You know, this is heading in exactly the direction I wanted it to with sobriety not being a big deal but just how I don’t want to drink any more than I want to eat dog shit – doesn’t need a fanfare each time I don’t, right? And so it hit me this morning as I drove to work and it made me grin from ear to ear because I had almost missed it: today is my three month anniversary of being sober.
There are two sides to this, really. On the one hand the 23rd of January is almost as important to me as my son’s birth date and my wedding day. I’d go as far as to say it’s bigger than Christmas and Midsummer put together. It’s HUGE. And it IS a big deal in some ways I cannot allow myself to minimise:
I was well underway with:
- Drinking myself to death – the fact that I am still here in spite of all the vin blanc I poured down my neck is astonishing.
- Ruining the lives of my son, my husband and anyone else who loves me.
- Scuppering any chances I had to make the most of whatever talents I have.
- Depriving myself of the joy that comes with truly living life (aka without the depressingly numbing effect of alcohol).
- Never allowing myself to be present in the moment.
- Letting life slip me by.
- Struggling through my days with terrifying hangovers.
- Making a dog’s dinner of most things including my job.
- Hurting my son irreversibly.
- Prioritising drinking above everything else without exception.
That list can be made endless but I think you get the gist. Alcohol was killing me – or rather I was killing myself by drinking – and destroying everything in my life bit by bit. My drinking wasn’t “a problem”, it was an all encompassing evil that was destroying me and everything around me – it was a death sentence and I was my own executioner. So the fact that I am now sober is a big fucking deal indeed. I absolutely acknowledge that not drinking has given me my life back. I got ME back and I’m so glad to have ME again that it makes me teary each time I pause to really feel what that’s like – honestly. I don’t in any way want to bat away my sobriety as unimportant or view it with a sense of nonchalance because I don’t want that to ever think back on my drinking as something that was no big deal because my drinking eclipsed everything else so it was MASSIVE. And the two go hand in hand, don’t they? My mother doesn’t drink whatsoever, has never got drunk in her life. She and I are both sober, right? Yet I’m sure you agree that there’s a huge difference.
Like me, I know my mother ADORES her morning coffee. It’s a whole ritual for her, as it is for me. But I doubt my mother closes her eyes for a moment when she takes that first sip and smiles contentedly at how grateful she is for the moment. Maybe she does? Maybe that’s why she prefers a few moments to herself in the morning with her coffee? Maybe that’s what all people freaking do but I was drinking too hard to realise and now think this is down to how I missed out on life for so long that I now feel such happiness at facing each new day with that first mug of coffee in my hand. But do you see what I mean? Sobriety isn’t a THING for my mum. It’s just life because she never made any attempt to ruin her life by drinking so why would NOT drinking have any significance whatsoever? Just like not using heroine isn’t a thing for me because I never used it, let alone almost died because of it. So sobriety is bound to hold so much more for me than for someone like my mother for whom it was never an unobtainable thing. I honestly didn’t think I’d get sober, not because I ever found it hard not to drink (if I hadn’t already had that first one, that is) but because I never felt like not drinking. So there is a huge difference in what sobriety means for me as an alcoholic and for someone who never had a problem with booze.
So why did it make me so happy that my three month anniversary of being sober almost passed me by?
Because the biggest difference is the most important: I no longer want to drink. I can’t stand the idea of it and everything that would come with it. Well. I think this is why AA just didn’t click (or hasn’t to date anyway) for me. It was driving me crazy to focus so much energy on something I realised I didn’t want to do. The key to my sobriety isn’t a morning prayer or taking it one day at a time or calling fellow alcoholics – the key to my sobriety is finally seeing alcohol for what it is and realising it did nothing for me. And why in God’s name would I bother doing something that 1) would do nothing for me, but rather 2) bring lots of shit. According to AA, it’s the AA way or self will. Well, I’m not using either, thank God, and I can’t even begin to tell you how liberating that is. When you get to that point you’re truly free. Well, for ME that’s freedom, and obviously I’m the only alcoholic I can speak for. Focusing on something, struggling not to do something or having to get to meetings and/or make phone calls to stop you from doing this thing you’re trying not to do is not freedom to me. Nor is wanting to do it but having to stop yourself. I couldn’t live like that and it’s another thing I’m very grateful for that I don’t have to. So in that way, I am really happy that being sober is for me now just… …life.
Went to our favourite pub last Friday and sat on the wall by the river. It never even occurred to me that I wasn’t having wine because it’s just How It Is. Just like it didn’t first occur to me this morning that, oh, here’s this milestone of me not drinking because not drinking is just How It Is. And that’s what I want. That it’s just how life is. Sophie doesn’t like raisins and bananas. In her free time she enjoys long walks, writing and making jewellery. She used to drink and now she doesn’t so make that a Virgin Mary with a good kick to it. Questions on that? Actually, we’re not going to do a Q&A because we already elaborated more than we needed to for your benefit. There – that’s all there needs to be to it.
So it’s finding the balance, really. I don’t want to dismiss my sobriety as it is precious to me and I am stupidly grateful that it burst into my life and gave it back its colour the way it has. I never want to forget just how deep I was into the quicksilver sand of alcoholism because the moment I do would be the moment I might end up thinking I can drink like a non-alcoholic and THAT CAN NEVER AND MUST NEVER HAPPEN. I also know that if I focus on sobriety lots I will inevitably think about drinking lots. I suppose the ideal scenario would be for life to continue the way it is right now, when I clearly remember where drinking was taking me and feel grateful for life but when drinking just happens to be something I don’t want to do any more than I want to eat raisins. At the same time, the more of A THING sobriety is, the less likely – surely – I am to drink, right? I tell people quite openly including my family and I’m not even shying away from the A-word. So in lots of ways, I am the one making my sobriety very much A THING. If nothing else I’ve then created lots of obstacles for myself should I ever lose my mind and want to drink again? Oh, I don’t know.
Then I remembered…. What I have now is what someone like my mother has had all along – it’s life when you allow yourself to live and feel it. And THAT, my friends, is an enormous fucking deal. I’ll raise my glass of soda water to that any day. And the day I no longer smile and feel grateful for another day as I drink my morning coffee, slap me and remind me of just how sweet this life is and how close I came to missing out. I just find it hard to think I’d ever forget what my drinking did to my life.
Who knows? But… Today I’m not going to drink.