Initially, when you stop drinking, the absence of alcohol can create cognitive and physical stress. It is intense.
In time, I literally felt my brain, in all its plasticity, healing each day I didn’t pick the bottle up. Toward the end of my active alcoholism, I became afraid of the negative impact excessive alcohol consumption was having on my mind. I had terrible migraines (and still do — just a bit less terrible), was forgetting things (a lot) and always felt sick.
An indication that my mind was healing came about 7-9 months after quitting. I started dreaming again — old drowned out memories started to resurface — with those memories came little spurts of happiness. It felt good. I started to feel like, and remember myself.
Now, years later, I sleep even better — and I dream more frequently. My senses have become a memory resurfacer (not a word, but it makes sense to me). A smell can bring me back to my parents kitchen table with my sisters — and the sight of children playing makes me stop and think of holding my nephews. I wish I could see them more.
Today, as I ran, a song brought me back to my college cafeteria….
(setting: cafeteria table with my best dude friends, 2001, Indiana University of PA, Summer Session)
“Guys, there she is. Oh my god! She is so fucking hot.”
“Leif, she would never get with you. Forget it.”
There she was, is right. Elana. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my 20 years on planet earth.
She reminded me of a Disney princess — Jasmine from Aladdin to be precise. Elana is Cuban and Colombian — she had long, jet black hair, which shined so bright. She had these cover-girl eye brows, and always wore tight athletic pants — and that backside was nothing short of spectacular. Her smile? It was as big, beautiful and sweet as her lips.
I. Was. In. Love.
I thought about Elana all of the time, and I not only saw her in the cafeteria, but she was living on the same floor in the dorms as me. All of the guys wanted to ask her out — and I wasn’t sure I could compete with the Delta Sigma’s or Theta Chi’s.
Fucking douche bags.
One day, I was eating some shitty cafeteria food with my friends who literally had no confidence in my game — and, as expected, Elana came walking in looking SO fine!
Today was the fucking day!
“Guys, i’m asking her out. Fuck it!”
Elana was putting vegetables on a plate at the salad bar — and I slowly walked up next to her, and started putting vegetables on my own plate. Finally, in front of the cherry tomatoes and mushrooms, I mustered up the balls to talk to Elana.
“Hey, I see you around all of the time and wanted to introduce myself. I’m Leif.”
I pissed my pants a little. I immediately went to the bright side and was grateful I didn’t shit myself a little. Rational, right?
“Hi Leif, my name is Elana. How are you?”
Those two sentences became the beginning of a two year relationship, and a now 10 + year friendship. I proved all of my friends wrong, and believed in myself enough to take a risk — it was a baller moment.
The point is, I never forgot about Elana, as I said, she is still a good friend of mine. BUT, I did forget some details of our time together — details that surfaced in such a vivid way, sparked by a song during a morning jog (Dashboard Confessional, Remember to Breathe. College, right?!).
It’s just another example of the many benefits of treating your mind and body as you should, and I consistently look forward to the next memory that surfaces…along with the other amazing benefits of cleanliness.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!