365 Days Sober
I honestly cannot even believe I typed that title. 365 days sober. That’s 52 Saturday nights. Four vacations. Thirteen separate plane rides. 20+ rough days at work. 91 summer nights. 42 nights dining out. Handful of nights on the town… on and on. Never in a million years would I have thought it to be possible of me.
While I won’t dust off ALL of my skeletons, I made the decision to never drink again closely after the holiday season, December 27th, 2018, to be exact. There had been HUNDREDS of days prior declaring I would never drink again. But this time, it was different. And the list of reasons why I needed to stop drinking FOR REAL this time began to pour out of me. It was like my body pleading in desperation - Please. Please listen to me. Here. Here. Here. HERE are all of the reasons I, your body, and I, your mind, and I, your soul, support this decision.
And the list began:
I was fed up adding days to my “stuck on the couch all day hungover” tally
I was tired of analyzing the degree of my enjoyment by whether or not there would be alcohol available
I was freaked out when I learned I likely had alcohol myopathy
My mental health of anxiety and depression was worsening
I never wanted to feel the pit in my stomach again from the “what did I do/say last night?”
The shame I embodied from driving my car intoxicated
I was noticing memory changes even when I drank a small amount
The message I was modeling to my son
I was tired of alcohol quite literally managing my life
I was tired of seeing alcohol ruin lives
I was tired of being a witness to my own life
I was tired of treating my husband like shit when I drank
I was on a journey towards a life of health and healing and alcohol simply doesn’t fit into it (GMO’s in alcohol, alcohol is a carcinogen, alcohol is an addictive drug, alcohol is a depressant, alcohol elevates my anxiety… you get the point)
Summed up - I want to live my life as the best version of myself, and alcohol doesn’t reflect my best version
But I was scared. Scared to my core. Could I do it? How many times have I said this before and never followed through? What would people think of me? Would they look down on me? Would my friends still want to hang out with me? Would my husband leave me? Would I ever be able to have fun again? What about our vacation? What about the wedding we have coming up? What about work happy hours? How could I possibly survive this life without drinking alcohol?! My fear-based mind was having a hay day with this suggested decision.
But this time it was different. My highest self stepped in and made the decision. Something shifted.
The day of my decision - I called my brother. My brother just so happens to be one of my earth angels (you will meet others along the way). I needed someone to support me, someone to understand me and not tell me that I’d get over it. I needed someone to believe me. And that’s what he did. He didn’t even ask to hear my story. He simply said, “I understand this is what you need to do”. He offered for me to attend an AA meeting with him. I told him I would when I sobered up. And that is what I did.
I walked into that meeting with my head hanging low. I was filled with guilt. All of my judgments (of myself and others) rushed in… they wouldn’t think I was worthy of being there. People who attend AA have been to rehab, couldn’t hold a job, have been to jail. I wouldn’t relate to anyone there. I sat down and tried to make myself as small as possible. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
And then the meeting started. People began to share and never before in my life have I felt more relieved. These people were REAL. These people were HONEST. These people were STRONG. These were the kind of people and conversations I craved – people who talked about LIFE. Beneath the fluff and small talk. Real life issues that they were all experiencing.
I began to see alcohol as the culprit rather than the person. Alcohol is an addicitive drug. Period. If you consume it, you will become addicted. Period. It’s not bias to who. Time and severity of addiction will vary based on a number of factors, but the overall point is alcohol is an addictive drug and if you consume it you will become addicted.
From that AA meeting, while it was helpful and key in my first step, it didn’t really resonate with me in a few different regards. So, my brother told me about Refuge Recovery. It is based on the Buddhist principles, which I could more easily relate to (verbiage, meditation vs prayer, philosophy, etc). I began to attend meetings and bought the book as support. And here I began to learn about the importance of support. While recovery is an intensely personal journey, I would say it’s so much harder to go at alone. I can certainly say that I would not have been writing this article today without it.
From there – I moved onto the next part of telling people about my new lifestyle. My explanation to people varied. Some people I never told as I didn’t feel inclined to. Others who were close to me, I wanted to let in and talk about my decision. Sometimes I just flat out lied and said I was driving and wasn’t drinking tonight. The key here is, there is no textbook on “coming out” on your decision of sobriety. Do what you feel to be right to your heart.
But, just like with any other big news – be ready for some real zingers. Some of the things I heard:
Oh, you don’t have a problem.
Oh, I quit drinking for awhile, it’s just not for me.
I’m sure you just need a break.
Why can’t you just modify?
Are you still not drinking?
Are you drinking tonight?
And in the beginning, some of these comments really got to me. And as time went on, it did get easier. And I didn’t always feel like I was the elephant in the room. And I did go to dinner with friends who were drinking and didn’t implode. And I did go on vacation and still had a blast. Fear after fear after fear I had held onto with drinking was washed away after each time I would hit another milestone sober.
