Reflection on a decade of sobriety
There are many things in my life that I take time to reflect on here and there. At 41, I feel like I am in this place where I can look back and see the mistakes, I have made but also can look ahead with what the future has in store for me. I guess that's what being middle-aged(ish) is. There was a time in my life I did not think I would see this age; that is, I didn't think I wanted a future. I was lost, and I almost went so far that I was gone.
Today marks 10 years of sobriety for me. That's 10 years without any numbing substances. A decade. An entire decade. 120 months, 3,645 days, 87,666 hours to be exact, but who's counting! One day at a time, the days have strung together like an intricately woven tapestry that has become a part of my being. I can remember when I made the decision to do whatever it took to get sober. I never, and I mean never, thought I would make it 10 years. At that point, I hadn't been able to get 14 days. I was drowning, but the hardest part for me to grasp was that I was the one who was watching the water rise around me and distorting the destruction it was causing. I remember the overwhelming need to close my eyes and let the tide wash me away. Felling that if I closed my eyes long enough, I would wake up, and my life would be different. Only, it never was different, never better. It was a wave of darkness that had washed over me, and I was expecting myself to light the sky again from within it.
For anyone who has battled addiction, you know the feeling of complete and utter devastation. You know what it feels like to feel so alone that you want to scream but, knowing that if you were to scream, nobody would hear it. I believed that. I believed no one would catch me, that I had fallen so far I was beyond the point of no return. The hardest part for me was that I didn't think I was worth returning to. I couldn't see any value in myself. I think because I am so self-sufficient, I thought I could handle it all, that I could go down the hole a little farther and somehow problem-solve my way back up. That didn't happen, obviously. If it's true that we are the product of the five people we spend the most time with, I was choosing people who helped to validate the belief I had that I was useless. I was looking to alcohol to help make me feel better, to take the edge off, and it did that for a long time until it didn't. I am not sure any of my normie friends know the depths of hell I journeyed to with my drinking because, like any good addict, I hid that secret from anyone that actually gave a shit about me. Let's just say that the withdrawals from nights turned into weekends turned into weeks at a time were catching up with me and dangerously infiltrating my life. I vividly remember drinking from a Smirnoff bottle (yep, I said bottle because who has time for a glass or a mixed drink.) I felt the warmth of the vodka burn my esophagus and out loud said to an empty room, "I am an alcoholic" that moment was a year before I admitted that I was an alcoholic to the world. There are a million other moments in that last year that break me to this day and cause instant tears. I grew up in a home with parents who barely drink. My dad told me from the first time I was caught drinking, "two drinks you feel it, three drinks anyone feels it, and you never need more than two." Funny right? That someone could still be an alcoholic even if their parents were not one. It is genetic, though, isn't it? The disease of addiction. My grandfather was an alcoholic. I have never met him because he died before I was born. He died from choking to death due to drinking. All by himself in another state on a bender. I think my father was protecting us when he would tell us about his dad. He told the truth that he was an alcoholic, and he binge drank for months on end and then would be sober for months. He told me he died because of his drinking. He did not share details of anything he grew up with until I started spiraling out of control, and of course, by then, for me, it was too late. Not that I would have listened to the warnings anyway. There was a time my dad was so angry with me for coming into his house in an alcohol-induced state that he snapped; I'll honestly never forget the look on his face; anger and fear merged. He said, "I am not going down this road with you, no I am flat out not doing this with you. I used to have to help get my dad to the hospital in a straight jacket so he could go detox safely, and I am not going to do it with my kid. I know how this ends, and if you don't quit drinking, you are going to end up just like him." As much as that memory guts me, the pain I caused my dad, the trauma from his childhood it triggered, the panic he felt wanting to save me, he wasn't able to save my sister from cancer, and it has always been his biggest struggle and now there we were sitting in his foyer him trying to save me, will me not to drink, but this time it wasn't an incurable disease I needed saving from, what I needed saving from was myself. My dad is the one person on the earth who I never wanted to disappoint or hurt. He has always been the one who has believed in me most, who has rooted for me, caught me when needed, and set me free to fly on my own when it was time. He was no match for alcohol; if I'm honest, alcohol and I were destined to be together, and looking back on the very first drink I had, I was hooked. It made me feel free, like I had no troubles, and I could finally breathe, and then, of course, in the end, it was the very thing suffocating me.
