I remember the moment the truth clicked for me: I can’t drink anymore.
I don’t have a really good “rock bottom” story. I’d finished all my real theatrical drinking a few years before. By the time I reckoned with my alcoholism, I didn’t even want to drink any more. I’d exhausted myself with the constant hiding, the blame shifting, the lies I told myself–and whoever else needed telling. I was functioning fine, I suppose, but certainly not living my best life (unless my best life consisted of being able to pound back 12 Miller Lites in one sitting, but somehow I doubted it).
I’d long ceased fearing what I’d find when I finally sobered up. I just figured it had to be better than the shame I carried every day.
So I quit. October 13, 2008.
I’d rigged up this story in my head where I was this tragic character that needed saving. And so, I believed (deeply) that when I told people that I’d quit drinking they’d react with wonder at my stoic fortitude.
I’d gotten so good at hiding the ugly side of my drinking that no one really thought I needed to stop. Cut back, maybe. Stop? Well, that seemed a little dramatic. Now, if I’d had this bright idea about 5 years before, everyone that knew me would’ve been on board. Hell, they would’ve offered to drive me to a meeting, or rehab, or whatever it took to get me to pull my shit together. But now? Folks were kinda lukewarm about the whole idea.
My first act of resistance: Believing that I knew myself better than anyone else knew me.
I stuck with what I knew: I can’t drink anymore.
So, I sat my ass in a Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Hated it pretty much from the start. But sometimes we do things we hate (just for a while) to get to a life we love.
I met a handful of people in those meetings that I still hold dear almost a decade later. People who knew how to live their lives with authenticity and unflinching honesty, and who were willing to teach me to do the same.
Was it easy? Fuck, no.
Every day, I’d wake up and calculate how many days it’d been since my last drink. At 30 days, I got a chip that marked “30 days of continuous sobriety–including nights and weekends” (those AA folks have a sense of humor–mostly). And I wondered, as I walked to the front to pick up my chip, if I’d spend the rest of my life counting days.
Good news: I have no idea how many days I’ve been sober. I stopped counting somewhere around 90 days. The days kept adding up, whether I counted them or not. Besides, I had work to do. They like to say in AA that “alcohol is just a symptom.” Which meant I was the problem. So, I had to figure myself out, if I wanted to stay sober.
And I did. From the very first day, I wanted to stay sober.
I put in two years of hard work to figure my shit out. (Getting sober isn’t for the faint-of-heart.) For me, staying sober is about accepting life without fear & resentment, about living into my truth, and about celebrating who I am. I surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to get real about themselves & this beautiful/awful/joyous/painful world we live in.
And I never stop being grateful for this second chance.