Today, March 8th is our two-year sober anniversary. Our “sobriversary” as I can call it now that we’ve had more than one.
We didn’t go to rehab. We haven’t attended any meetings. We just quit.
We loved each other enough to quit. And though it was buried in the beginning, it’s starting to shine through now that we love ourselves enough to stay quit.
As I’ve focused on this upcoming milestone, I realized that much of the torment, emotion, and downright depression I’ve been going through these last many months have been, in large part, cellular memory. Meaning my neurons, my whole body, in fact, remember the negative cycles of year’s past when birthdays and holidays and what-should-have-been beautiful, momentous occasions this time of year turned into ugliness because of booze.
Like Halloween a few years ago when the police were called because we couldn’t stop fighting in public.
Or the time I rolled my snowmobile in the middle of the night and spent hours alone on the frozen lake in below-freezing temps.
Or the night I came home from the hospital after giving birth and sat down to nurse my baby with a glass of wine in my hand “to let my milk down”.
Or the first holiday after we got sober, hearing from a drunken family member how boring and unfun we were now.
The embarrassing and painful list goes on and on.
But March 8th, two years ago, is the day I took my life back. It’s the day my partner and I decided that our relationship was worth any hardship or social inconvenience. It’s the day I gave Me back to my daughter, my family.
At the one-year mark, it still felt like something of an anomaly, cozy but not altogether comfortable. Now, at two years, it feels solid, good and real. It feels like a choice I want for the rest of my life.
Experiential cravings still surface from time to time, like the desire to have a glass of wine with my sisters or the tactile, rote feelings of holding a stemmed glass as I mingle in a group. Now these cravings are like an odd visitor who I notice right away, am slightly surprised to see and know exactly how to handle. If I’m in the right company I’ll verbalize it, which helps me to better understand its true nature. The cravings I felt before were never actually about the booze; they were about connection. Wine gave me the illusion that we were bonding as sisters, but in fact, because I could never stop at just one glass, it ruined any chance of it.
I don’t crave alcohol, fortunately, and I don’t crave the old, “fun” me. With enough distance, I can now see what a hot mess it all was. The “fun” I thought I was bringing was usually anything but. I still get twinges of humiliation that the old me was ever really that bad, and that I let it go on for so many years. But mixed in with that shame is a dogged determination that I’ll never go back to being that person again.
Apart from my blabbing on about it in the newspaper, we’ve kept our sobriety and our home life pretty private these last two years. We kept it about us, about our little family, about growing strong roots in a non-drinker’s world. Now that we’re more authentic, more stable, it feels right to focus outward, to unfurl new leaves in a sunshine we used to think was harsh.
To mark this milestone, I reached out to the people closest to both Tony and me, asking them if they would string together a few words about the honest differences they’ve seen in us since we quit drinking.
I wanted to better understand the truth of who we used to be so that we never go back, and I want to share with others the impact our drinking had on the people around us. Because our situation isn’t unique. Drinkers are all pretty similar, even if you think you’re above the fray like I did. I called myself a social drinker. I was into good wine and clean spirits. I didn’t add sugary mixers. I didn’t even think I had a chemical dependency. Still, none of that stopped me from making terrible decisions when I was under the influence.
Here’s what our loved ones saw that we didn’t:
We were selfish, embarrassing, “bitchy”, superficial, a façade, unmotivated, untrustworthy, and forgetful. We were distracted and dangerous parents. We argued all the time. We couldn’t control our emotions. We were angry, rude, immature and hard to be around. We were disconnected, intolerant and hurtful.
Here’s how they feel we’ve changed since quitting:
We are intentional, caring, considerate, thoughtful, and kind. We are present, attentive, creative, more fun, and much better parents. We are happier, healthier, more responsible, and more productive. We are finally prioritizing our family and our future. We are friendlier, more balanced, more spiritually aware, and more in-touch with the needs of others. We are more like the people we always wanted to be.
Which list would you choose?
I’m keeping their words under fireproof lock and key, and every year on March 8th I plan to reread them. Like a time capsule that reveals again and again how much a person can change for the better. Quitting drinking has been the biggest and best thing I’ve ever done in my life. And the journey’s just begun.
Year 1 – Life after drinking
(Published in the March 6th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)