Where do I begin? This story of mine; one of recovery. The past 365 days have been those of a complete excavation of my existence. One year ago today was my first sober day in countless years. I took my first drink in the 8th grade. Prior to an awkward middle school dance, while standing in a circle of pre-pubescent friends. Six of us shared three beers, I realized a sense of belonging that had been lacking in my youth. A false and commanding grip took hold. Thus, my journey into a lifetime of alcohol abuse commenced.
Today, I celebrate one year of sobriety.
Seems like a fucking lifetime.
Sobriety is surreal. As I have pondered the theme of today’s blog, I realize how exceptionally awesome this stage in early recovery has been. Yes, I said awesome. Has every day been a cake walk? Hell no. Did I just put the box of wine away and not look back? I wish. How about giving up control over my addiction? Hardest thing I have ever done.
For me, going to the hospital to detox didn’t seem like a big deal. Spending a week in a crisis center, slightly more of a bigger issue. Admitting OUT LOUD that I was an alcoholic; terrifying. I knew that once I articulated those words, there would be no going back. I denied having a problem with alcohol for years.
Finally I asked for help.
This process is worth every tear I’ve shed. Every moment of fear, doubt, and anxiety.
All. Worth. It.
As I sit here tonight, on the eve of my “first birthday”, it is with gratitude. Now that I have shred the societal shame of being an alcoholic, I can share with you 10 things I now know for sure about sobriety:
Putting down the drink is the easiest part. I guess I thought that putting a cork in the bottle would just instantly solve this drinking habit of mine. I was naïve enough to think that was my ONLY problem. Earlier I mentioned an “excavation” of self, it was not in jest. The emotions that lie beneath the contrived chaos of being drunk are all in need of permanent adjustment.
In my case, anxiety was caused by hangovers and constant need for the next drink. I was on two benzodiazepines, an anti-depressant…along with my best friend Shiraz. I would decline coffee on most days, pleading that it caused me to shake. In actuality, I just need a damn drink! Each morning I waited for my Xanax to kick in, and fell asleep at night with Clonopin. It amazes me that today I wake up without a shred of anxiety, I love coffee, and use natural techniques if for some reason I do have a fit of panic.
I’m not dying of liver failure, hives, hypertension, or any other random malady that I find on WebMD. OH MY GOD…I was a slave to that website. A hypochondriac of exceptional breed, I had myself deceased on a weekly basis. Today I realize that I haven’t consulted these online “doctors” in a year. The reprieve from analyzing my demise is colossal.
Bad shit still happens; a lot. While I am diligent in undoing the damage in my life, time goes on and life on life’s terms is the reality. My finances are a disaster, my kids still get on my nerves (and me on theirs, especially now that I am participating in their world), heartbreak happens, and the dynamics of relationships continue to ebb and flow. Here’s the deal though, I can handle most of it now. Without throwing produce across the room, no longer leaving nasty notes on cars, and devoid of having public tantrums for some supposed wrong doing. I seriously cannot believe how much I DON’T react anymore.
My kids are resilient. These two girls saved my life. I am positive that they have never been more scared than the night I was taken to the hospital with suicidal ideation and a blood alcohol level far over the legal limit. We are still healing and will be for years. The selfishness of my disease affected the entire family, this isn’t an overnight process. Slowly they are learning to trust me. They are seeing me heal and become a strong role model. I have guilt when I think of all the Pop Tarts and microwave popcorn they ate while I was passed out. For the times I yelled and threw shoes at them, and laundry out the windows. And the many times I was a bad example. A true miracle of sobriety is that they both still love me.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Sobriety is a lifetime agenda. I practice my program of recovery one day at a time. When I started, it was often one hour at a time. I felt victorious if I could forego a drink until sunset. Often times in the first three months, I landed in bed as soon as it was dark, ready to start my revitalization upon sunrise.
There are no inappropriate emotions. You feel what you feel. No need to label, explain, or rationalize. Lean into all of it as part of the healing process.
Action is necessary to heal. Early sobriety is harsh. For me just loading the dishwasher or making my bed was all I could accomplish. But, it was still momentum in a positive direction. Just keep moving.
Sober dating scary as shit, but possible. Without the veil of alcohol, interactions are honest (mostly). Experiences are genuine and get this…you remember exchanges that while previously drunk would be forgotten. Albeit frightening, dating can be crazy good. I was apprehensive about the intimacy of dating. How would I even get in a car without the pre-date drink? Dance sober? Are you joking? Sex without cocktails? It’s all good.
Once I started talking to other addicts, I found a sense of belonging that I craved all those years ago as a young girl. Irony at its finest. I work a 12-step program. I was instantly amazed by similar shared stories of fellow alcoholics. We laugh at each other’s mistakes, drunken stories, and fears. There is something refreshing about being totally raw and real.
What now? The anticipation of my first “birthday” has been emotional. Not good, not bad, maybe…poignant? My cravings to drink have long since passed. The occasional thought will arise, that is how this insidious disease works. Sometimes my brain tells me I can have “just one.” Liar.
My birthday tomorrow doesn’t represent an end. I am blessed with an opportunity to celebrate this milestone, yet also keep moving in a healthy direction.
I work my program and rework it as necessary. I continue to reach out to other alcoholics. I tell my story. I don’t boast or apologize about who I am. As God would have it, I just am.
I am…blessed, healthy, proud, beautiful, driven, and sober.
Life is far from perfect. Life is life. And for today, life is good.