As of today, I’ve been sober for exactly one year. My previous personal record was about three months, I think. And even then I can’t remember if it was complete sobriety or if I was on a “it’s okay if I only have one or two drinks a night” stint.
I started drinking when I was thirteen years old. That’s crazy to think about, isn’t it? I’m twenty-six now. So I spent half my life getting hammered. It came in waves, of course. Some times I drank more and at others I drank less. Getting sloshed every day or a couple times a month. But, for my entire adult life, I tied drinking tight to my identity.
Like my ability to drink a lot somehow said something about me. Like my ability to get done with work, get annihilated, get up in the morning, and do it all over again said something about my strength. I thought it showed how hard I was. I never considered it said more about how afraid I was than anything.
How afraid of dealing with the parts of myself that were hurting. How terrified of discovering what I loved and hated. How petrified of understanding what was going inside my head, and how I thought about other people and myself.
That’s the part they don’t tell you about getting sober. They talk about how much better you’ll feel. How much money you’ll save. They talk about how you’ll have more energy and a better grasp on what is important to you. And, yes, all that is true. But they never tell you about the colossal emotional excavation you’ll have to do.
The first six months were easy compared to the most recent six. In the beginning, I was all wrapped up in the idea of not drinking. It was all-consuming and focused in close. I paid attention to times I wanted to drink and then I sat on my hands.
Went for walks or for a run. Lifted weights. Screamed and broke things. Cried hard into Mason’s chest saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” I talked to my therapist. I wrote. I did anything I could to keep myself from ducking into a bar or grabbing a forty at the corner store. And it worked. My head stayed on straight.
But then the focus shifted. It was no longer just about not drinking. I had to find a way to deal with everything I had been drinking into silence. All those fears and vulnerabilities. All that anger. Everything. Each hurt from the time I was thirteen that I’d pushed out of my conscious with a constant stream of bourbon and beer began to climb back up. And it demanded my attention. It screamed and clawed its way into my field of vision with vengeance. It wouldn’t let me ignore it anymore.
Each piece must be pulled out and inspected. Each injustice has to have its complaints heard and its racing mind soothed. Constantly. And every day I think, “Man, I just want to sit down with a bourbon and not think about this anymore.”
But every single day for the last year I have taken a deep breath and said, “No. Not today.”