Upon awakening, I reach for my phone on the nightstand and see the ungodly hour of 2:21 a.m. staring back at me. I prop myself up onto both elbows, the sheets damp underneath me from my sweaty body. My breathing is quickened, my heart racing and my mind flipping through memories from my distant past like an old-school rolodex as I recall my dream. In it, I was knocking back a big 'ole glass of chardonnay and jotting down the names of people I need to make amends to. Now that I am half-awake, I want to write down those names before I forget - an old boyfriend, a childhood friend. I feel woozy, almost like I'm drunk. As I collapse back into the sweat-stained sheets, I sob into my pillow. The realization that I'm awake washes over me. I didn't drink. It was only a dream. As I lay there, my panic starts to subside and I remind myself that I only had a glass of room temperature water before going to bed last night. The emotional task of writing my 8th Step (making a list of persons to whom I need to make amends to) has obviously seeped into my subconscious. I am lulled back into a deep, dream-less sleep.
Today marks my 18 month of continuous sobriety. Last night's dream unnerved me and I feel wonky as I get ready to head into town for my early morning AA meeting.
Last year, on my sixth month of sobriety, I summited my first-ever mountain with one of my best friends and our kids. In February, on my one year anniversary of continuous sobriety, my best friend flew into town for the week and we celebrated my accomplishment with grand gestures and quality girl time.
But 18 months without a drop of alcohol? Well, it kind of feels like shit just got real. This is my life now and it doesn't include drinking pricey boutique wines or craft cocktails. I am a non-drinker. I say this without feeling like I'm depriving myself of anything. There's a reason they use the word sober to describe people who don't drink. It fits.
I am sober now, but I'm also grateful and grounded; present and proud of myself; less reactive and more thoughtful; I make better choices and own my part in things. Recently, I asked my 13 year old son what changes he's noticed since I stopped drinking and he told me he thought I was "Cheery in the mornings" and "WAY more patient." Then he said, "You are just, like, a better version of yourself, mom." It hurt to hear, bittersweet really, and it was what I needed to hear, all at the same time.
Part of me wishes I could talk to my own mom about all of this. Ever since I started attending AA meetings, we've been performing this careful dance wherein she doesn't ask too much about how I'm doing when it comes to abstaining from alcohol and I don't offer up too much unless she asks. It's a very unsatisfying way to communicate, but it's the dynamic we're in right now.
Over this last year and a half, I've pulled away from almost every single one of my relationships that I had while I was drinking and really worked hard on myself and my recovery from alcohol. I'm not the same person I used to be and I'm sure my family and friends would agree. It's been a ton of worthy work on my part and I feel fortunate that I hit my "bottom" so that I could take a good, long, hard look at myself and figure out what needed to be changed within me.
At 18 months, I'm ready to widen the net of my socializing and re-engage in friendships that have been put on hold while I took better care of myself, both physically and spiritually.
Being sober to me means living an examined life. There's no way my life could ever be considered a clunker, as Vonnegut ponders. The work I've done in examining my life, my patterns, my behaviors and my part in things has caused a spiritual awakening that I just wasn't expecting. It's hard to describe, but I feel like my life would be so superficial if I hadn't admitted I had a problem with alcohol and walked into the rooms of AA. I would have just continued living as I was without really asking bigger questions or pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and just be willing to try and see things from a different perspective. The byproduct of examining my life has been increased peace, calm, clarity, room for forgiveness and removal of quite a bit of drama.
In theory, it would be so much easier if I simply went back to my old ways of living like an ostrich with my head in the sand. But I can't. I actually know too much about how to live in the solution now, instead of being stuck in the problem. I can't un-know it. Thank goodness for that.
When I was drinking, I drank to smooth the rough edges of my life. I drank to forget the past. I drank to rearrange the details of hurtful events. I drank to quell my anxieties. I drank to feel accepted. I drank to calm the fuck down. I drank to fit in. I drank because I was bored. I drank because I was lonely. I drank because I was happy. I drank because I was unhappy. I drank because I owned a wine bar. I drank and I drank and I drank and I gave little thought to consequences of doing so. I drank to avoid talking about hard things. I drank to muddle through small talk. I drank to hide. I drank to be seen. I drank to feel confident. I drank to be the life of the party. I drank to forget the confusion of my parents' divorce. I drank to feel good in my own skin. I drank to escape my life. I drank because I hated who I had become.
This is how I know I can never drink again. Because all of those reasons listed above are actually not reasons to drink. No, they are just a part of life. And when I started examining my life, I found out I had a pretty damned good one. Not perfect, but perfectly good.
Now that I'm sober, I no longer want to escape my life. I'm even a little embarrassed typing the above words about hating myself because I know others won't understand. The beauty of getting sober is that I'm starting to not care what other people think about me and, the truth be told, I'm sure no one is really paying that close of attention anyway.
My life is pretty simple now and I can't believe I thought it would be boring once I removed alcohol from my every day existence. It's been anything but. I can't believe all of the good that has multiplied for me and my family by doing the simple math of subtracting alcohol from the social equations in my life. I like myself now. I tell the truth - no matter what. I keep my word. I go to bed early. I have goals. I'm a great example to my kid. I'm a good wife to my husband. I'm a better sister to my siblings. I'm working on being a better daughter to my parents.
And as corny as it might sound, I'm slowly becoming the person I've always wanted to be.
I feel like I've crossed into new territory over this past month and I wanted to share some of the tools I've used to maintain my sobriety and further the work I'm doing to support my new lifestyle.
Sober Strides + Tools
- After almost drinking in France last month, I came home and decided I needed to jump into the middle of my AA program. I accepted a 6-month secretary service commitment with my 7 a.m. home group and it feels good to be of service to others right now.
- I pitched a 12-part series on how I'm working the 12 steps of AA to The Recovery Revolution online. They said yes and you can read about my journey so far with Step 1 and Step 2 on their website here and here.
- The Anonymous People documentary. Watch it.
- Bach's Rescue Remedy products are saving the day + helping me with my anxiety symptoms.
- HOME podcasts with Laura + Holly + the online community support me every single day. Thanks ladies.
- I was a guest on the The Since Right Now podcast last night. You can download their podcasts by clicking here.
- I had the honor of writing about my gratitude practice for my talented friend, Sondra Primeaux, over at The Unruffled online. You can read my post here.
- I've started attending one-on-one therapy sessions to address my anxiety issues.
- I participated in a 21-Day Meditation Challenge and felt the benefit almost immediately. I struggled near the end of the practice around Day 18, but would definitely try it again.
- I cut my caffeine intake down by about 75%. By doing this, my anxiety levels have plummeted.
- Ever since I stopped drinking, I've continued to struggle with cystic acne on my jawline and throat. At the suggestion of my esthetician, I removed dairy from my diet and almost immediately saw the benefit. I've been wearing a scarf around my neck for almost two years to hide my skin issues. I'm finally walking around town sans scarf and it feels so liberating.
If you read this entire post, you deserve a piece of chocolate cake.