Hi all. Here I am, day 708 of sobriety–1 year, 11 months, and 1 week since my last drink–and I am at ease. I’m just three short weeks from my two year anniversary and god, it all feels too normal and too surreal, all at the same time. I have so many thoughts about my journey so far that they’re nearly impossible to organize. I’ll be trying over the next week or so to jot them down as they come and string them together in a way that makes sense.
Next weekend I will be flying out to Indiana with my boyfriend to meet his family. That means his mother, his father, his 13-year-old son, his stepdaughter, his stepson, and his ex-wife, plus more. We’ve been together 7 months now, which is wild in and of itself, and the whole thing feels…healthy. And good. Suspiciously so. I’m too used to the idea of tension, unspoken resentments, and anger as mainstays of a relationship for this mature, communication-based relationship to feel normal. Surely, our relationship is not without its moments of stress but they’re usually easily resolved, with open, honest communication and compromise.
Oh, god. What is that? What am I even saying?
Is this that thing everyone talks about, where you start to surround yourself with healthy people in sobriety and you start to talk to yourself in healthy ways that aren’t based on self-deprecation, self-questioning, and paralyzing doubt? Where somehow, by magic, you find yourself in a relationship free of anxious-preoccupied attachments and misplaced guilt? Where you’re free to be your own person while co-existing harmoniously with someone else? Where communication is filled with “I statements” rather than accusations and where the other person actively considers your feelings and needs when interacting with you?
Okay, I’m being a little flippant here, I know. I know it takes more than magic and a certain number of sober days under one’s belt to reach this point of function in relationships. God do I know it. But, I like to laugh at myself because for so long, I let myself believe that dysfunction had a permanent place at the table in my relationships, and while it’s easy to joke about, it’s just as easy to become sad about it when I really let my mind wander.
In my drinking days, dysfunction in my intimate relationships caused me and my partners a lot of pain, but it felt too familiar to let go of. Almost like a comfort. It wasn’t until I put the bottle down 708 days ago that I had a frightening realization about how this dysfunction was showing up and killing my relationships with a thousand tiny cuts. Even in my last relationship, where I spent more time with my ex as a sober person than as a drinker, I remained painfully stuck in my old ways of relating and expressing myself. I knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how to stop it, and his emotional distance didn’t help. I felt trapped but determined to force change without giving the relationship up.
I pushed too long and too hard and the relationship ended up folding anyway.
So here I am with my current relationship, and it’s surprisingly stable and fulfilling despite the uncertainties contained within. It’s not perfect–he’s prone to bitterness and cynicism, I am prone to emotional withdrawal and timidness–but the difference here is that we’re both aware of these things and we’re both willing to confront them as they come up.
It’s weird. It’s really weird. But it’s also like, yeah, of course this is the way a relationship should work. Why did I spend so much of my time in past relationships sulking, people-pleasing, avoiding and blaming others? The obvious answer would perhaps be my drinking, but if I’m honest, it started before that. My drinking was merely a tool that “helped” me cope with my trauma and put a buffer between myself and the hard stuff.
It worked until it didn’t; when I finally had enough 709 days ago, I drank my last drink and told myself that this time, it was really going to change.
And so far, I’ve kept that promise to myself.
I would not be here in this place, with this person, feeling the way I do, knowing what I know, without my sobriety. I’ve had a lot of feelings building up inside me about my current lot in life, but they’re hard to describe and difficult to pin down. In many ways, it’s a gentle blend of tragic optimism and curious hope. I feel lucky despite my past pain, and I feel calm despite the uncertainties of the future. I am secure enough in my relationship that I never feel the need to “test” our bond with manipulation or tricks. I feel an ever-strengthening security in myself and my capabilities as a friend, an employee, a leader, and a creative. I recognize my personal darkness as a necessary part of myself not worth fighting or oppressing. I understand myself as painfully human, just like the rest of us, and I’m glad to be part of it.
Today I’m at 708 days of sobriety and I know this gentle harmony I feel may not always be so strong in my heart, but I’d like to hold onto it and be grateful for it while I can.