It's no secret that I've been blogging off and on for a number of years. While I look forward to writing in this new space, I may revisit a prior post on occasion, given the relevance of various stages of my journey. If you've been reading along on Intentional Optimist, or another writing space of mine, this post won't be new to you, but I thought it was appropriate to kick things off by sharing what I put out to the world on the one-month anniversary of my sobriety decision. Thank you for reading.
Today is one month. One month free from the shadow that covered my heart and blurred my mind. One month that I’ve been able to take on the world without the devil dancing at my side. One month that I’ve had the courage to stand on my own two feet.
I am sober.
When I started this blog, I dove in with intentions of talking through some of my history with an addict for a father. I wanted to share the stories of what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic and how that impacted me, but the entire time I had a nagging feeling about my own alcohol use. For a while, I thought it was perfectly normal to question the amount or frequency I was drinking, who wouldn’t examine their own behaviors when they’ve experienced life with someone with such a severe problem? But the voice inside that kept up the questioning grew much louder over time, until I could no longer ignore it.
Most of you reading this would have no idea that I have a problem with alcohol. It’s commonplace for every social event and activity with friends to involve drinking. We all do it, and I’m usually one of the least likely folks to be viewed as out of control. In fact, even when I’ve been outright drunk most people tell me that they had no idea. My having a problem with alcohol doesn’t mean I had to be blotto and stumbling or slurring every day. It doesn’t mean that I am the worn out old lady falling off of the bar stool or passed out on someone’s front lawn. What it does mean is that I cannot control my drinking. I was drinking every single day and have been doing so for what has probably been most of my adult life. The amounts in recent years were slowly increasing. What used to be one glass of wine or beer a day was turning into three or four, and sometimes with a martini or whiskey night cap just for good measure. The weekend amounts went well above this in many cases. I tried to moderate time and time again, setting rules for myself such as no drinking during the week, or no drinking when I’m alone. But none of that ever worked. Other than a brief 30-day dry challenge about three years ago that turned into something more like 20 days, I don’t think I ever made it more than two days without a drink.
I could say that therapy was a big eye-opener for me, but even there I went months denying that I was using anything as a coping mechanism. I didn’t want to see it - I couldn’t see it - but alcohol was my go-to for coping with just about anything. Childhood trauma, social anxiety, bad days at work, stubbing my toe, you name it and there was a reason to drink that followed right behind it. It’s been a way to numb out for far too long and I’ve grown far too tired of it. The only way for me to move forward was to draw a hard line in the sand. My sobriety is no longer just a short-term test, this is forever.
So, why am I putting this all out there for anyone to read? Because I am not ashamed. Sobriety is one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through. It isn’t easy for someone like me to just stop drinking and a common theme that I’ve picked up on from other folks in recovery is that there is a stigma or shame associated with this. It’s unfortunate that this remains the case, but it is true that while society pushes alcohol on you as the cure for everything that is going wrong with your day, that same society looks down on you if that cure should turn into a problem. I’m not saying that everyone is looking down on those in recovery, that certainly isn’t the case, but the reality is that it does happen often and that is why many people end up afraid to talk about it. I am not proud that I developed a problem, but I am proud of the changes I am making, and I don’t feel the need to hide it. I want people to know me, to see who I really am and who I am becoming. If I don’t share this tremendous shift in my life, then I may as well go back into the shadows that alcohol created for me.
I am still in the very early stages of my sobriety, and while one month is a huge accomplishment (those first couple of weeks were brutal), I have a long way to go. For what it’s worth, my sobriety doesn’t mean that anyone else needs to change their behaviors around me, I don’t expect others to stop drinking or tip toe around me because I choose not to. I’ll admit, it’s a very strange position for me to be in and I’m still figuring it all out, but I’m sure there are parallel concerns on the other side, too. The bottom line is this, don’t feel the need to treat me any differently. Don’t worry about how to act around the sober woman, I assure you, I will be just fine. If I do cut a night short sometimes, it might just be that cravings are setting in and I need to take care of myself, but in no way should you be offended or worry that you did anything wrong.
While staying sober generally sucks sometimes (eloquent, I know), I feel incredibly lucky to have found this path. There is no longer any doubt or question in my mind about what the right thing to do is because I am right here doing it. I am sober. I am living.