day at a time. I can’t future trip, think in extremes, or rush this process.  I have to just let things take their course, and allow what I am learning to sink in, take root. Like light and air working slowly on that whale, the truths I am learning will eventually also do their work. And time can’t be rushed.
(Now, if someone could just tell my brain)
That’s all I’ve got. So hang in there, friends, and don’t blow up the whale.

Author: unbeachingthewhale

I’m a mom of three, a storyeller, veteran, nurse, wanna be athlete, survivor of PTSD, anxiety/ depression, world-class introvert and person in recovery. I’m a bundle of contradictions and messiness and I’m learning to be ok with that. Writing has always been the magic that keeps me together and learning on this journey of life...

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