Today I celebrate four years of continuous sobriety.
When I decided that enough was enough, I can't say. It was a decision I came to over a long period of time. It wasn't something that just hit me. I knew for years that my drinking was a problem. I lived among alcoholics. I had surrounded myself with friends who had drinking habits like mine. I watched how alcohol and drugs could get the better of people. Kill good people. Destroy families.
I also had a tremendous amount of fun while drinking. I cannot believe some of the experiences I have had, mostly good, while drinking. I can never turn my back on, or forget all the funny, awesome times I had while drinking. Most of my teen years and all except the last four of my adult years were under the influence. Forgetting those good times would wipe out more than half my life.
I've had a few bad things happen. I got a DUI. Drinking exacerbated my depression, and had an impact on my ADHD. When you have impulsivity issues and you mix them with alcohol? Yeah, some poor choices. REALLY poor choices. But choices that didn't leave me destitute, without friends, or family. In some regards, my story is simple, common among those that I have met in meetings. My "low" wasn't the low that many people associate with alcoholics. Among other alcoholics I am "normal", something I have never felt in any other group I have belonged to.
May 28th, 2007 wasn't supposed to be the last drink I ever took. No, it should have been a few months before that. Back in February 2007 I was told my liver was being stressed. But I already knew that, because in 2002, the last Navy physical I had revealed my liver enzymes were "elevated". I was worried then, but worry gave way to so many other emotions. Emotions I wasn't equipped to handle without my magic elixir. It made me smarter, funnier, and took the edge off of social situations. It also calmed some of my (as of then undiagnosed) hyperactivity. When I drank, I could be still. My anxiety would float away for awhile. But in the morning my self-loathing, fear, and doubt about everything I did would come creeping back. When you have something readily available that makes those feelings go away, even for a little bit, why the hell would you give it up?
So on that day in 2007 when my endocrinologist told me you either quit drinking or die way before your time, I wasn't shocked. It wasn't a big "A HA!!" moment. It was nearly paralyzing fear and resignation. As I got on the elevator to go home, THAT was when the shock set in. The irrational insanity that is alcoholism led me to this thought: "What the fuck am I going to do on vacations from now on???!!!!"
It's so petty and stupid. THAT was the first thing I thought of? But those stupid questions didn't stop there. No, my mind wandered to all the things I could no longer do that involved alcohol. Social life? Gone. Marriage? Thought that was a goner too. Nothing in my life was going to be the same, of that I was sure. By the time I left the building I was trembling, but knew in my heart it's what I had to do. And not merely because my doctor had told me "kiddo, you are killing yourself." No, in my head I had been killing myself for years, it's just now my body was catching up.
So from February to May 16th I was white knuckling my sobriety. Hanging on for dear life, but scared shitless. Then on the 17th Rob and I celebrated our first year of marriage. We went out for crabs. "Maybe I can just have one" crept up on me, because alcoholism is nothing if not cunning, baffling, and powerful. So I had a beer with lunch. Then had a few more drinks that day, we split a bottle of wine at dinner...and we didn't even finish it. For the next several weeks I drank. I cannot even remember if I eased back into it, but I know on May 28th I was drunk as all get out and high as a kite from smoking some weed. We were at a friend's house, on the back porch. I was sitting on a cooler, or something elevated enough that when I fell forward it was some distance to the ground. And before I made it too the ground, I managed to get my hands in front of me to break the fall but not before I clipped my engagement ring on the grill right in front of me. It drove the diamond back into my finger. To this day I have a scar on my wedding finger from that fall. Normally at that point of the night, and how hard we had been drinking I would have been in a blackout. Somehow I was clearheaded enough to realize I was done. DONE done.
Last night I was at that same friend's house, celebrating another Memorial Day. My husband was coming home from a week-long business trip and was going to meet me at the party. I was tired, hungry, and just mentally done from a long week of chasing Cam with no help. It hit me like a ton of bricks...I was right here, on this very porch when I decided I was really done. The tension and the anxiety of the past week floated away as I took stock of how my life had changed. That my biggest fear last night was Cam falling down the porch steps...not that I would be the one falling down that night.
In the last four years life hasn't been all rosy (with the exception of Cam). My first year of sobriety was rough on my marriage, and we didn't think we were going to make it. But we did and decided to add to our family. Infertility and IVF gave us a pause. My Dad died. I was laid off a week after I had gotten the best review of my career, while my Dad lay dying in the hospital. Miscarriages. We decided to adopt and I went back to school. We got our Cam! My Mom had a reoccurance of breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy....and I was the primary care giver. Finances are tight. Mom needs a hip replacement, and I am constantly worried about her.
In some of those days my mind flitted to a softer, gentler spot...one laced with a drink...just to take the edge off. To shed my anxiety and be unburdened with reality and responsibility. It was a split second of irrational romance, my romance of the power of the drink. In the next split second my mind would take me to a particularly ugly memory...and the desire for a drink would vanish. Just like that. I don't believe in luck. I don't believe that I am special. I do know that for whatever reason, I am able to stay sober one day at a time. Which is why for the last seven minutes of this day, the 29th, I will stay sober.