Three Years Sober and Counting

March 8th snuck up on us. Busy with the wee babe and the six-year old, we were surprised by our Sobriversary this year. Last year felt like a major accomplishment; this year felt like just another day.

Because it was. 

At three years sober, we’re wellsettled into a life without alcohol. That old life and who we used to be feels very much in the past. So much so, that at times I look at my ever-present ups and downs and wonder if I truly am better off. I still experience depression. I still have much to learn as a parent. I still have a messy house. I still have weight to lose. I still don’t accomplish everything I’d like to.

Last year, I reached out to family and friends for a true picture of our Before and After.

This year, I decided to take stock of what three years’ worth of booze-free time can net. 

Have we actually done anything that proves giving up the crutch of alcohol, the fun of the drinker’s social scene, and the (false)feelings of belonging has been worth it?

I made a list, and I’m including it here. In five or ten years or at some future time when I’m struggling with the decision to stay sober, I want to have this list to return to. And I want anyone else who thinks they might have a problem (spoiler: you do) to see that life gets even bigger and better, sweeter and more satisfying. In every single way.

This exercise wasn’t done with any intentions of bragging, and conversely, this list might not seem like much to some people, but for me, for us it’s nothing to sneeze at. We have much to be proud of and even more to be thankful for. 

Since quitting the alcohol:

    I got to attend the Blandin Community Leadership Program week-long intensive where I met many amazing peers focused on community betterment in the Warroad area.
  • I submitted a revised application to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission and received a High Priority ranking for the Northerly Park vision. (Meaning, if we submit a Master Plan, they’ll likely recommend us for funding.)
  • I wrote an impactful article on the condition of the Angle School which was published in Warroad, Roseau and Baudette. We helped organize community fundraisers for the school, as well as a “town hall” meeting and a fish fry lunch with our state reps and the school board, all of which helped get $100K allocated from our district and $500K from state.
  • We continued to help run the Angle Days community event bringing together hundreds of people for a fun summer celebration of the place we call Home.
  • I joined my Dad’s band as a keyboard player and blossomed as a singer without the alcohol collapsing my voice box. I can finally sing a mean harmony for the first time in my life.
  • We moved into a rental home and completed several small renovation projects on it.
  • We bought 6.6 acres of land and began to clear the driveway and yard where we will build a home and shop of our own.
  • After ten months of hoping, I got pregnant, had a miscarriage, and wrote and worked through the grief to come out on the other side healthier and truly ready to be a Mom of two. I got pregnant again and gave birth to a healthy baby boy at age 43.
  • I completed 9 days of water fasting in 4-day and 5-day stints, plus 69 days of an 80-Day Challenge work-out series, stopping only due to pregnancy concerns.
  • We sent our daughter off to kindergarten and rookie parents that we are, have only shown up on two no-school days with lunch packed ready to drop her off.
  • I took up jewelry making with antler, porcupine quills, leather and more. I’ve held a booth at a couple of events but mostly sell my wares up here at The Angle where they originate. I also learned to sew.
  • We got into driftwood art and together have made fish, wreaths, trees, mirrors, a rain chain, wind chimes and more. They’re stunning pieces, and we’re determined to keep at it this spring when the snow melts and we can search for more driftwood.
  • Tony has made many beautiful projects both big and small in the woodshop, read hundreds of books, reignited his passion for bow hunting and took down a huge buck he’d patiently courted.
  • I’ve written 116 Angle Full of Grace columns, 15 feature stories, 4 essays on mental health, and a number of news pieces for the Pioneer, as well as many separate personal blog entries for AngleFullofGrace.com. In three years, it’s garnered 27,000 views, which isn’t much compared to some writers. BUT, it’s 27,000 more times I might have been able to make a positive impact in the world than if I were still focused on drinking.
  • I received the Media Award from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Minnesota for the four-part series I wrote on mental health in rural communities. I was able to attend the Awards Luncheon at NAMI Minnesota’s annual conference in St. Paul where I gave a nervous but heartfelt acceptance speech.
  • One of the feature stories I wrote for the Warroad Pioneer (Wannaska Survives the Trends of Rural Decline) was featured in the Volts and Views Newsletter of the Roseau Electric Cooperative.
  • And perhaps most importantly, I survived significant suicidal thoughts. If I had been a steady drinker traversing the heart of darkness as I did, I truly believe I wouldn’t be here right now. Neither would my son. My daughter would never be the same. And my beautiful amazing man would very likely be back on a barstool.

His sobriety saves me every day. And mine saves a family that I know wouldn’t exist otherwise.

I couldn’t have done any of this if I were repeatedly filling up my wine glass three or four nights a week and recovering for the rest of it.

Even if it is just another day, it’s still important to celebrate it, both the looking back and the looking forward. As a result of our decision to live a life without alcohol, there is so much goodness in both directions.

(First published in the March 12th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)

Surrounded

Several times over the past week I sat down to write about the serious topics at hand and it just didn’t work. I thought I was ready, and I am, but life as it tends to do had other plans.

When it comes to writing, I’ve learned not to force it. It’s no good if I do. The words will come when they’re ready. When conditions are right. Like the weather. Or spring blooms. Or a good bowel movement.

“Mom, why is there poop on the carpet?” the six-year old asked loudly. Continue reading “Surrounded”

What’s Next

It occurred to me as I was cleaning floors this past weekend that though I count myself as a compassionate progressive, I can be quite oblivious to the pain of others at times.

I wrote last week about doing “hard things”, like community projects and letting my natural hair color grow out. Can you hear the eye roll? These are NOT hard in the grand scheme of things, especially compared to what many people go through on a daily basis just to survive. The fact that I have hair to grow out or time for extracurricular ideas or even a forum to voice them publicly is a tremendous privilege for which I ought to express more gratitude.

I thought and I thought about it. My floors were sparkling.

It would have been easy to berate and hate myself, to see the cleaning as punishment for how I behave instead of worship for who I am and what I have, but I resisted. As Marianne Williamson says, “It is tempting to proceed without love; hatred is always looking for recruits.” Continue reading “What’s Next”

Doing Hard Things

I kept track of my time on a recent day, just as I would if I were billing a client. I wrote detailed entries about what I accomplished (or attempted to) down to each fifteen-minute interval. It was a pain. But it made me see that I’m not idle in this stay-at-home time and have no cause for guilt, as my over-bearing ego would have me believe. Continue reading “Doing Hard Things”

Periscope Down

This likely won’t be the place to get any sort of Angle update anytime soon, just as it hasn’t been for the past many months. My view is submerged. My season is hibernation. My mind is single-tracked.  And my cub is the reason.

Cubs.

Kids. Plural. Yes, I’m still jangling on that. Continue reading “Periscope Down”

This Precious Time

“Go sit down, Love,” he says, rubbing the small of my back as he passes me in the kitchen.

Baby Julian’s been asleep for half an hour. And after bath time, story time, last ditch run-around time, glass of water time, and two dozen loudly whispered “SHHHHHH’s” on our part, five-year old Iris is finally in bed too.

He tells me to go sit down every night on his way to go sit down. He takes his usual place on the couch, gets out his Kindle and settles in. “I will,” I say, looking at my comfortable blue reading chair. Continue reading “This Precious Time”

The Gift of a Legacy (Part 4)

Looking Back to Look Forward

Wrapping up a lifetime and a legacy in a single conversation isn’t easily done. For Mr. Chapin and me, ninety minutes flew by like we were old friends rehashing good memories. In this final segment, I’ve included our discussion on the importance of looking back, as well as Sam’s memories of the Warroad Pioneer and the Northwest Angle. Continue reading “The Gift of a Legacy (Part 4)”