Here’s something crazy: 8 years ago today, I stopped drinking and doing drugs. Even crazier? I haven’t started again. As in 2920 days in a row without a day drinking, night drinking, late afternoon drinking– any kind of drinking at all. Oh and no drugs either which is really something because I like drugs a lot. Designer drugs, designer imposter drugs, over the counter, under the counter–whatever. I’m like Oprah with bread but with drugs–I LOVE DRUGS! But for some weird reason I haven’t done any, not even a shady Benadryl to help me sleep, in a 8 whole years. Like I said, fucking crazy.
A few days ago, my husband said, “That’s right- you have a birthday coming up! How has year seven been?” To which I replied, “Uhh. Ehh. Um. Interesting. Hard. But good. But like I wouldn’t want to do it again.” This is a fairly accurate response. As I’ve lamented on these very pages over the last nearly 7 months (thank you for reading them, by the way!), I feel like I’ve been in an intense game of emotional blackjack for the last year. Each day brought on new challenges and new emotions who showed up to the party like some crazy ass long-lost relative. It got to the point by September where I found myself thinking, “Oh. Even more emotions? Fabulous.” There have been long periods of sadness and feeling uncomfortable as well as extreme moments of joy where I stop and look at my life and can’t believe how good it is. Suffice to say, I’ve identified a lot with the character Maeve on Westworld , the robot who wakes up in chaos and struggles to deal with reality and having emotions. So that’s how year seven has been—sad, chaotic, bizarre and beautiful. Yet if I’m gonna get really real here, there’s something else that turning 8 helps a lot with: fear.
Back in February, I came clean with my sponsor. After a few weeks of acting cagey and distant, I let it out. I was in a lot of fear about being seven years sober. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy of course. I mean anytime sober for a person like me is amazing. But I couldn’t help it I was scared shitless. A few months before I turned 7, someone in my extended sober family with 7 years relapsed and then killed themselves. A few more months before that I had received word that somebody with days more sober than me from my old home group had relapsed and had vanished. Couple this with even more friends who had turned seven, relapsed and never came back. I was really freaked out that my fate in year seven would be exactly the same. My sponsor, this sweet man who helps me for free and listens to my bucket of crazy on the regular, told me it that this was a healthy fear. Like not wanting to die or relapse are pretty legit things for sober people to be afraid of. He then asked me what I was going to do about it. Sigh. You mean I have to do something about it too? I couldn’t just wallow in fear and hope for the best? Ugh.
So I did exactly what I did back in 2009, I did the 12 Steps and am still currently in the work. I won’t ramble about them here because it’s a well tread topic that I don’t have anything new to add to. But they’ve saved my life and I’m a happier, more honest less shitty person to be around because of them. The point was, this fear, this urgency to not feel awful turned out to be a miracle. I think wanting to not stay stuck in destructive states of mind and wanting to keep changing/growing instead means progress is still happening, even 8 years later. I hear over and over again that recovery is something you don’t graduate from. I guess I believe it but I’d be lying if I said that I’m not holding out to meet that person who graduated from recovery and now can drink like a normal individual. They haven’t showed up yet but when they do, I’ve got some questions! Anyway, I think this unconformability has turned into an asset. It’s put a fire in me to try to face life head on and to stay open for personal growth. Note that I use the phrases “try” and “stay open” because wanting to get better is still not automatic.
I marvel at people who have had everything just click into place once they’ve gotten sober and poof! All of their old crappy behaviors just vanish. This has never been my experience. Each tidbit of emotional and spiritual growth I’ve had has taken for fucking ever and many of life’s lessons are ones I need to repeat about 60 times before they sink it. Not only is this poetic and hilarious karma for an instant gratification junkie like myself, but it is also okay. When I first got sober the people who helped me the most were the ones who shared about life being hard and not feeling great all of the tine but who miraculously stayed sober anyway. I feel like I’m one of those people today: somebody who’s life is real and raw and not perfect but also somebody who stays sober, no matter what.
So here I am walking into year 8 with less fear, more hope and a shit-ton of gratitude for a life that I could have never dreamed possible. Like I said, crazy.