Addiction

Reflecting on my first year sober

"The Bottom of the Bottle" © Nathan Stang, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
The Bottom of the Bottle” © Nathan Stang, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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.”

26 thoughts on “Reflecting on my first year sober

  1. Congratulations on your anniversary. Your courage of ‘no’ is evident in your writing. I hope you benefit from your writing as much as those who read your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on your year….that is wonderful.
    I loved what you said, it’s almost like the beginning, while hard, is some kind of lark..”look at me, not drinking, so good”. And it does feel good and you begin to see the possibilities and then the feelings hit.
    I imagine it’s good that that is the way it happens, usually. we get a little sense of how good it can be before we have to do the work.
    But the bigger rewards come as the work gets done, as you say “No. not today”, through it ALL.

    This is great!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! An entire year sober — that is a really big deal. Normal drinkers have no what an accomplishment that is — but I do. If i end up with 50 years sober, it will not feel as amazing as 30, 60 and 90 days. When i received a year sober, i was so amzed it was beyond my comprehension. I never wanted to stop drinking. It seemed like a life not worth living. Gosh was i wrong. Enjoy your celebration and share about it often. You have the ability to inspire.

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  4. A year of sober-firsts under your belt. YAY!
    Now comes the fun part… 🙂
    Year Two brought a lot of awareness and understanding. A lot of a-ha moments. I started feeling a lot more comfortable in my skin in year two also, less like a fish out of water, less like everyone was looking at me. It’s gonna be a good one for you, I just know.
    So happy for you, c-

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      1. Had to smile at my comment…over six months ago…so what, that puts you just over 18 months? That’s a biggie. I know you’ve been working hard on self-awareness and finding what works for you (and what doesn’t). Just wanted to say I know how hard it is, and I’m really proud of you. Happy 18 months+.

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  5. Congratulations on your first year sober! I don’t have new insights to add to the ones already posted; I just wanted to wish you continued success in this new phase of your life. Even though you might not have felt very strong some days, you’ve shown how strong you are by getting to this point.

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  6. You are dead on about how no one mentions facing yourself when you get sober. It is so nice to read a post by someone who has decided to quit in their 20’s. I too started drinking way too young and people constantly say to me “You’re only 24! What reason could you have to quit drinking already?” In the 10 years I was drinking, I racked up a few. Congratulations! Thank you for writing and sharing!

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      1. It does in time…I started drinking at the age of 6…my father drank and mother. it was a norm at that time. Once I hit the age 12 I was smoking and doing things that young girls should of never been doing… hope has always been the key attribute for me, acceptance the next key attribute for me, with them both, sobriety has been the best gift ever….. take care sweetie and with putting work into the sobriety, relief has come a long way… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, thank you for sharing Ruby… reflection of the first year sobriety, the most tender year besides the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth…so I have heard. Certain seasons of the year used to baffle me in my first and second year of sobriety like summer time and winter… it has been a very long time since any obsession to drink or use, but I love your compassion and how you write on sobriety. It is a gift, this sobriety, I truly believe it is. I wish you well and thank you so much for sharing…

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