Today marks exactly five years of continuous sobriety. I was telling my husband the other day that, early on, I was watching a movie in which there was a scene with a man and woman in a bar. He offers to buy her a drink and she responds, “No thanks. I’m five years sober.”
I remember that scene so clearly – the thought of five years of sobriety seemed unfathomable to me at the time. And yet, here I am.
What have I learned, over five years? Well. I’ve learned it can still be difficult to be a nondrinker in this world. It can be lonely. I can still feel “other than” when it seems everyone else in the group is drinking and I’m not. And if I’m being perfectly honest, there are times when I still wish I could drink in safety. That I could fit in with the crowd and enjoy a few drinks and stop there.
I also wish I were five inches taller. And fifteen years younger. But most of all, I wish I’d quit drinking when I first knew I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, which was probably twenty years before I actually came to the realization that I had to stop.
I’ve also learned what true serenity, and peace of mind, and authenticity feels like. Waking up in the morning with a clear head and a free heart – without scanning my data bank for memories from the night before. My mind has been cleared of the constant “chatter” in the background: How many drinks did I have last night? Wow – that’s too many. It’s probably unhealthy. I’m not going to drink tonight. Definitely. Well, maybe just two. Next week I’m definitely not going to drink during the week. Yep, no more drinking, Monday through Thursday. Next week.
I’ve learned that I can experience profound joy and extreme sorrow, completely sober. And all the emotions in between – without any substance in my system to dull or fuzz or obliterate my feelings.
Along the way I’ve had so much help: Belle from Tired of Thinking About Drinking, podcasts like The Bubble Hour and Since Right Now. A Facebook group comprised of people on the same journey. My sweet husband. Without his support I never – and I do mean NEVER – could have stayed sober. He’s evolved with me: at first he was dumbfounded and bewildered by my decision. He had no idea how terribly I was struggling. I deliberately kept my suffering quiet, because to admit it to him – to say it out loud – was to admit it to myself. I was too terrified to wrap my mind around the notion of never drinking again. He is my greatest champion and supporter. My daughters and some close friends (whom I’ve only had the opportunity to meet because of sobriety) truly “get it,” too.
I am eternally grateful and feel so blessed by the Universe. In countless ways this journey has been an incredible gift. It has definitely not been easy – but like so many things in life, the things that are worth the most require a lot of effort.
So. If you’re new to this journey – there are so many tools you can put in your sobriety toolbox. Naps, bubble baths, yoga (there are TONS of free videos on YouTube), meditation, ice cream, trashy novels, funny movies, sobriety memoirs…… Make a list of ten things you have to do before you pick up a drink. Long walks. Being outdoors is very healing. Pick up a hobby to fill the hours you would have spent drinking. Have breakfast for dinner. Change your routine – especially during the “Witching Hour.”
Just. Don’t. Drink.
What I have can be yours. And it is glorious.