I was going to title this blog something sugar-coated such as, “Half a Year of Happiness” or, “Doing a 180 in 180 Days.” But a simple “Six Months Sober” will do, especially since six months sounds like much less time than half a year. I’m going to abstain from sharing anyone else’s anecdotes or quotes; either one of Christopher Kennedy Lawford’s books are chock-full of those, and I’d be glad to loan those out to anyone interested in reading them. With that said, here are my thoughts two days before my six-month sobriety date.
I knew as long as I was old enough to drink that I should never start. Having dealt with depression for the greater part of my life, I knew my personality and alcohol would not be a winning combination. In fact, I told people for years that I didn’t drink because I knew I’d be an alcoholic. Self-fulfilling prophecy much? I had the first drink of my life almost exactly two years before I became sober (see the pic above). It was at a restaurant called First Crush in San Francisco and the drink was called a Lemon Drop. I remember saying out loud that it tasted like toilet cleaner–I was not a fan. Later that night or the next night, I had a haze-inducing Long Island Iced Tea at the hotel bar. The sensation of stumbling up to the hotel room tipsy was comical, and I tried a mint julep after that buzz wore off. Once I got back home, I purposely didn’t run out and buy alcohol to keep in the house, because I knew what that would lead to. But I’ve never liked going out, and after driving home to the suburbs very buzzed from an Atlanta bar about a month later, I swore I’d never put myself in the position to get a DUI again. Since I was stressed from school and work, I made the decision to stock a bar at my house so I could drink at home and not have to drive. Sign #1 You’re an Alcoholic: You drink at home, alone, and think you’re not putting anyone in danger.
The next thing I knew (he typed so innocently), I was spiking my Diet Coke that I took to class and work. Just a little bit of vodka, to give it some kick. On my nights off from work, I’d make myself a drink and if it was a nice evening outside, I’d take the drink for a walk. The drink would do most of the walking, mind you…I was noticing things about my neighbourhood that I’d never noticed before, like the abandoned house on the corner with the back door wide open. What does liquid courage coerce one into doing? Why, doing a photo tour through the dark, creepy house at dusk, of course! I made very poor decisions like this time and time again, but it all seemed to be done in fun and I didn’t feel as though anyone was any the wiser as to how much I was drinking. Sign #2 You’re an Alcoholic: You can rationalize every drink as being harmless.
Once I was in my next-to-last semester of school last summer, I was taking a Fiji water bottle full of vodka to class and drinking straight from it. I remember drinking so much from it one day during Maymester that I didn’t even know I was playing the king in the act of a Shakespeare play we were performing impromptu. I began drinking on my lunch breaks at work, which was completely rationalize-able since I was on my own time, not the company’s. Come fall semester, things were completely falling apart at work and I was stressed to the max by my thesis class and my internship. Instead of getting myself off this carousel of terror by quitting my job, I just drank more. I found myself slurring my words while interviewing students for my internship assignments. I drank when I woke up for work, on my way to work, and during work. My defense was that I had to keep all the plates spinning…I couldn’t afford to quit my job or not finish my last semester in school. My wake-up call was one morning last November when I was literally mixing a drink in my truck on my way home from work at 7:15AM. I was ashamed of myself and immediately looked up AA meetings when I got home. Conveniently, I was too tired or busy to make it to any of them. Sign #3 You’re an Alcoholic: You Say You Want Help, But You Don’t Get It.
Once I graduated in December, I gave myself free reign to drink whenever and wherever I wanted to for well over a month. I remember accidentally dropping a whole case of vodka in the floor of the liquor store before Christmas and being so ashamed that it had come to this: buying in bulk to get mail-in rebates from Smirnoff. (Not to mention dropping the case, which for some reason the store clerk didn’t charge me for–he just helped me out to my truck with a new one.) I began going through spurts of trying to quit for a few days at a time, usually after getting sick from overdoing it. By the time the end of February rolled around, I had one Fiji water bottle full of vodka left. I’d been saving it for the Oscars and hadn’t had a drink in five days. After drinking the whole bottle that night, I woke up so sick the next morning that I could barely drive myself home from the hotel I’d checked into the night before to watch the show. I knew then and there that I was done. I had to be done. Sign #4 You’re an Alcoholic: You Have a Come-to-Jesus Moment When You Realize It’s Now or Never.
Six months later, I look back and that whole, dark journey of self-destruction seems like a world away. I gained 30 pounds during those two years and ruined my metabolism due to the alcohol and some diet pills I started taking to try to get the alcohol bloat to go away. The fact that I still have a bit of a gut, even though I eat no more than I did before I started drinking, is the main reminder of what I did to myself. I no longer wake up every day wishing I could have a swig of something before going out the door to work. I no longer feel sorry for myself or enjoy playing into the drama like I once did, even before I began drinking. I’ve learned to breathe in and breathe out as a technique for stress relief. I’ve come to a place where I’m happy to have a job, even if it’s so far from my dream job that it’s not funny. Things at work are better, and I’ve had more support from my co-workers, my family, and my friends than I could’ve ever thought possible. I feel closer to God, even though I never exactly felt far away from Him. He was obviously watching over me; that’s the only way I can explain not getting a DUI, losing my job, and/or getting kicked out of school. I think the fact that I was upfront with everyone when I decided to quit drinking is what saved me–having to be accountable to so many people made it impossible to slip up. AA would not have helped me; the one meeting I went to about three months ago was a place I’d never want to go again. I’d rather be back in church, back in God’s Word, and–yes–listening to a CD of hymns I burned as a nice alternative to the radio on my commute. That’s not to say I don’t have days when I feel down, but I know where to turn when that’s the case. And it’s not into the liquor store parking lot.
So there it is, my take on the way I feel about my sobriety right now. I was accused of being an attention whore when I began my quest to be sober, and perhaps some might say the same thing about me writing this lengthy blog. But for anyone who’s struggled with any sort of addiction, it becomes evident over time that the truth will set you free. I’m glad I can write about my struggles and feel so far removed from them. I wish sometimes that I could get home from work and enjoy a nice glass of wine, but then I remember that I skipped beer and wine altogether! There’s plenty of other ways to relieve stress, though, and I intend to utilize those. Here’s to anyone battling their demons and winning…it’s a great place to be, and thank God I’m there. Or here, as the case may be.