My 10 and 11 month marks have come and gone. The days came and went and I didn’t even realize it was a “soberversary” until friends texted me with congratulations. And it hit me that I am getting comfortable. And then of course I immediately became uncomfortable. Because I don’t want to take it for granted.
Next week I will be sober a year.
It’s been a ride. The last few months have seen the election, my first sober holidays, the collective grief and hysteria of the nation, some health scares and the disintegration and attempted resurrection of my marriage, job struggles and through all of it I’ve been 100% present. Life is gradually less and less about just not drinking and more about building a life I don’t need to escape from. And handling things that would have dropped me to my knees and made me chug huge quantities of alcohol now roll off me like raindrops. That’s the miracle of it all.
So the trickiest thing about being a blogger chronicling the early days of sobriety is that you actually need a functioning computer. Something I didn’t have for 5 months. Which means that I have little scraps of paper that accumulate. When I open my purse, or grab my journal, little papers fall out and fall to the ground like flurries. Snippets of thoughts, quotes, ideas, mostly in my favorite green felt tip pen in my little scratchy handwriting. I lose them. None of it was coherently gathered as I had imagined in the beginning when I set out to write about getting sober. Nothing has gone to plan. And that has also been a blessing.
In hindsight, not trying to “unpack” or analyze those moments and instead just live them was the best thing for me as I learned to be present. Even writing creates distance from what you are writing about. You become an observer, a reporter of your own experience. In striving to find the perfect phrase, choosing the right words to bring an idea to life in a way that someone else can possibly understand or experience it, the writer becomes a creator. In putting it into words, the idea or story becomes something separate from you. So in holding tight to my experiences and just soaking in them instead of trying to record them, I have for the first time become my own storykeeper. I have had to trust my own heart and mind to remember. Which is frightening for someone like me who has huge gaps in memory and the memories that do jump out from the past few years are often painful and full of shame.
But, in not trying to capture or label them, these months that have passed are truly mine. Authentically, not blurred around the edges, not fading into gray. Sometimes they still feel too sharp, too clear. There is part of me that still wants to change my state; to escape or hide. And yet, my life is no longer about “taking the edge off”, but finding my edge, coming back to myself. To do that I have to be in it. All in. Otherwise I am all fuzzy middles and I spent too many years doing that.
So, I’m back. Thanks to the generosity of a beautiful sober friend, my computer has been resurrected and I’m able to write again. I’m mulling over how to possibly share all the things I’ve learned over almost a year of continuous days of sobriety strung together, like a necklace with beads and trinkets. Some days are a shiny pearl and other days are a battered old button but they are all there, in a row. And the changes that have been wrought in those continuous days are astonishing.
Many times in the past year as I have been healing, and coming back into my “right mind”, I’ve equated this journey to running. And the classic phrase that all runners know is to never judge a run by the first mile. And I think about that as it applies to sobriety, as I see people struggling to get and stay sober. The back-sweaty fear we have when we are on day one, week one, month one. Wondering if this is all there is.. just this constant state of having your nerve endings screaming, of feeling so uncomfortable and having your brain be a loud, messy tangle of jangled nerves and cravings. When you go to bed at 7pm and feel like a freak and wonder if you will ever be comfortable in your skin again and what about all the feelings and where the heck do those go and on and on… And to that I say… KEEP GOING. With running, the good stuff; those moments where you hit your stride and your breathing is almost imperceptible and you feel the air flowing over you and in and out of your lungs and you feel like you can run forever.. only happen after you have gone through the first mile or even the second when you feel herky-jerky and your muscles aren’t warm yet and each step feels like a slog and all you want to do is stop and sit down. But if you stop, you miss the miracle. And believe me, the miracle of sobriety isn’t one you want to miss. But its going to hurt. Often. But I promise it will be worth it. Because the alternative is constantly being stuck on mile one. And that hurts beyond words.
There is no way around, no shortcuts, no “magic pill” you can take. There is only through. Each day, one foot in front of the other. Until you look back and you see how far you have come and you only want to dig deeper and find the strength to go higher up and on and on…