Now, there were hard moments. REALLY hard freaking moments where I wanted to quit. Why am I doing this to myself? Just live life like you want – you love alcohol, stop making this so hard on yourself. God, his glass of wine looks and smells so good right now – what’s wrong with one glass?
And this is when I really got by with remembering the words of my brother. Take it one day at a time. And when that’s too much, take it one hour at a time. And when that’s too much, take it one minute at a time. And that is exactly what I did.
There was my hardest moment yet – a gal in my yoga class basically stood me up for our first friends date and I lost it. I lost my shit. All of it. I drove to the nearest parking lot and I cried like I have never cried before. I was sick and tired of not feeling important to people. I was sick and tired of putting other people before me to continually get burned. I was sick and tired of all of these hard days of not drinking. I was sick and tired of thinking about alcohol every single moment. And all I wanted was a drink. I had made up my mind and decided I was going to drive to the nearest bar and order a beer. No one would know, HELL, I don’t even CARE at this point who knows. FUCK THEM! FUCK ME! FUCK EVERYONE!! I was angry. I was incredibly angry at everything. And as I was about to pull out of the parking lot, I called my brother. And he answered. And he talked me down. And he listened. And he didn’t judge. And he understood. And he saved me. He let me be the emotional mess I needed to be. He let me scream, he let me cry, he just simply held the space for me to go through that moment. And I hung up the phone with him and I sobbed. I sobbed for an hour more and felt sorry for myself. I let it all come out. Why does this have to be like this for me? All I want in life is to fit in and enjoy it. Why do I have to have this relationship with alcohol? Why can’t I be like everyone else?
But guess what? That moment was harder than hell, but it DID pass. And I did stay sober.
The point is - I may feel great now, but it was hard. It was really, really, really hard at times. And that, my friend, is okay. The best things in life will not come easy to most of us. We have to work through the shit to stay true to ourselves. And this time was different.
So, today, as I sit here writing this article, I can be certain to say that this was a necessity and I am damn proud of myself. I am proud of a lot of things that I have done, but this is the most proud I am. Are there things I miss dearly about alcohol? You bet. Does my circle of friends look different? Yes. Does the way I spend my down time look different? You bet. But the things that I miss are heavily outweighed by the benefits I have gained. I have listened to what my body was asking for and it has rewarded me ten fold. My anxiety is nearly gone, my depression is almost absent, my confidence is there, my memory is back, I feel good all. the. time., I have so much time to do the things I love, I have more money, I don’t have shackles on my wrists anymore, I remember everything I say and do, I am able to see how much my body rewards me when I value it, my marriage is thriving, I have a renewed sense of being alive and not living through a dulled cloud. I am proud of what I am doing to honor my best self and live my best life.
So, am I going to sit here and tell each one of you to sober up as well? No. But what I will do is pass along some words of wisdom that I would have liked to hear during my first year. And if you do find yourself interested in making this decision, know that you can do it.
1. You CAN do anything you put your mind to (and would highly recommend a little extra help – friend, support group, therapist, rehabilitation).
2. People will fall out of your life naturally as you transition to your best self, and that is okay. Be grateful for the lessons and memories you shared with those and wish them well.
3. You will be more in tune with your emotions than you ever knew possible, be gentle with yourself. You no longer have a mask to hide under, so the emotions get strong at times. Ride the wave and know that these emotions are temporary and the highs and lows will start to even out over time.
4. When you listen to your body and what it needs or doesn’t, it rewards you and begins to heal.
5. Take it one day at a time. And if that’s too much, take it one hour at a time. And if that’s too much, take it one minute at a time.
6. Love yourself. I know it sounds cheeky, but it’s true. This is the greatest act of self-love you can express – listening to what your body, mind and soul need to be in healthy alignment. Remember that and thank yourself for making this decision.
7. Be proactive with your toolbox – add that friend/sponsor on speed dial and let them know you will need support, sweets on hand for early cravings, daily meditation practice, journal, nature. Whatever heals you – add more of that into your life.
Last Ending Note
The amount of respect I have for recovering addicts may be the most respect I hold for any one type of person on this planet. Between the way our society treats those who admit to suffering from addiction, to the sheer HELL you must go through to get and stay sober. To the downright raw strength you must dwell up is nothing short of admirable.
These are the STRONGEST people I have seen. To wake up day and day again and choose the hard way out. I am here to say that I stand with those who are struggling with addiction. If it there is an imbalance in your life that doesn’t feel right to – get curious. You don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom, you don’t have to get validation from others that you need help, you don’t need anything other than your willingness to change. And you can do it. Wishing all those who are going through this healing the most love and for those who wish to heal sending courage. It is more than worth it.
This book – I HIGHLY recommend for anyone curious about alcohol consumption. Book: The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life
Annnd, she also has a podcast I just started listening to.
All beautiful images are from Unsplash