1000 days ago, I decided to commit to sobriety. If there was a before picture of what this looks like, imagine a dark filter over an emerging butterfly. That was who I was before I got sober. I had done a lot of work to heal. Therapy, meditation, fitness were all part of my life. I had reached the point where my healing would not really be able to stick unless I stopped drinking. I didn’t realize that the world I was living in was darker, heavier.
Sobriety marks my life like the birth of my children or the death of my mom. It is that important. Each time I reach a new milestone, I am in awe of the gratitude I feel that I made the choice to lift the veil, the shroud, the darkness of drinking.
For me, drinking was a way to medicate my feelings of loneliness, my fears that I didn’t belong, my uncertainty about how to speak up for myself, my doubt that I could do it (whatever ‘it’ was). My therapist likes to say that when we use drinking for celebration, it can be wonderful. When we begin to use drinking as medication, it becomes a problem.
In these times, where there is an undeniably strong current of anxiety, fear, and pain – you see it everywhere from the plethora of articles about tips on how to deal with your anxiety to people blaming Asian Americans or Jews for COVID-19 to denial about the seriousness of our situation – many of us are turning to medication to help us get through. In the second week of our shelter-in-place, there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle…The Bay Area is drinking 42% more since shelter in place. Today I saw another one about how the opioid crisis may be swinging back.
There’s no question. We are stressed. We are anxious. So much is changing. I am grateful to be sober and not asking the questions and feeling the guilt I did while I was drinking and sensed that I wasn’t doing what truly served me. It can be heavy and dark to be wondering whether what you are doing is hurting you. It’s not easy to be sober and dealing with the complex and rollercoaster-like emotional experience of this time. It IS lighter and brighter.
Drinking (as medication) is a bad lover. It says all of the right words while it’s seducing you but afterwards you feel dirty because deep down, you know there was something unhealthy about your time together.
The longer I went to the therapist I hired when I made the goal to quit drinking and the repeated times I explained that by quitting I felt like I was losing a friend, the more she helped me see that drinking was no friend. It was hurting me even though I felt that it was my comfort. It took me a long time to accept this. One thousand days later, I can say with such assurance and clarity that what I thought was comfort and safety was actually a blindfold.
I dedicated myself to find a way to be free, to be unencumbered by doubting thoughts and another thing to beat myself up about.
Getting sober also meant learning how to take care of myself better, learning how to implement tools that moved me through anxiety and grief, to actually feel my feelings, accept them and know that they don’t rule me.
I am ever a work in progress. I don’t have it all figured out, and I’m grateful for that. It means that as I live out my life mission statement, to learn to love myself and share what I learn with others, I will always have something to share!! My after shot, that butterfly, is vibrant and colorful and can more clearly see the path in front of me.
If you think you want to stop drinking, using, bingeing, or whatever addictive behavior is nagging at you, I urge you to seek out help. I suggest a therapist, an Anonymous group, Tempest, One Year No Beer, or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If you have other resources to share, please include them here in the comments!
I read many books and listened to many stories about people in their addiction and sobriety journeys. You are not alone.