The first year was all about learning to survive without the crutch of alcohol.
This is what I wrote when I reached one year of sobriety:
How did I feel as a drinker?
Guilty, foggy, forgetful, overcompensating, anxious, resentful, ashamed, judgmental, trapped, hopeless, weak, dependent, depressed.
How do I feel one year after making the decision to stop the madness?
Confident, clear, empowered, calm, able, grateful, humble, optimistic, compassionate, strong.
My life isn’t perfect. I’m still a work in progress. I’m not happy every day, but I’ve learned to tolerate the down times without seeking artificial relief. There isn’t a solution for every problem, and that’s just life. I walk through it and breathe through it.
Life is good anyway.
I’ve had a range of experiences in 2012 that have challenged me.
No matter what, I didn’t drink.
I maintained two jobs, attended two weddings and an out-of-state funeral, held my beloved dog as she was euthanized, agonized over chemical use issues with my teen child, assisted two adult sons through times of unemployment and relocation. I really wanted the comfort of alcohol during those times.
No matter what, I didn’t drink.
With the time and energy I gained from not drinking, I improved my life. I lost weight, read books, completed a duathlon, made home improvements, kept up with bills, went on a road trip and began building a more loving marriage with a husband who inspired my sobriety with his own.
I met and was inspired by some amazing people in an online support group. My life was reflected back to me as I read about theirs. I learned that “one drink is too many and one hundred is not enough”. I learned that massive action is needed to successfully battle the alcoholic voice. I learned that it’s easier to stay sober than to get sober.
So I continued to not drink, no matter what.
Amazingly enough, I’ve begun year two of sobriety. I’m a different person in many ways. I’m also the same person, but better.
Life is better.
As I moved through my 2nd year, my focus began to shift outward. I wrote these posts to my online forum mates:
Alcohol remains the dominant “go-to” in times of stress because you haven’t had enough sober time to build up the muscles it takes to cope by facing things head-on. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t happen overnight, but you can eventually get there if you reject alcohol at every turn no matter what. It may feel overwhelming right now, but it will not always be this way. Trust me on this.
This leads to the other topic at hand: AA vs. doing it on your own.
I don’t believe that most people can beat the addiction to alcohol completely on their own. I only did it after YEARS of failing. My way was slow and painful. Something about this forum and the wonderful role models I found here finally clicked for me, and I am beyond grateful for that.
However, if I had to give advice to my younger self, I would tell her to get her ass to an AA meeting or another in-person organization and cut out years of bullshit.
An update on my AA experience: I’ve gone to 3 weekly meetings with the same women’s group. It’s soooo good to be in the same room with people who understand. Just like being with you folks, but we can talk face to face. I read along in the 12 Steps/12 Traditions book but haven’t started any step work on my own yet, nor have I approached someone to be a sponsor.
My plan is to continue going to this meeting and also explore other in-person group options: other AA meetings, Women for Sobriety, and a Zen Center 12 Step meeting.
What I realize is that I like associating with alcoholics!
Let me rephrase that: I like spending time with thoughtful people who have used their alcoholic experiences to grow as human beings.
Into my 3rd year, this:
My AV/She-Devil/Wolfie is in deep hibernation, but I KNOW that just one drink can awaken the f*cker. Not gonna risk it. Not after getting to a place in life where I finally LIKE myself. There is a lot of living to do and I guarantee, dear readers, that it is worth every moment of struggle to get to freedom.
Life is good.
I continue to grow in recovery by making connections in real life. After a year I’m still going to weekly AA meetings. The women in that group inspire me daily. I’ve found opportunities to help other people through a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that promotes many pathways to recovery. I’m enriched by my experience as a peer coach.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Life is full.
“I like your necklace. Are you a friend of Bill W.?”
Knowing that this is a reference to AA, and although I’ve never gone to meetings, instinctively I answered, “Yes”. I’m a former drinker and I’ve worked hard to stay that way, pretty much on my own.
Tim, offering that he is 19 years sober and still goes to meetings 5 days a week, seemed to want to talk.
I told him the story of the pendant. Last year, almost 8 months after I quit drinking, I took a road trip with my son. On that trip, the first I can recall without alcohol, I made a point of buying myself little rewards to celebrate my sobriety.
On our last day I found myself in a Native American shop looking at sterling silver jewelry. As I browsed, one piece with an unusual design caught my eye. I asked the shopkeeper if he knew the significance of the symbol, and he said he didn’t. I was drawn to it and it was reasonably priced, so I bought it.
Back at the hotel room with my iPad, I did a search for “triangle in circle symbol”. I learned that it’s widely used in AA. What? Wow. Seriously.
I’ve worn this pendant a lot. Tim was the first person who approached me and acknowledged its connection to AA and recovery. I felt proud to be wearing it and happy that it helped me connect to a kindred spirit.
Afterward, I wondered about my response to the “Bill W.” question. Am I a “friend of Bill” if I embrace a life of recovery but I don’t go to AA? Is it unauthentic to wear a symbol of a movement that I support but to which I don’t “belong”?
Here’s what I think: the sober community is diverse and no matter how we got here, we share a common bond. Code words and symbolism that help us to connect to one another can only be a good thing.