I don’t think about the day count much anymore, until someone mentions it in sober circles and I pull up the app and take a look. I recently hit 2000 days of sobriety.
2041 days today in fact.
Reflecting back on the sober time – it’s motivating, but definitely not a daily forefront-of-the-mind thing like in the beginning. It is now a part of who I am, a person who doesn’t drink. This isn’t to say that I don’t have thoughts that creep up out of nowhere from time to time. (And I shut that shit down quick.) It’s just more on the back burner, simmering quietly as life gets lived.
The typical posts on socials around the holidays and New Year’s in particular, are often sprinkled with clinking glasses, celebration beverages, etc. but it is also interspersed with Sober November, Dry January and the like. It’s encouraging. Part of why I decided to go “public” with my sobriety is that it provides a counter to the normalization of drinking. It may be one drop in the ocean, but at least it’s there. A happy, content, regular sober life.
I’m sure I would have eye-rolled sobriety posts before I was ready to receive them, and I doubt my little posts are any different for some. That’s cool. There’s a relief in not tying ones emotions to others’ reactions – in life and in sobriety. Other peoples’ opinions are really none of my business. That sounds a lot like emotional freedom to me.
Every sober anniversary I post something on socials about it. Little things, not preachy, but a simple “My DMs are always open” type of statement. I’ve had people reach out, curious. It’s one of the best rewards of living an alcohol free life out loud. If my risk of vulnerability encourages or helps one other person – than it’s 1000 percent worth it.
Riding down the road with the family towing our new (to us)-going-to-be-the-best-summer-ever-camper, I gripped the “oh $h1#!” handle on my side as the vehicle miles in front of us tapped his brakes. My husband laughed as I told him, “I love how the dumb handle in the car gives me the illusion that I could in anyway affect the outcome of an accident.” Like my grip on this handle will somehow magically apply the brakes and save us all from plummeting to our deaths. The car was so far ahead of us, even I had to laugh at my disproportionate reaction.
I have a delusion that I am in control. Of all the things.
We recently found out we have a plot twist to the plans of the next couple of years as we transition out of active duty military life. This transition (after decades) is a big one, but also incredibly exciting. My anxiety definitely kicked up a notch or 6 as we continue to discuss what we want, where we want to live, second chapter prospects, kids’ schooling, etc. There are so many decisions to make over the coming months, and many questions that will be answered in time.
This month I celebrate 4 years of sobriety (YAY!). Pondering the plot twist made me wonder what it would be like if I was still drinking. I would likely drink AT the transition, in a feeble attempt at quelling anxiety, not recognizing that I would only be adding piles of shame, guilt and more anxiety on top of everything else. Using alcohol to not be in my head about whatever situation never makes it go away, and in fact makes it worse. When drinking, I would eventually get to an acceptance place when big things happened, but it wasn’t easy or quick by any means. Worry is like a rocking chair as they say – gives you something to do, but gets you no where. Instead of numbing out, I’m feeling ALL the things. The recognizing that one chapter is ending but a new one is beginning. Both sides of the coin, excitement tinged with a bit of sadness, as we consider options.
Feelings are nothing but currents of energy. They pass through as long as I don’t white knuckle grip them by worrying and stewing, like I’m actually in control. Staying present, taking each moment as it comes and just breathing. Everything always works out. It always has. Even hard stuff. Even the messy, emotional, exciting and terrifying stuff. It always works out one way or another. In the meantime, this will be the summer of amazing adventures, many decisions, and a BAZILLION camping get aways! Perhaps I will even learn to become less of a control freak backseat driver! Three of the four of us are vaccinated and we are ready to bust out of this bizzaro quarantine time and have some FUN with the peeps we love. This may be the plot twist we never knew we needed. At just the right time.
There’s always been something off for me about the label of alcoholic that I’ve never really known how to articulate. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think AA is wrong, bad or whatever, but maybe there are more paths to recovery and the way we currently approach addiction and alcohol is not a route that works for everyone. If the main objective is to abstain, however someone goes about it, is it really wrong?
I usually don’t review a book before I’ve actually read the entire thing, but I’m making an exception. I am about half way through Holly Whitaker’s “How To Quit Like a Woman” and I’m completely blown away by her ability to put to words what I felt in my gut but was unable to express in a cohesive way. There are a couple of points Whitaker makes that deeply resonated with me (among about a thousand others so far):
“Alcohol is the only drug in the world where, when you stop taking it, you are seen as having a disease. Because alcohol is the only socially accepted drug, because most of us consume it, because we have come to believe that there are “normal” drinkers and there are “alcoholics,” and because alcoholism is self-diagnosed, it is literally the only drug in the world where you get a label and a lifetime disease once you admit you need to, want to, or do stop….When I drank (and clearly abused), I did not have alcoholism. When I said, ‘I can’t drink,’ I became an alcoholic. Because we believe everyone ‘should’ be able to drink ethanol, and those who can’t are somehow defective, we assign them a label and a lifetime disease.”
