I have had a lot of trouble writing this week – I have started and shaped probably four different topics, and I keep finding I need to edit but cannot. The act of writing can be torture in that the exact words you end with are the only thing that count to the reader. What you leave out doesn’t matter, and within my recent writings, I have found that I have so much to say and don’t want to leave a single word out. I am grateful for this because for ten years (my drinking years) I did not have anything to say, and now the words aren’t coming out fast enough. Still, after dealing with this for three days, the writing and stopping and editing and reading and writing some more… At this point, if anything good is going to come out of my words, I need to back away from them for a while.
What this means for you is that instead of reading about whatever it was I intended for this post (it is still unclear, gah!), I am going to talk about my choice to be sober and where I am in that choice today.
Sobriety is daunting on some days and a breeze on others. Most of the time, I love my sobriety. I am proud, confident, and inspired. I finally feel as though the road before me is wide open and I can choose any and everything that I want for myself. While drinking, I had forgotten that I am the one who makes the decision on the quality of my life. Somewhere down the line I began thinking that life is this thing that happens to us, and we just try to not get beaten down so hard that we want it to end. This mindset kept me going, persevering in a sense, because although I hated my life, I did not want to die. I had somewhat accepted that my life would be a series of shitty occurrences and if I did the bare minimum, I’d be able to get through them because in reality, dreams do not come true, I am no more special than anyone else, and I have no right to expect anything more than the ordinary. Maybe I could find joy in the little things or just keep hoping for something good to happen and that would be enough. Enough was the high point – enough meant just keep breathing – and I stopped seeking anything more for myself. I felt as though life was a dead-end job, friends of convenience, and playing financial catch up. I was always sad and trying to find something to look forward to, when even those events I’d dread. I see now how backwards it is to look at life that way – as this thing that is created for me rather than the thing I choose to create. How can I expect my life to contain any kind of reward when I have decided to put in absolutely none of the work?
In my drinking life, I wanted to drink. I would have told you that I wanted to get married, to have a house, to have three dogs, to be financially comfortable. Those are the things I thought would make me happy.
In my sober life, I want to try yoga, buy roller skates, go rock climbing, visit all of the national parks, write more, read all of the books, re-learn how to play piano, go to writer’s workshops, spend as much free time with Beef as possible, eat less meat, book myself a massage, attend retreats, take longer walks, start a dog sanctuary, curate and then deliver small bags of goodies to homeless people, go back to Paris, build my credit score into the “excellent” category, meet and befriend my sober heroines, join a bowling league, go ice skating, get a library card, sit in nature, be irreplaceable in my career, figure out if I have any interest in essential oils, be more intentional in every relationship, make my loved ones happy and their lives easier. Find fulfillment. I want to try new things – when I am ready – and relearn the things I have lost, like speaking French and having confidence in my writing.
I have taken ownership of my life. I sincerely believe that when in the picture, alcohol runs the show. I have no choice in the matter, for its already in the director’s chair. In alcohol, I want. In sobriety, I do.
I still don’t know how an intelligent, interesting, creative, funny girl couldn’t see the absurdity in a beverage running her life. I was a shitty, miserable person for ten plus years because of alcohol. Alcohol directly correlates to the perpetuity of my unhappiness and that fact is clear from where I stand today. Upon graduating from college, no specific direction was given to me and thus I thought moving home and partying with friends and finding some temporary job until my next move magically occurred to me was the solution to facing adulthood. In that decision, I stopped working for my life. I cut myself slack because I’d worked hard for a few years and was angry when I wasn’t handed my dream job on a silver platter. Four years later, I was still a waitress who’d made no moves and split the cash she made between thirty racks of light beer and minimum payments on her credit cards. It wasn’t my fault that my life hadn’t flourished, and the only thing I took ownership of was the fact that I had graduated college in 2009, exactly when the economy shit itself and the publishing industry was “dying.” What a perfect excuse for a pity party, for settling, for the sound of a beer bottle cap bouncing onto the kitchen counter.
The more I drank, the more unfocused I became. My friendships were circumstantial and centered around drinking. I dated emotionally abusive or vacant men exclusively, I maxed out credit cards at bars, and I hated everything about myself and my life. When you’re cognizant of the fact that you’re going nowhere and you refuse to step back and look at the why, your view becomes limited to what is directly in front of you. Eventually you run out of places to put the hate and disappointment, so it coils back in on you. Luckily, alcohol numbs you, and you can easily down a bottle of wine in under an hour so that even the tiny, shitty view you’ve grown accustomed to gets blurry. But then there’s nowhere to go. I wanted to quit drinking but didn’t know how, didn’t think I could, and didn’t really want to. I’d become enslaved to it to the point where I declined invites to any event that wouldn’t allow me to get blackout drunk and repeatedly opted out of video chats with my nephew. Soon the bottom came, and there was nowhere else to go unless I was ready to decide that I wanted to die.
There are still days when I want to drink: social situations, highly emotional situations, stressful situations. Out of habit, for comfort, for disappearance. And I can drink, it wouldn’t be difficult. The difference is now that I have sustained sobriety for as long as I have, far longer than any previous attempt, the little voice that tells me to drink is harder to hear. It still speaks and sometimes won’t shut up, but it is no longer the only thing I hear. The voice pressing you to drink gets quieter with time, allowing more room for the parts that make you a human being to rise up and greet you. Some of what greets you is sadness, fear, pain. Some of it is laughter, joy, gratitude. In its entirety, what greets you is what makes you whole, human, perfect, you. I realize now that this wholeness has been here all along, existing in this body and hiding somewhere safe while the parasite that is alcohol ran its course. Each morning I greet my wholeness and know I must do whatever it takes to keep us together, and that means that I must not drink today.
The way I see it, sobriety is my honey bee. Without the honey bee, there exists no one to pollinate the plants that feed us and sustain life as we know it. Without the honey bee, we die, and there is so much still to do.