Monday, February 6th, 2017, is a special day for me. It marks the second anniversary of my divorce. I was 25.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. For one, February 6th is my ex-husband’s birthday. Instead of celebrating with him like I imagined I always would, I sat alone as my marriage came to an unceremonious end in a court 1,000 miles away.
He was the one who wanted the divorce, and despite wanting to put up a fight, eventually I couldn’t help but agree with him that there was nothing left to salvage. So, on a hot July night in Denver, I packed my car to the brim and got ready to make the 2-day road trip home, alone. I haven’t seen his face or heard his voice since.
In a dark-humor sort of way, when I saw the date on the certified decree – sent to me in a nondescript white envelope – I couldn’t help but think of it as a birthday present for the both of us; we were given the gift of a second chance at getting this whole “love” thing right, since we obviously failed to figure it out with each other.
Although my divorce opened up a lot of doors for me, I didn’t walk away without taking some damaging blows. If my drinking was bad before we separated, it got worse after I moved home. For a while, I was literally unable to sleep unless I drank near-toxic levels of alcohol to put me into an immediate, fitful sleep. Despite my drinking habits, I lost 10 pounds, and started suffering from low-level anxiety attacks on daily basis.
When I started dating, I drank a lot on my dates. I couldn’t help but talk about my divorce. Yes, I was that girl. And I was so sad. I was so fucking sad. I felt so alone, no matter who held me at night. I couldn’t sleep unless I drank, and deep within myself, I knew that I had to get away from booze before it killed me.
When the divorce was finally made official, 6 months post-separation, I celebrated by writing a blog post about it in my public blog, and then went out for a slice of pizza and a couple of beers. It felt like an accomplishment, really – I was back on my feet with a semi-stable job, an apartment, and a new boyfriend who really seemed to dig me, and I was finally officially single. Free. My moment of empowerment had come. I drank to the point of intoxication to celebrate. Still, though, I felt this silent urge behind me, and I just wanted to cry until there was nothing left to wring out of myself.
Life is a little different these days, two years later.
One big thing, of course, is that I’m sober. Finally sober, finally where I want to be. No bullshit attempts at moderation, no mock snobbery at craft breweries, no late-night anxiety attacks about my health. Nah, on February 6th, I’ll be 213 days sober. I’m proud of that.
I’m gainfully employed with a great employer. I’m in school, with an internship lined up and an eye on the future for a Doctorate’s degree in Clinical Psych. I’m in a secure and stable relationship that has lasted over a year, much to my own surprise, since I wasn’t ever sure if I would feel open enough to have a long-term relationship again.
I rarely think of my ex-husband anymore. Every now and then I will wonder what he’s up to, or what his (almost 2-year-old) son is like, or whether he ever thinks of me these days. But those thoughts are fewer and further between. I’m no longer angry. I think that, finally, I’ve made it to the acceptance phase. There isn’t much left for me to hold onto except my upward growth. It feels so nice to be able to keep letting go.
One thing that is really hard to quantify, though, is a measurement of how much I’ve changed on the inside. From my divorce, from the relationships I’ve had, from my sobriety, from my vocational pursuits.
You see, I used to mourn losing the person I was during my 11th & 12th grade years of high school. I was wild, poetic, open-hearted, creative, and sincere. My heart got lost in the mixup of a shitty post-graduation world, and after going through an abusive relationship, years of uninspired college education, and conforming to societal ideals, I was mostly a hollow shell of myself – and I was drunk for a lot of it, too.
When my divorce came, I was forced to start the process of really knowing myself again. It had been so long since I took the time to sit with my own thoughts that, at first, I didn’t even know who I was. But every step I’ve taken in my life since then has gotten me closer to knowing the depth of who and what lies beneath my cover.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I am back to that wild, poetic side of myself, though. Experience and time have molded the fruits of this re-discovery process into a change that is a bit more subtle to the outside eye. I’m a bit calmer, less quick to speak, more willing to listen. I’m more self-assured than I’ve ever been before. I treat my body with respect and have finally agreed to stop fighting with myself for some useless number on a scale.
I am, of course, more pensive and often stuck in my own thoughts; with sobriety on my side, I feel things more acutely, more deeply, and with greater vibration in my core. I feel more capable of connecting with others, which will be vital for me in my new career. I am more patient, most of the time. My meditations happen in the car on my way to work, while walking through my neighborhood, or while I’m running on a treadmill at the gym. I’m prone to feeling depressed, but actually recognize it as depression, instead of blaming it on a character failing.
I no longer base my self-worth on whether I am in a relationship or not – at least, not as often as I used to. I am much more comfortable being an independent person within a partnership, rather than feeling like my SO and I have to be connected at the hip. This has given me the freedom to pursue my own interests outside of the relationship, without worrying that my boyfriend will accuse me of not giving him enough of my time.
Again, it’s weird to try to quantify internal change. There’s an elusiveness to the spirit of it that makes it all the more exciting.
I don’t quite know how to commemorate this weird anniversary, especially since I’ve only ever celebrated it (and my would-be wedding anniversary) by getting toasted. I imagine the day will be not unlike most other Mondays – I’ll go to work, sit through a couple of meetings, tale a walk over lunch and spend the afternoon half paying attention to my projects, and half paying attention to the news. I’ll probably go home around 6, and hang out completing school work while listening to music.
But then, perhaps I’ll be mindful enough to carve out an hour for myself. An hour or so for reflection and self-kindness. Some quiet time to thank my ex for every wonderful and horrible thing that happened. A minute or two for grief, followed by a minute or two of joy. And, of course, a quiet minute to make a note of how far I’ve come – and how far I still want to go.