Today marks 1000 days of sobriety for me…
Yes, that’s 1000 days free of drugs and alcohol, but more – it’s 1000 days, where I chose to be present in my experience, to feel my emotions, to face my problems and my fears, and to be hopeful — even on those days when all I wanted to do was check out. Today is the thousandth day, where I chose to say, “This is a better life for me,” regardless of how hard it may be or how hard it has been. It’s 1000 days of saying, “I deserve this.” It’s 1000 days, of doing the work.
Most people would not have known the tremendous pain that alcohol caused in my life. It would have been impossible to see the bitter, ravenous cycle of failure and regret, always ending up in the same position, regardless of how many times I said, “I’m never doing that again.” Because I suffered silently, no one saw my deep struggles around addiction, the many times I tried to quit, and all of the rationalizations and arguments in my own head around my alcohol abuse.
Things I thought:
-“I’m not that bad, everyone drinks” (pointing to someone else who I’ve seen in worse condition)
– “I couldn’t be an alcoholic, I’m ‘successful’” (running though list of external achievements like law school graduation, passing the BAR, or a getting a Ph.D. fellowship in a top program, to prove I’m not actually sick)
– “Alcohol is bad for everyone, not just me. Why should I have to quit?” (rejecting the notion that I physically and emotionally reacted differently to alcohol than normal drinkers)
-“Being sober is too hard.” (This is true. Getting sober sucks, but there are so many resources and tools that make the transition not only possible, but fulfilling and absolutely life enhancing. I will also add that getting sober ‘on your own’ is nearly impossible- for a lot of reasons, ask me if you want to know my experience with this…)
-“No one else in my family has gotten sober. Why should I?” (not wanting to admit that I was the one with the problem, I looked to other heavy drinking and potential alcoholics in my family who never got sober to prove that I didn’t have to either. The idea of getting sober in a hereditary, generational, and hand-me-down alcoholic system also made me fear rejection)
– “I just need to work harder to moderate” (restricting myself, getting sober for days, months, weeks, even years at a time, all of it ‘worked’ until I relapsed and usually ended up in worse condition)
-“I couldn’t be an alcoholic. I don’t drink every day.” (the fierce resistance around this notion had everything to do with feeling that alcoholism itself was a failure. Alcoholism has nothing to do with drinking daily. It’s how we drink when we do it. I happened to be a binge drinker, this meant, getting drunk -sometimes to black out- about every three days with periods of nearly unbearable abstinence in between.)
-“It’s not alcohol making me sick, I feel this bad because of X” (I liked to blame bad relationships, bad jobs, where I lived, other trauma, losses, and mental defects. I sought therapists who let me talk about EVERYTHING but the booze. In the end, even my depression and anxiety were directly linked to my alcohol abuse)
-“If I feel any worse than I do today, I could just kill myself” (this might sound disturbing but it’s true…the potential for suicide was often a comforting thought for me)
I share this, to offer my experience and hope that it can offer some insight into the struggle around addiction and as a reminder that many us suffer too long and alone because we are afraid to ask for help. Also, my 20-year battle with alcohol had a lot to do with my inability to admit I had problem, specifically the diagnosis of “alcoholism.” The word itself was just a glaring reminder that something was WRONG with me: my greatest fear realized. I see now, how much time, thought, and energy was wasted in trying to prove I was okay (“no really I’m FINE!”), rather than simply getting help.
And today, I can say, I remember my days and my nights. I see the colors of the leaves, the sky, the way the light gradually changes every season. I genuinely SEE the people around me. My thoughts, the world, life is more vivid. I pay attention. I have only clear-eyed memories with my children and they have never seen me intoxicated or hungover. It has taken the past 1000 days to unpack it all, but I can honestly say, I’ve never felt more like myself, more grateful, present, and genuinely free.
These are two photos one taken the fall before I got sober on my honeymoon in Malaga, Spain and the other in Berlin last month.