Today marks 5 months of sobriety for me. As has been the case with every day I made it past the first 30, this is the longest I’ve been sober since I turned 21, over 6 years ago.
Today, I got out of bed at 11:30am, threw a load of laundry in the wash, and wandered upstairs, where I sat at the kitchen island and watched 4 episodes of Lost. I are breakfast of bacon, and a banana/peanut butter/chocolate protein smoothie. It’s been a calm, non-productive day.
All day I’ve had the nagging thought that I should be doing something – going to the gym, running errands, cleaning the house, or packing for my upcoming trip to Florida. I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon for Orlando, where I’ll be spending the week with my fellow classmates and professors. It’ll be the first time I’ve met any of them in person since starting my program last January. We’ll be getting our first taste of what it means to be a mental health counselor. I’m excited, nervous, anxious, and relieved.
That’s why, today, I’m taking a moment to let myself breathe. No matter how much I feel like I should be kicking ass and taking names today, I just need to have a day – or a few hours, at the very least – where I can be mindless, relaxed, and non-productive. The upcoming week is going to be filled with lots of new stressors, and as confident as I feel about traveling on my own to meet a bunch of strangers and pretend like I know what I’m doing, I can’t afford to let myself get too wound up beforehand.
But 5 months. Wow. That feels really good to say, and these days, not drinking feels more and more normal. My LaCroix sparkling water habit is somewhat of a joke between me and my boyfriend now, and I’m fine with that. Better to stay ultra-hydrated than drunk, right?
In some ways, it’s just really hard for me to believe that I’ve made it this far, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of us who quit and finally – somehow – manage to keep on going, day after day, week after week, month after month. To think that I haven’t had any of my favorite beers or mainstay box wines, no fancy cocktails, no buzzes, no wild nights, no hazy memories, no raging hangovers, no sense of guilt about constantly betraying myself over and over again. I’ve gone to events and turned down open bars. I’ve survived a 2-day music festival and multiple concerts and even election night without getting drunk. Without numbing.
If I could go back 5 months from today and sit next to myself on day 1, I’d let myself know that things were going to get a little rough for a while, but that eventually, they’d start getting better. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day, things are going to get better – but, that doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect. And that’s totally okay.
I’d reassure myself that I would never have to feel such hungover rawness, or unchecked guilt, or endless shame again if I didn’t want to. I’d try to calm my electrified nerves, and let myself know that this time around, I would do better than I ever had before, and that with each passing day of sobriety, my momentum would build to become more self-sustaining. I would tell myself that it’s okay to be a bit consumed by the thought of sobriety at first, and that it’s okay to explore whatever new, scary, ugly, and beautiful feelings I experienced as a result. I’d tell myself that there are other beautiful people out there who are just as confused as I am, and that they’ll be there to help me if I need it.
It’s an odd thing, this life. I’m a lot more amazed by it these days than I ever was while I was drinking. The blur filter has been lifted, which turns the beautiful into stunning and the ugly into repulsive. But, it’s all there. There’s no hiding from myself or others now, and as scary as that is sometimes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.