Sometimes I feel like sobriety’s Andy Rooney – the ironic, curmudgeon of the blogging set, pointing out the pitfalls and snafus that no one else will tell the world about quitting drinking. I have been known to sniff at the sophomoric crowing of those who extoll the benefits of living clean and sober. As if, like that other killjoy Groucho Marx, I do not want to join any club substandard enough to have me as a member.
Then two weeks ago, something really horrible happened. Someone I loved died unexpectedly and everyone else tiptoed around me, as if they thought it might be too much for me to take without going on a bender. It made me realize (like a cartoon POW!) that, sad and shocked as I was, I did not even think about drinking. Not once.
Which got me thinking, that after two years and three months of sobriety, so many aspects of my life have changed for the better, it is time to join the ranks of the blissfully temperate and tell you (without even a smidgen of sarcasm) what I love about my life now that I have put away the wine for good.
I am an alcoholic. At the end of my tenure as a drinker I was consuming three bottles of Chardonnay a day (sometimes more), and it controlled my life like a demanding stage mother – orchestrating every move and making inappropriate demands on my time and talent.
Three months ago I hit the benchmark called “Advanced Recovery” and suddenly things began to fall into place like they did not do in the early days of my sobriety. I do not mean to say it takes that long for everyone (I have always been a late bloomer), but for me the two year point marked the end of my resistance and the beginning of my overwhelming gratefulness.
The 12 Things I ADORE About Being Sober:
- The Mornings: My very favorite thing about being sober is the way I feel when I open my eyes in the morning. I am well rested, I remember what I did the night before without a sense of dread, and I feel great. Tony the tiger “GREAT!” and ready to start a new day.
- My Memory: I had gotten pretty good at faking it, but I couldn’t remember anything in my late stage drinking days – I was like a sham fortune teller, watching for body language clues to help me figure out what I was supposed to have done or said.
- My Looks: Everything about my appearance is better: my hair, nails and skin; the whites of my eyes; and I finally lost the “Freshman 15” of sobriety – the weight I gained because I treated myself to anything but booze, including a newfound weakness for party-packs of Charleston Chews and Debby Snack Cakes…
- The Length of the Day: Drinking three bottles of wine takes time. I’d go to bed with a glass of wine on the bedside table like a security blanket and in the morning I’d lean over and drink the dregs – starting the vicious cycle of a new, bleak day with too little time to do anything else…
- The Night: If it happened after seven o’clock at night, I was not there. I missed weddings and funerals and the milestones of loved ones because I was too drunk to get up and go. There is such great joy now in an evening walk, or a party or just looking up at the stars.
- The Freshness of My Emotions: Remember when the Grinch feels his face and it’s wet from crying and he’s like, “What is this?” That’s me. I spent so many years anesthetizing my feelings, I am as raw and emotional as a toddler, and it feels amazing.
- My Energy Level: Drinking makes you sleepy and dumb. I have started working again (after a 20 year vacation) and I am shocked every day by how smart I am – how eager to learn new things and contribute, how energetic I feel.
- Sleeping and Eating: I have had a lifetime of insomnia, constipation and bulimia – the trifecta of “women’s complaints” that have GONE AWAY now that I am sober. I eat. I sleep eight hours. I poop. Yay.
- My Relationships: I think alcohol makes a person shallow and self-absorbed. I feel myself reaching out now: being friendlier and caring more about others than about myself. I have rekindled some relationships that were negatively impacted by booze, and I have formed many new friendships with those in the recovery community.
- How I Cope With Stress, Sorrow or Disappointment: I used to deal with all my emotional triggers (death, taxes, lost love, slights, hurt feelings) by pouring a drink or ten. The way I handled the death of my friend, is the best way to emphasize the change in my behavior toward emotional setbacks. I dealt with it. In the moment and full on.
- Community: I hate the term, but I think I was a “dry drunk” for a while. I transferred my alcohol addiction to processed sugar and coffee, I isolated and pouted. One of the saving graces of my sobriety has been my foray into community – (I’ll admit it) I sometimes force myself to get out, meet with friends, attend meetings and be a part of the world, and magically, I feel better.
- My Faith: I danced with the devil for many, many years. This is not a metaphor – I actually tangoed with some really bad guys who took advantage of my vulnerability and my deep-seated insecurity. Last, but certainly not least, I have found solace and joy and strength in prayer.
Those of you who know me, do not be alarmed. I will not become one of those recovery advocates who bray the word “amazing” like a verbal tic, or smile too vacantly at a baby, or post photos with kittens and daisies and aphorisms like “Sober is the NICE way to be!!” I promise I will not begin to use double exclamation points. I might even have a day when I want to talk about something that annoys me about my newly awakened senses…
But know this: I am a grateful, happy, joyfully tearful, fortunate, sober person. And I am feeling every one of those emotions in this minute as I write. Maybe, just maybe that deserves an exclamation point. Or two…
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