I knew I couldn't take one more step toward alcohol because it only led to regret. I am one of the lucky ones I think in sobriety; I never had legal issues, incarceration, mental institutions, or loss of custody for my children. I made the choice to get help before any of that happened. But, I know what is waiting for me if I choose to drink again--because it is always a choice--and that is death. That's right, I would be dead if I didn't quit drinking. On January 22, 2012, I went to the hospital via ambulance with a .398 blood-alcohol level. I have sort of an out-of-body experience when I try to remember it because even as it was happening, I felt like I was watching from above. Maybe I was. My mom came to my house and called 911 because I was wrecked. I woke up in the hospital with a ‘sitter’ next to my bed. For those of you who aren't sure what that is, it's a person who sits next to you because you are suicidal. I didn't think I was suicidal, but I guess telling the EMT you want to die justifies the definition of suicidal. The next person to walk in was my sponsor. She was mad and scared. The first thing she did was take a picture of me lying there. She looked at me and asked if I was willing to do whatever it takes to get sober? I thought for a minute and very shakily said, "I am ready." It was a small desire at first. I knew I did not want to die, so the next logical step was to stop drinking. She sat with me and held my hand; she told me it was going to be ok. Unlike anyone else in my life, I believed her. She had overcome so much, and addition led her to hell and back too, and if she could do it, she promised me I could too. She is still there, holding my hand and kicking my ass when I need it. I needed someone to grab my hand and pull me out of the darkness, and Jen was that person for me. She listened to me without judgment, accepted me for who I was, and patiently walked through 12 steps with me more than once. There are people who come into our lives that will forever have such an impact that you tear up thinking about all they did or still do for you, and Jen is that person. Always 1 phone call away, guiding me through this life on life's terms, not my own. She has dealt with my attitude when she gave me work I did not want to do, she has cheered me on for everything I have ever taken on, and she does it wholly and unconditionally because she is rooting for me. She's been through all I've gone through this last decade, and not just the step work. She's loved my daughter like her own since the start. She's been a guiding light when I'm confused about parenthood. She helped me connect with my now-husband, thanks to a bonfire party she hosted. Helped me navigate dating sober and *GASP* sex sober. She was the only person I could imagine at the alter with us when we got married, and she happily agreed to marry us. She was there when I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. She held my hand and was there when I was sick with gall bladder and biliary issues and needed multiple surgeries; she and her husband Mark, who I have to give a shout-out to, love not only me, but they love my crazy little family. My children love them both and look forward to every gathering at their home or camper! My life is my life in short because of the unwavering support she gives me. When I feel like I can't handle something or am struggling, she is there to tell me to have faith and let go and give me a hug when I need one. She is one of the few people I let hug me when I am breaking because I hate to cry, and she knows it. She is a safe place to unravel because I don't have to worry about what she is thinking when I am losing it; truth be told, she usually starts crying with me for moral support, LOL. I believe she was meant to be in my life, and the gratitude I have for her and her family is immeasurable. I would have nothing without her. I did the emotional work, yes, but she guided me, held my hand, yanked me, sometimes shoved me, but always was next to me.
In my opinion, that's what it takes. It takes a village to get sober, and other sober people are that village. Each one offers strength, experience, and hope. Jen is a part of a group of women (the chicas), all with long-term sobriety, all willing to be there at any minute for the other and for the program. They were all there at my first meeting out of the hospital. Jen, Buffy, Liz, and Trish. I can't explain what these four women have done for me and continue to do for me on this journey. They sat at that meeting, all crying and expressing their gratitude that I was there and alive. I sat there stunned honestly, and I had to look around to see that it was me they were talking about; these women genuinely loved me until I loved myself. The powerful force of energy from them was undeniable and, to this day, makes me break down crying. I can never repay them for what they did for me or the support they have given, but I can thank them by staying sober, and that's exactly what I intend on doing. So here's to the next decade.
If you are struggling with addiction, you are not alone. There are people who, without conditions, will be there to help you walk through this journey of sobriety. Find them; you will not be sorry you did. All that's waiting for anyone who is afraid to quit drinking is love, joy, and serenity. That I guarantee. If I can do it, then believe me when I say you can do it too.
My story is not unique. If you go into any AA meeting around the globe, you will hear similar stories. As I look back on it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly, sobriety gave me a life I wouldn't trade for anything. If someone would have told me I would be living a life like I am today, I'd have said they were crazy. And as many regrets, as I have in the past, I don't regret my decision to go all-in on sobriety. And I promise you, you won't either.