I’m coming up on my first-year anniversary. One year without a drink or a drug. It means a lot to me this time. See, I’m a repeat offender. And I’ve been given a second chance. I don’t want to mess it up this time. There are lots of things I didn’t take seriously the first time around. Maybe I was too young to understand or to appreciate my sobriety. I know I was also too hard on myself. Today I can fully understand the saying that my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk. Here are some of the things I have learned this time around.
Five things I’ve learned after a year without alcohol
1. I need to share my experiences.
I always felt a lot of shame because of my drinking. I used to lie in bed in the morning and take stock, going over all the conversations I could remember from the drunken night before hoping I hadn’t offended anyone or made a complete ass out of myself. Most people who know me, know me drunk.
But there is sometimes a feeling of shame that comes with not drinking. What does admitting I have a problem with alcohol make me? An alcoholic? Weak-minded? My feelings tend to come in too fast and cluster and then spiral downwards. They’re big and scary. Like this one afternoon, a particularly bad one. I was in bed with the covers over my head, full of dread. I pulled out my phone and scrolled through Facebook and I stumbled on this article by Kelly Fitzgerald that Aquarius had posted. Here: http://themindunleashed.org/2014/06/7-things-learned-1-year-without-alcohol.html
I read this and it made me feel so good. It was as if I had written it myself. So I’m not alone, am I? And I thought if I could write an article and help one person not to drink for one day, it would be worth sharing my story. It’s not always easy for me to talk about my recovery but I need to give it away to keep it. The bottom line is: it doesn’t matter what I am, I don’t drink today and it feels…great? Not always, but it’s ok.
2. Alcohol will physically kill me.
I got clean and sober the first time when I was 22 and stayed clean and sober for 7 years. But then I started drinking again and this went on for years. And all the health horrors started coming true. Bloated legs, weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia. I started having little accidents too–I was always bruised up and didn’t know where they came from. I was falling a lot. I had to have night lights all over the house in case I got up in the night. I fell in the river one night after a fest and almost drowned. I used to just sleep the alcohol off then I was awake in the middle of the night. Like my body wanted me to enjoy the hangover.
Now I sleep really well. My blood pressure is back to normal and I lost 20 lbs without any dieting. Of course, the accidents have stopped.
3. I need a good support system.
My whole environment changed after I stopped drinking. I had to move away from home. It was my decision to go and it was the best thing I did. I am so lucky to have really good, supportive friends. Want to find out who your real friends are? Just stop drinking.
There are lots of aspects about me that I found really hard to accept the first time around and I feel that this is one of the things that sent me back out there. I can be so hard on myself. Truth of the matter, I am not really all that bad, I am just me and that’s the way it is.
We are lucky to have all sorts of support out there. There’s plenty of treatment for those who want it. None of us have to do this alone.
4. I don’t need to live in constant fear anymore.
I realize now that so many fears were ruling my life. I was afraid of doing something stupid when I was drinking and alienating someone I loved. That was a very real fear. It was a given to act irrationally and say things I didn’t mean. I’m strong too and I can fight. I was always afraid that I would hurt someone and myself. I was afraid when the bottle was half empty that I would run out. I was terrified of the dark. I was prone to night panics.
Today, most of the fears are gone. I still need to work on them. My last two years of drinking drained a lot of my confidence but it’s coming back now, little by little. I’m not terrified of my emotions. They won’t kill me but drowning them with alcohol will.
5. My worst day sober is better than my best day drinking.
Having a drink or two or five:
Never helped me cope with stress on the job
Never helped me cope with stress at home
Never helped me accept the things about myself I can’t stand
Never made me a better person
Never made me write better
Never helped me function at a party
Never eased the pressure of a stressful situation
Never strengthened my friendships
Never helped me forget my problems
Never helped me solve them either
Never made me feel good about myself
Never ever ever did anything for me except drain my wallet and make me sick and tired.