500 days ago, I made the decision to quit drinking. I wasn’t sure how long I’d last, or if I’d encounter yet another failure to get myself off the ground and running, but I woke up on July 9, 2016 with some deep, core feeling that something had to change. It had to. I was tired, depressed, hungover, angry, scared, and fed up with where my life was going.
At the time, looking 500 days into the future and envisioning myself sober felt like some sort of obscure impossibility, like a dream dangling at the edge of some miles-long pipe pipe. 500 days of sobriety is reserved only for the truly dedicated, I thought–only the strongest and most mentally healthy people make it that far. I didn’t quite feel like I could count myself in that camp.
Nevertheless, I kept putting one sober foot in front of the other, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Suddenly, I found myself at a month, then three months, then six. Suddenly, a year had passed between me and my last drink, my last hangover, my last night of incredulous catastrophizing. And now here I am, 500 days in, halfway to 1k. In a way, it still feels impossible; yet here I am. And from here I keep going.
In 500 days, I’ve encountered the depths of my own depression and the heights of my own joy. I’ve let go of a two-year relationship and clung hard to a new, deeper knowledge of myself, my needs, and my desires. I’ve built myself a small community of sober friends to buffer myself from the harsh realities of a drunk world. I’ve continued to trudge my way through graduate school–with all the classwork, residencies, internships, self-doubt, anger, and joy of discovery–and I’m over halfway to being done.
In 500 days, I’ve slowly taught myself how to set boundaries, particularly after fucking up somewhat royally and owning up to the consequences. I’ve learned that I need–NEED–to treat myself and my body well. I’ve battled anxiety and stark cravings and anger and a healthy dose of existential angst. I’ve learned how to de-personalize the actions of others when necessary, and I’ve learned how to lean in and connect on a level I wasn’t sure was possible when I was drinking.
What an experience this life is when there’s nothing there to hide yourself with, when there exists no magic cloak to make yourself invisible and shut the world out. What an experience this life is when you get to live it fully, deeply, painfully, wonderfully. What an experience this life is when you get to acknowledge your own humanness and the humanness of others—how frustrating and intriguing and beautiful it is.
I’m at the point now where I’m still somewhat guarded over my sobriety, but it has become such a way of life for me that I don’t spend my days worrying about whether it’s in jeopardy when I enter the big bright world outside my door. It has been my greatest teacher, my faithful (if not sometimes annoying) companion, and my brightest illuminator into both myself, and others. I am proud of it, and myself. Even on the days when I’m not confronted head-on by the ills or temptations of a drunken world, I am thankful beyond belief for what I’ve achieved and seen and felt through the 500 days it has taken me to get here.
I’ve been writing here for a while, and at this point have a fair number of followers from all different walks of life and levels of sobriety. I don’t know that I would’ve made it so far without the community here, where I’ve been able to wade through my maelstrom of emotionality and all the beautiful chaos contained therein. So from the bottom of my sober heart to all of yours: thank you. You’ve helped make the path brighter, wider and more enjoyable from the moment I walked in the door.
❤ Em. Day 500.