Today, on my five month anniversary of being sober, I have come to a few conclusions. Five months of sobriety is 153 days of coming home and not answering the wine that’s calling my name. It’s 153 days of not getting excited over the simple sound of a crisp, yet bitter martini getting shaken (yes, I preferred mine shaken- not stirred, how very Bond of me). It’s 153 days of nodding as people tell me about their drunken escapades over the weekend or how they’re looking sooo forward to our upcoming “girl’s night out”. But most of all, it’s 153 days of not waking up with a hangover, or regret, or anxiety over what I did the night before, or depression- because I had failed, yet again. In these past five months, great things have happened. Now, great things happened to me while I was drinking, too- I got married (this marriage- to a good guy), I had a baby, I got promotions at work, etc. But I was always buzzed, drunk, hungover, or obsessing about the next drink to really enjoy these great things that were happening to me. It’s almost as if they were just “half” happening.
I have written about my final night of drinking in previous posts, so I won’t bore you with that again. What I do want to say about being five months sober is that now when things happen, like working on my memoir, I take more pride in them. Without alcohol, I have the drive to complete the tasks I set for myself. I know I’m a better parent; I am present and not trying to rush the day away to get to a point where it’s acceptable to open a bottle of wine or mix a martini. Other authors I’ve read talk about putting their kids to bed and rushing through the experience so they can get back to their cocktail. I identified with this immensely.
There’s a moment in the movie, As Good as it Gets, where Jack Nicholson is walking out of the therapist’s office and looks at the waiting room filled with patients and says, “what if this is as good as it gets?” You hear a woman gasp and despair floods the room. I identified with this movie as a child because my father had many of the same obsessive compulsive disorders that Nicholson faces in the movie, but that’s beside the point. My point is, right now, in my life, it really IS as good as it gets, and I was missing it all because I was drinking.
I am married to a good man whom I love. I have a healthy, 19 month old baby boy. I have a job that is flexible with my hours and appreciates me. I teach Zumba, so I get paid to work out and unleash my inner clubbing days in a healthy, appropriate for a 36 year old woman’s, manner. My parents are alive and well. Actually, “well” is probably too loose of a term, but they’re functioning. My sister, her husband and their three children are healthy and prospering as the kids move through their teenage years. My husband’s parents are both alive and healthy. Hell- even my dog is wonderful! (Shit- I have to schedule a surgery to remove a benign lump), but even his lump is not life threatening! I know that having another child or publishing my memoir or another promotion at work will bring happiness, fulfillment, and accomplishment to my life… but it won’t make it better. What I have is pretty great, and I didn’t see that until alcohol was removed from my life. How can one feel their life is great when they are searching the cabinets for Gatorade and Advil? Obsessing about when they can put the sweet taste of chardonnay to their lips, and then obsessing about the next drink before that one is even gone. I was wasting the best moments of my life.
I know my parents won’t live forever, despite the twelve or so near misses of death my father has had. I know there will be a time when my husband will say to our son, “Grandpa would have loved to be here for this.” I know there will be a moment when I have to give my furry black lab one last kiss. I know there will be a time when my son packs his bags and leaves the nest I have built my world around. And God willing, I will be the first to go out of my husband and I because every time he throws out a birthday or Valentine’s Day card that I’ve bought for him, I always say, “when I’m dead, you’re going to wish you still had that,” and I just really want him to say, “damn, she was right.” But hopefully that’s many, many decades away.
But right now, it’s really good. And yet, I was spending every day chasing a buzz. A buzz that came and went in 20 minutes and I was determined to find it again… in the next glass, in the next. It wasn’t even a question of “why was I drinking?” but rather a routine, who I was, a physical presence in my life, a loss that I didn’t want to mourn.
Life brings good and life brings bad. I’ve had the bad, I’m sure you have too, and that is why we started leaning on alcohol in the first place. We wanted to numb the feelings that the bad left us with. But as we did that, we allowed the booze to creep into the good parts, and numb those feelings too. And that’s not acceptable. We will miss the full experience of any good that our lives have been gifted with if we let alcohol in. When you’re a drinker, alcohol is as good as it gets. Alcohol makes you believe that. You owe it to yourself to prove it wrong.