My best friend just marked her third year of sobriety. It’s got me all in my thoughts today.
Few things are worse than watching someone you love circle the drain, knowing there’s criminally little you can do to stop it. On the flip side, few things are better than watching someone you love get better. Seeing the light return to her eyes. Celebrating all of those little milestones you pass when you’re newly sober: first set of holidays, first birthday, first wedding reception. (I’ll tell you – when you get through that first wedding reception without drinking you feel like Ben Hur or some shit. I swear to God.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m seeing other people posting those “Here’s Why You Should Stop Drinking For A Month”-type essays again. People who are waxing ecstatic about all the wonderful things that are coming about for them because they stopped drinking for a month, or two months. And while I’m totally happy for them, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t get quite the payoff they’re reaping for having not imbibed for 30/60/90 days. I didn’t magically regain focus and leap into all kinds of amazing projects because OMG THE CLARITY I HAVE NOW.
I have to remember that I had to stop not because it was cramping my style, but because it was killing me. And that because of the way I drank, it would take years to rewire everything to the point where I could even manage doing a load of laundry without needing to anesthetize myself. I’m still not there. The highway system of my mind is full of potholes and I sometimes feel like I spend most of my time putting traffic cones around them instead of, you know, FIXING them.
Basically, I don’t get to “take a break” from drinking. I have a restraining order on alcohol that has to be renewed pretty much every damn day. And 99% of the time, I accept that. But then there’s that occasional point where I look at Booze Vacation people virtually beaming while posting all these breakthroughs they’re having because they haven’t had a beer in two weeks, and I let it get to me. I think, “Great, and you get to pick back up whenever you want and suffer no consequences.” That’s the key word for me: consequences. I don’t actually envy you because you can have a couple of drinks and stop whenever you want to. I envy the idea of drinking without consequences. I never drank normally in my life. I always drank like there was a raging brush fire in my heart and I needed an endless bucket brigade. And I didn’t particularly want to stop drinking like that, honestly.
I have to remind myself not take this personally. I have to remind myself that if someone is doing something that’s improving their quality of life, the correct – and only – reaction is to be happy for them. Self-care takes on many forms, and it’s not my place to begrudge anyone their methodology, or be an underpaid tour guide in Miseryland. And we all have our a-ha moments around alcohol. For some, it’s “Wow! I have so much more money at the end of the week!” For me, it was “Wow! So this is what it’s like to wake up rather than come to.” It’s all worth celebrating.