Today, I celebrate two years of sobriety.
If you asked me two years and two days prior, I’d have laughed at the thought of going so long without a drink. Why would anyone not want to have a glass of wine with dinner or have a beer and watch the game? And yet, here I am, two years later, two years sober.
I would love to tell you that I’m always totally thrilled with my decision to be sober. But let’s be honest…that’s crap. I still miss beer…and wine…and vodka…and tequila.
OK…maybe not straight tequila. Margaritas, however….
I wish I could sit down at a new brewery, order a flight, and enjoy all the flavors and smells and fabulousness that beer has to offer. I wish I could enjoy a smooth, soothing glass of wine to help punctuate a delicious dinner. I would love to travel to Napa again, visit wineries and enjoy the earthiness of the grapes growing just outside the door.
The flat out truth is that I can’t……so…..I can’t.
But if you ask me if I regret my decision to go sober, I’ll tell you no, quite the opposite. The decision to quit drinking probably saved my life. I may not always like it, but I am thankful every day that I have the strength and perseverance to get through each day without a drink. But it has made me take a long, hard look at the choices we make in life. So as I sit here and look back two years, I’m going to share with you a little about what I’ve learned….
1) Addiction is just a big, nasty, hard habit to break~
Everyone’s experience with addiction is different (be it cigarettes, alcohol, food, whatever) – so it stands to reason that everyone’s experience with recovery will be different. There simply is no one cure that works for everyone. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to kick the habit your first time out. Unfortunately, you may have to go through a series of trial and error before you find the method that works for you. Meanwhile, doctors, friends, so-called experts: everyone will spout all kinds of psychological reasons for why you’re addicted, and try to get you to subscribe to their particular brand of dealing with it; and that can be quite intimidating.
You may not want to stand up in a room and talk about your feelings – so you put off breaking your habit. Not everyone can afford a five hundred dollar an hour doctor blaming your problems on something in your childhood – but that’s what you’ve been told works, so you put off breaking your habit.
Guess what? Everybody doesn’t know you. Your addiction is your own – and you have to figure out how best to work through it.
I knew I didn’t want to be surrounded by strangers, telling my story time and time again. I didn’t want to have to feel badly about the awesome times I had when once I was drinking. Those were good memories – embarassing, ridiculous, reckless and sometimes incredibly stupid memories…but they’re mine, and I embrace them. I also didn’t want to check myself into some center or visit some doctor to talk about my “problems” Again…my memories. My stories. Mine to keep and not have tarnished by some doc’s interpretation.
No, I decided that my recovery is just the very exhausting process of breaking a really, really bad habit…..and that’s it. It is a day-by-day process that I have to control. Sometimes I have to lean on my husband and friends for some support; but in the end, I had to make a conscious decision break the habit in order to succeed. And habits are hard to break! Stressful day at the office – grab a beer at home. Out for dinner – order a glass of wine. Night on the town – what’s one more round going to hurt? Day that ends in “Y” – there’s a drink out there somewhere with my name on it. All of these events contributed daily to one, big, nasty habit that only I could control or let control me. And that’s been the struggle; finding different ways to deal with daily stress, not ordering wine at a restaurant, finding someplace else to go besides the bar on Friday nights.
I’m not going to lie, some days are easier than others. I have to be cognizant DAILY of my demons, because it would be just so simple to order one glass of wine at a celebratory dinner, or tell myself that I could enjoy just one cold beer on a hot summer day. And I won’t lie…there are moments where I wonder if I could go back to handling my liquor. But then I remember the last drink I had (or, at least a vague memory of it) which emphatically reminds me why it is I can’t have another drink, and then I freely choose to stay the course.
Addiction doesn’t happen overnight – neither does breaking it
2) You have to really want it to really do it~
You’ve probably seen the commercials on television about helping someone with addiction. It’s great…truly, it is. There are some people who really don’t know they have a problem; so if you can help that person look in the mirror to see what you see, and it forces them to get help, then by all means, do it.
Here’s the problem; if that person doesn’t want to quit (or is truly not ready to change), he or she is just…not…going…to…quit. They may stop for awhile, but something will happen – the urge will overtake them one day and they will falter.
I tried to manage my drinking at least a half dozen different ways: I’ll just drink on the weekends, I won’t drink alone, I’ll only have 2 drinks at a time, or (my personal favorite) – I’ll only drink clear fluids. And inevitably I’d fall right back into bad habits and old ways and be at the bar until closing on a random Wednesday night with half a pint of (dark amber) beer in my hand.
“When are you going to stop doing this to yourself,” my friends would half jokingly/half seriously ask me – witnessing yet another exciting hangover.
“I can stop anytime,” would be my response.
But I couldn’t.
It wasn’t until I had a serious Come-to-Jesus moment (which I won’t bore you with here), that I realized I had to change my life in order to save myself. And that memory is what keeps me going each and every single day. You can’t create that moment for people. You can help encourage it, you can be there for them when they have it, but they have to come to it on their own. You’ve probably even been through this in your own life whether you realize it or not. Take up a new hobby…are you still doing it 6 months later? Trying to lose those last 10 pounds…are they still off of you two years after the fact? Smoking, drinking, dieting, lifestyle changes…if you don’t really want to make a change, the change you make isn’t going to stay with you. As I mentioned earlier, recovery is about breaking a bad habit; and the only way to stay ahead is to make sure you want that habit broken each and every single day.
Phew. That was all pretty deep – especially for me.
If you told me 731 days ago that I’d be sober today, I would not have believed you. But here I am – sober today and hopefully strong enough to stay sober tomorrow. This is probably the part where I’m supposed to say I’m looking forward to my sobriety in the next week, month or even the next year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Two years long is two years good enough – for today. I think I’m just going to sit back and celebrate today with a great feeling of pride in myself, my awesomely supportive husband, and a tall refreshing glass of sparkling water.
If you have a problem and are ready to tackle it, there are many resources available – don’t let it overwhelm you. Start small. Call a friend, family member or hit the internet to gather more info about your particular issue and take the first step. I may not have used it, but am still a firm believer in many of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. Check out their website HERE for help. You don’t have to go it alone – but you alone have to want to make a change!