This past Sunday, I logged into AA Grapevine and entered my Sobriety Date to check the number of days I have been sober. It’s just way of measuring success, I guess, like weighing oneself on a scale to stay motivated during a diet. I am an alcoholic, so my “diet” will never end. I have been sober for 7.7 Months. If I did not have the “Sobriety Calculator” or any other means of measuring the number of days I have been sober, I, the Stubborn Doubter, have lots of empirical evidence that each hour sober is 100 times better than any vino fino tinto. Here is my list of 5 Gifts of Living Sober:
- Stop Wanting And Start Living For years, I have had a restless spirit, longing to be and have things that were within sight but mysteriously unattainable. Then, about 5 years before I got sober, I decided to approach life with more of an open heart. “Perhaps if I pray to God to have an open heart, He can lead me in the right direction,” was my thinking. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was avoiding doing things (e.g., the hard work of living sober) by preoccupying myself with having things. I never believed I would have what it took to make that leap. I do now! Each morning that I wake up sober, I thank God for leading me to pursue worthwhile things and also giving me the strength and courage to keep at it.
- Stop Gambling With My Health And Start Cherishing The Body God Gave Me Of course, drinking is not a gamble to the non-alcoholic because they can stop. Since I couldn’t, yet continued daily drinking for several years, I was literally treating my body like a garbage dump. In my newly-negotiated relationship with Spirit (e.g., “Higher Power”), I truly believe harmful, self-destructive behavior that could potentially lead to death (like addiction to alcohol) is a beautiful opportunity to love oneself in disguise. Does a person who really understands the importance of being healthy, physically, emotionally, and mentally, gamble with those gifts by sinking further into addiction? I hear people in AA meetings say all the time, “I thank God for my alcoholism, it has given me the gift of (fill in the blank with anything valuable)”. Again, if you’re not an addict or alcoholic, this “gift” may not make sense.
- Cherish The Company Of Other Alcoholics I know I avoided going to my first AA meeting because I was sure it would be full of “depressing people” that I would not be able to “relate to.” It’s the opposite! It is home. Alcoholics are the most compassionate, funny, friendly, dependable, humble and noble people I have ever met. The “Hi, Joanie!” greeting you hear (often joked about, even) in meetings is warm, sincere, safe and accepting. SAFETY is a major trigger word for alcoholics, the lack of which (whether it be emotional, financial or physical), because our disease plays with our minds and tells us that we must remain fearful and on guard at all times because no person or situation is safe. I had a Counselor in my twenties (who was unaware of my binge drinking but completely pegged one of my alcoholic behaviors) described my emotional state like this: “Joan, you seem to be in ‘fight or flight’ mode 24/7 – always prepared for the danger that lurks around the corner, feeling hunted.” Precisely. I was deeply unsettled but had no idea why. My Alcoholic pals understand and I am so glad for each and every one of them.
- Accepting Endings And New Beginnings And The Process In Between Like “The Little Prince,” my favorite time of day has always been the sunset – and during my drinking days, especially so. Watching the sun drifting into the horizon meant I had survived the challenges of the day (e.g., sick kids, frustrating work problem, hangover, overdrawn checking account, whatever) and that it would soon be time to open my bottle of serenity. I avoided admitting I was an alcoholic for years because I knew it was a permanent commitment. However, nowadays, my very grateful sober self sees something quite different in the concept of “forever.” In her new book, “Bottled,” Dana Bowman describes the paradox:
“The toughest part was realizing that recovery would never be “over” – not if I was going to take it seriously. When you’re a part of my club, taking out a lease on recovery is not an option. When I really thought about the lack of alcohol forevermore, it felt like I’d been told to clean the Grand Canyon with a toothbrush, while blindfolded. But every once in awhile, tiny moments of peace and joy descended upon me and were so defined and real, they lifted me out of my canyon. I would focus on the higher horizon then, and just kept walking.
5. “Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room” (William Shakespeare, “King John.”)
I saved the best gift for last: Living a Sober Life means spending your time the way you want to, free from the chains of an addiction that leads to darkness. There is so much LIGHT in my life because of the new freedom I have discovered that it is okay to feel and express emotions and spend a day doing as I please instead of constantly weighing and measuring myself against impossible standards. Reading poetry has always been one of my favorite hobbies, but I gave it up to lead a more “serious” life of career and family. Now it is back in my life and I feel rejuvenated. Here is a new favorite poet and her artful examination of leading one’s own life:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
What a wonderful post. I am not an alcoholic but live with one. I hope he sees the light as well.
Thank you very much, I hope so, too.
I love reading stuff where people have found the strength to move on in their lives and are reaping the rewards. Good on you for being joyful and light and happy – I hope you continue this way forever!
Many thanks, I really appreciate it!
Congratulations to you on achieving sobriety. What an incredible journey for you to share with us.
Thank you so much! I really enjoy your blog! xo
A friend of mine really needed this. Not an alcoholic, but addicted and definitely paranoid. I very much enjoy your blog. xoxo
Thank you. xoxo
Love this! Continue to stay sober and write!
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My life has been affected by alcoholism and I am amazed how many others – either in a loved one or oneself. Congratulations on your recovery and new life. My ex-husband sadly did not seek sobriety and alcoholism shortened his life. I have a nephew newly sober and I pray for him every day that he will maintain his sobriety. I love Mary Oliver and her poem was a perfect ending to your post.
Thank you so very much. I am no hero, for sure! From what I am learning, 1 in 3 people are affected directly by alcohol abuse. I write about it because of all the stigma – how can we ever heal (and eliminate shame) if we keep covering this illness up? Have a nice weekend and thanks for your support.