She continues on to assert that alcohol is not only addictive to a person labeled as an alcoholic, but to everyone.
“Alcohol addiction is progressive, that some people are wired a bit differently and are more vulnerable to alcohol addiction…science tells (us) these things…alcohol is addictive to everyone. Yet we’ve created a separate disease called alcoholism and forced it upon the minority of the population who are willing to admit they can’t control their drinking, and because of that, we’ve focused on what’s wrong with those few humans rather than on what’s wrong with our alcohol-centric culture or the substance itself.””What made sobriety so full of wonder is the fact that I didn’t have to negotiate a word that implies a life sentence or a chronic, relapsing disease… what made the label nondrinker downright magical was that it wasn’t synonymous with drunk, inebriate, junkie, addict, lush, wino, liar, or cheat.”
It’s sounds weird to my ear because I’m so used to the word alcoholic. Whitaker comments about the fact that we don’t call nonsmokers cigarette-aholics. They are non-smokers.The onus is on the substance, not the person – that’s the simple and huge difference. While it may seem like simple semantics, I am a firm believer in the power of words. Words carry weight, imply, infer and conjure images in our minds. It’s just the way language and culture works. The term non-drinker is empowering. It gives the user the choice, while alcoholic takes all choice away. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the long run. If sober, I don’t drink – regardless of a label. Working a program is valuable. Self reflection and conscious examination of one’s self and behaviors is crucial to growth. Maybe if there was less of a stigma associated with sobriety, less normalizing of imbibing ethanol, perhaps more would choose to embrace it?
I did some new things this week. For one, I made sauerkraut. (Yep, totally had to look up how to spell it correctly.) I’ve had it before as a kid and detested it, but like other foods, I’ve developed a taste for items previously not preferred.
The recipes online all say “Oooh it’s so simple! Just add salt and voila! Sauerkraut perfection!” While the ingredients are simple, there are a few steps that require some muscle and patience. For example, the splooging of purple cabbage juice all over the counter or the having to dump it out of the sanitized mason jar back into the mixing bowl to keep working it for more brine (salt and cabbage water) to be released to cover the cabbage shreds. (If there isn’t enough brine to cover, you haven’t worked it enough and it can cause mold to grow which is not tasty.)
In about 3 days I will be testing my ‘kraut and seeing whether it’s gross or if I’ve developed a taste for fermented fun!
Secondly, I went to a bar for a mom’s night out a few days ago. It was the first time I’ve been in an actual bar in a verrrry long time. It was also the second time in 2 weeks being around alcohol in close proximity outside of the grocery store. (The first being the hubby’s work holiday party.) I’m happy to have had both expericences under my belt. I don’t feel like I was tempted to drink at either event, but I am wary of being overly cocky. Arrogance will likely land me in a place I do not want to go ever again.
Leading up to the work party, I felt very antsy and anxious. I typically feel that way before social events like that as I play out conversations and making small talk (which I suck at) and all the other social crap that goes with pretending to adult. The dinner was a buffet so I was able to eat all of the veggie goodness, while the hubby happily chose beef. Conversation was lovely, with great people he works with and their spouses. As dinner was finished and the music started, it soon became evident who had had a bit too much to drink. There were stumbles and falling off of chairs as well as a wardrobe malfunction or two. We went home shortly after prizes were raffled off. While we didn’t go home with a package wrapped in a bow, I feel like I won. My prize was no hangover, no guilt, and no shame. WIN.
The mom’s night out was with an old friend who I was able to reconnect with after living on opposite sides of the country for over a decade. We went to a local bar and I set myself up for success, as my mother aptly put it. I knew going in there was no way I was going to drink, but I didn’t want to be a social debbie downer so I planned what I would consume – soda water and lime. Honestly, no one really knew any different. If they did – no one said anything. It just wasn’t that big of a deal. As we arrived I let my friend know that I was happy to be the DD for the night if she did want to partake. It was decided – done and done. We watched the amazing drag show, danced, hooted and hollered and had a blast. We closed down the joint and blew off steam. It was (like always) so much more fun than I had anticipated.
Another little thing I did was jot down a little private reminder:
Just a little message to myself of how far I’ve come. As the bar was nearing closing time, it was clear a few other patrons were definitely intoxicated. I saw myself in many of them. It was a great moment to witness the road not taken. If there was ever a desire to detour, seeing drunk people cured it in a heartbeat.