Kendra Lee / Rocket Fuel / January 7, 2015
I wish I could say I didn’t remember most of the New Year’s I rung in in my 20s.
BUT BEING ABLE TO FORGET THEM would probably be more mercy than I deserve; at the very least, I remember the drunken highlights… always drama-fueled, sometimes dangerous, and entirely cringeworthy. A personal favorite: squealing out of a parking lot in my CR-V into a steady snow in Atlanta as my best friend stood in the parking lot begging me not to drive. My friends finally found me at the next bar, flat on my ass because I slipped on ice coming down the steps. I decided to forgo telling them the car had spun out twice in the snow on my way to the bar; they all seemed so mad already. I had a hard time deciphering why. It was, in fact, often puzzling when people valued me… I had so obviously lost the ability to value myself.
It was, in fact, often puzzling when people valued me… I had so obviously lost the ability to value myself.
EVEN ON TAMER NEW YEAR'S EVES I carried with me a constant sense of longing. I could always quickly identify something missing in my life on New Year’s Eve, and I would fixate on it intently. I held an almost subconscious belief that this melancholy made me mysterious, sexy, alluring. Turns out, it made me a sentimental drunk rather likely to cry in her Jim Beam and Coke. I wasn’t sexy-tragic…I was annoying as hell.
BUT, AS IT OFTEN DOES IN STORIES SUCH AS THESE, something changed. For me, there was no tragic rock bottom moment. Through all my drinking, I kept my job (barely), my house, my dog and my best friend. But I did lose my self-respect. Maybe that was what I was longing for all those New Year’s Eves: my ability to look back on the year and know I lived with integrity, that I gave myself wholly to the task at hand regardless of the outcome. When I drank I tended to lose track of what the task at hand even entailed. And resolutions were kind of a wash for me. I found it pretty hard to set my intentions for the year ahead when I was nursing a hangover, trying to choke down a greasy hangover-easing breakfast, and waiting until the time seemed appropriate to have a cocktail. After all, I deserved a cocktail; New Year’s Day was a holiday, too.
MY HISTORY OF LESS THAN STELLAR NEW YEAR'S EVES made this past New Year’s Eve stand out for its perfect simplicity. I’ve been sober for 6 years. My first sober New Year’s Eve was disorienting; I felt a bit hazy, like I wasn’t sure exactly how to hold a conversation, or what I should be doing with my body at any given moment. How did sober people stand? What did people talk about when they knew they were going to remember every word they said? But, despite my awkwardness, I was with my best friend, my partner and some casual acquaintances in a cabin in the mountains. And I felt no longing to be anywhere other that where I was. That seemed pretty groundbreaking.
How did sober people stand? What did people talk about when they knew they were going to remember every word they said?
THIS NEW YEAR'S EVE FOUND ME back in the mountains of North Georgia with my best friend & her family, the lovely folks she calls friends, and my partner and our little girl. After we settled in, we ate homemade lasagna; we chased kids around the cabin. When all the kids piled in the bathtub at bathtime, I laughed–not the self-conscious, measured laugh of my drinking days, but a full-on, deep laugh. Because come on… 5 kids in a bathtub? That is comedy right there.
AFTER THE KIDS FINALLY MADE IT TO BED clean and amply photographed, the adults poured drinks and settled in to share their intentions for 2015. I opened a LaCroix Mango. During my first few years of sobriety, I felt very obvious when I wasn’t drinking. As obvious as I would be if I, say, wasn’t wearing pants. I am glad that feeling has worn off. I don’t think anyone really notices that I am not drinking, except to notice that I am not a complete blubbering mess. But I notice. I notice that I am not afraid to speak because someone might notice I am slurring. I notice that I connect with people more deeply, instead of drunken superficial connections that would have me professing my love for people I barely knew. And I notice the complete absence of fear. I just get to breathe and be me. Unabashedly.
SHARING INTENTIONS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR takes a willingness to be vulnerable. To enter into that sort of vulnerability takes complete acceptance–of myself and everyone around me. I can only be open if I see that we all make our own choices, have our own paths, forge our own journeys. I need to be sober to live a full and vibrant life. Not everyone does. When I drank, I drank to hide. Not everyone does. But everyone does have their own challenges, specific to them. And if I am going to cheer people along on their journey, if I am going to pull for them to truly discover their best self, then I have to be sensitive, be willing to connect on an intimate level; I have to offer radical acceptance… for them and for me.
I DON'T MISS DRUNKENLY RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR and struggling just to make it to the New Year’s Day brunch mimosas to feel sane. I value the genuine connections I can make with people I choose to spend time with–good people who I respect, not just people who drink as much as I do. And I like people and all their imperfections, because I finally like me.
About the Author
Kendra is a (sometimes) writer who might at any moment be found running, drinking coffee, checking Facebook too often, or doing a host of ninja-like things that moms do. Sober since October 2008, she has become downright evangelical about breaking the stigma and taking the message of recovery to the masses. Check for further musings on sobriety and life at Rocket Fuel.