20 Years Booze-Free
November 15, 1997 was my first day without a drink. I haven’t had a drink since.
There will be no celebrations. No cake. No friends singing. No applause.
See, I’ve relapsed twice on drugs. At 9 months, I did a whip-it. It was a knee-jerk reaction to seeing my roommate’s can of glorious Reddi Wip in the fridge.
(I still can’t have a can of whipped cream in my house as I don’t trust myself with it. I blame my first job at Dairy Queen. More on that later.)
My last relapse was at 15 years sober on a hit of pot. Yes, just one hit, but that one hit gave me a yearlong obsession to drink again.
And I was suicidal at the time so I know I wouldn’t have survived a drink.
That’s hilarious. I’ve never had a drink. My goal was always four. Just have four and leave the bar.
I succeeded maybe twice.
People ask me if I can have just a glass of wine. I see no point. That would be like waiting in line for a roller coaster for two hours and then going down a kiddy slide instead.
I want to ride the roller coaster. And once I’m done, I want to ride it again. And after that – well why stop at two? And then I don’t know where my clothes are and why my boyfriend just broke up with me.
I’m a member of a 12-step program – it’s how I got and continue to stay sober. I’m very grateful for the program. But a lot of members are very wrapped up in “sober time.” As in how many days, weeks, years IN A ROW you’ve been sober.
I was proud of my years. My friends threw a huge 10 year party for me. My mom came into town. It was a big fucking deal.
By the time I turned 15, I was so depressed I could only stand for 5-minutes. There was still cake, less friends and celebration.
The problem was I became more impressed by the years than grateful for the days.
And the only amount of time any of us have is today.
And that’s how I live my life now. My sobriety date is the same as any day sober, but I reflect on where I was mentally, physically and spiritually however many years ago the decision to live (yet again) was made.
And the reflection brings gratitude, as it should. But here’s the flip – now it brings humility of how powerful alcoholism is in my life instead of a feeling of accomplishment.
I’m not proud of my sobriety. I’m fucking grateful and humbled by it.
That was NOT my attitude when I had many years sober. (Even saying “I had years” sounds weird to me now. I have today. I don’t “have” yesterday or the guarantee of a tomorrow. It just seems cocky to “have time.”)
Remaining sober for many years made me cocky and complacent. I believed all those the years “I had” were a safeguard against relapse. Alcoholism is very patient and it waits for us to think we’re safe, immune or above a relapse.
I thought I was safe because the most common reasons people relapse are:
1. They stop working with other alcoholics.
2. They stop taking commitments at meetings and then stop going to meetings.
3. They think they no longer have alcoholism.
Here’s why I was totally fine:
1. I was sponsoring four women and had a sponsor. And a grandsponsor. And so on and so forth.
2. I went to four committed meetings a week (all while I had a baby at home).
3. I have never, ever – for the past 20 years – ever thought I didn’t have alcoholism. I’m so clear that my body and brain chemistry does some funky shit when I ingest alcohol. And that ending up naked and peeing in public is not what normal drinkers do after a glass of wine.
Why did I relapse then? I was in year three of a four year battle with crippling postpartum depression and I wanted relief from the pain. Every waking moment was pure torture mentally and physically and I was at my breaking point.
I ended up taking the wrong medicine for my ailment. And it wasn’t prescribed to me.
But I didn’t drink. And I wanted to with every molecule of my body. And I wanted to die. All of the time.
What I didn’t know was that I didn’t want to drink or die – I just wanted relief. For me, when my pain gets so great for so long, I want out.
I am celebrating quietly today. With every breath. Because I’m alive. I have today. It’s all I have and I’m so grateful for it.
Because we all just have today. If we’re lucky.