444 days ago I did the most amazing thing—I stopped drinking alcohol.
It had become the bane of my existence, stealing time energy and acting like it was more important than anything else. It was clouding my mind and clouding my judgment. It was making me feel sick all the time. Over the years my drinking progressed from social “normal” drinking to daily drinking that I wanted to stop but couldn’t. Eventually the button, the message inside my head that says “off” and “enough is enough” got worn out and eventually broke completely. I was drinking alcohol to cover up feelings to quell anxieties and to be more fun, but pretty soon it wasn’t fun anymore. Drinking became something I just did. It was expected and part of who I was. It was part of my identity and how I saw myself. Hours of my days were spent thinking about drinking- what do drink, where do buy it, when to start drinking and much, much time was taking up doing the actual drinking.
May of 2015 I had the worst yet of another hangover I was telling myself, I have to stop, I’m killing myself. I have to tell someone who can help me. But who? I finally called one of the only friends I had locally and she talked me through a few tough days before I could figure out what to do with myself. Many things have happened since that day. Many struggles, internal battles, days I thought I won’t make it. But also amazing days of clear ideas and new friends. Fun times of rediscovering lost hobbies and eating more sweets than anyone should. During these past 444 days I have learned many lessons received many gifts. I’m learning things all the time in recovery through meetings, my sponsor, friends, through reading and writing.
This is my story of what I have learned (so far) and it is with a humble and grateful heart I share it here.
Alcohol is not negotiable. Most everything else in my life is negotiable that’s just the way it’s always has been, but this isn’t up for discussion. I don’t drink. I never have to drink again. There are so many more fun, interesting and meaningful things for me to be doing.
I am not in control. There is such freedom with this realization. To acknowledge that I can’t control what others do, think or say, even those closest to me is freedom.
Miracles do happen. Some people say don’t quit until the miracle happens. I didn’t and miracles started happening. Not the cure the blind all my bills are paid miracles, but quiet miracles: My teenage daughter wanting to spend time with me, my husband I communicating better, graduating with a master’s degree with a 4.0, being part of a fellowship of women and men who care about me and my well-being.
Working the 12 Steps changed my life. The 12 Steps are a way of life and they have given me tools to examine and reflect on life, stay connected to others and to god/spirit and to be of service to others. I spent many years and lots of money with a therapist and didn’t get nearly the clarity and direction I have received through the process of getting sober.
I keep my First Step in my back pocket lest I forget from where I came. My First Step has all my crazy stories of all the things I did while drinking. I never want to forget these stories, these experiences got me here.
Sobriety is a way of life. I will always have to make the effort to be sober because alcohol with always be around. I will always have to make conscious choices to go to meetings, to read helpful books and articles, to ask for help, to write, be grateful. For some crazy reason, this stuff really works. Working on my recovery pays me back way more than drinking ever did. Drinking takes and takes and takes; sobriety gives and gives and gives.
Focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t. I can have a root beer float; I can have coffee with whipped cream if I want. I can have cookies. I can take a walk, read a book, run a mile, plant a garden, bake a pie. My mind, I have found, much better supports positive thoughts than negative.
I’ve had to find things that I love to do more than I loved drinking. Some people run, exercise, take up cooking. I love to sew and write and to spend time with my dogs and family. These things I didn’t do well, if at all when I drank.
“Waking up without a hangover is the best feeling ever. Enough said.”
Gratitude. I started a gratitude list at about 100 days sober and nearly every day since then I take the time each day to write down at least 5 things I am grateful for. This has been a game changer for me. This rewires my negative brain into a positive brain. Even if it’s been a shitty crappy day I can be thankful for a home to live in, my health, my family (even if they irritate me), coffee, ice cream, AA, sunshine, toenails…the list goes on and on.
Ordinary life becomes extraordinary. I can drive to the store at 8pm because I am sober. I can appreciate the quality of light as the sun goes down because I am sober. I can take my daughter out for late night ice cream because I am sober.
When my sponsor tells me I’m a rock star and my sobriety is a miracle I choose to believe her.
Writing is healing. The simple act of writing thoughts, feelings, day dreams, frustrations, and fears has helped me to find peace. I used to write when I was young and I stopped when drinking took center stage and was the most important thing to me. Through sobriety I have regained my love of writing.
Being honest, open and willing gave me all of this. When I first stopped drinking, I was angry, frustrated, pissed off that I was alcoholic. And I sure as hell didn’t want to go to AA to be with the freaky grateful alcoholics. But over time I needed something. I wasn’t drinking but I wasn’t sober. I needed people. I needed a sponsor to walk with me. So at 100 days I asked a woman I admired and had some amazing sun shining energy to be my sponsor. I made a decision to be honest, open and willing.
I had to go thru all the crap to learn the lessons that lead me to the gifts I now have. I am nothing without my history and my stories. These experiences have formed me and made me the person I am. I had the perfect number of drinking days. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.