Sobriety

The Pain, the Pleasure, and the Pessimistic People

photo via AdEdge

I have been sober for 35 days. Not much, right? But anyone who has been or is addicted to something knows that 35 days without something that you depend on can feel like a lifetime.

If you have never been cursed with an addiction, just think of going 35 days without something you’re used to having almost every day. Maybe it’s coffee, or cookies, or books, or TV, or music, or even your best friend. Alcohol was my best friend for more than a decade. A toxic, terribly shitty best friend. But my best friend, nonetheless.

I’ve been drinking since I was about 13-years-old (minus the 27 months of my life when I was pregnant) and I would say I’ve been an alcoholic since I was 14. Then 35 days ago, I woke up one morning after having drunk an entire 1.5 L bottle of wine to myself in a fairly short period of time the night before, and my first thought was, “I’m going to die.” My second thought was, “Maybe that isn’t the worst thing to happen.” And I laid there for about five minutes thinking of how I’d like to die. I settled with drowning, most likely because I was severely dehydrated and the idea of being at the bottom of a deep, dark, cold lake was extremely appealing.

But then that little, inner, rational voice inside my head (that had been very shy up until that point) cleared her throat and said, “Enough is enough.” And I haven’t had a drink since. I haven’t even wanted to drink. I know that either I stay sober or I die. Maybe I wouldn’t die right away, maybe it would take a few more years, but it would happen eventually.

Before I decided to sober up, my body was starting to crumble. I could feel it. My liver hurt, my hands would go numb and tingly out of nowhere, my skull felt like someone was constantly slicing it open with a scalpel, and my face was turning into this old, ugly, blotchy thing. I felt horrible and I looked horrible and everyone knew it.

Near the end, I wasn’t drinking every day. I did have little periods where I was drinking every day, but it got to the point where I’d drink so much and I would be so hungover the next day that I just couldn’t drink two days in a row. And I never drank in front of my kids (with the exception of a drink or two at special events). I always waited until after they had gone to bed. So it was easy for me and other people to say, “You’re not an alcoholic because you don’t drink all day, every day.” Okay, so maybe I wasn’t THAT type of an alcoholic. But I was still an alcoholic and deep down I always knew it. I wasn’t the type to just drink one drink and then say no more for me, thanks. I would drink until the alcohol was gone or until I fell asleep or, once, until I got kicked out of a karaoke bar (probably the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to me).

So anyways, I made the decision to quit drinking for the rest of my life. I started a Pinterest board dedicated to sobriety, and I looked up all kinds of tips and motivational quotes. One thing that I kept seeing was that you need to tell the people closest to you that you’ve decided to quit so that they can support you.

Yeah, I didn’t get much support at first, whatsoever.

Upon telling the ones I loved about my decision, I was genuinely surprised by their lack of support. I heard things like, “Well, I stopped drinking once and it didn’t make me feel any better so I don’t see the point” and, “But what about when you go on vacation? You have to drink on vacation.” I was continuously sent memes about drinking and wine and vodka and basically all of those memes that help people bond and laugh over their alcoholism.

I was amazed that the people closest to me were so blind to my addiction when it was so obviously (and obnoxiously) stumbling around in front of their faces.

And what else surprised me (which in hindsight I guess it shouldn’t have) was that people tried to shame me for wanting to admit that I’m an alcoholic. They made me think that it was something that should be kept a secret. “Just tell them that you’re doing a cleanse,” or “just say you don’t like that kind of drink that they offer you.” I was just blown away by how much more negatively people were handling my sobriety than they were my alcoholism.

There were only two people I told that responded positively, my grandmother and my husband. My grandmother’s response was, “Oh, that’s so good. Alcohol is the worst and it’s so expensive.” And my husband didn’t actually believe I was serious at first because I would say I’m quitting drinking almost every day up until that point, but a week in, he finally realized that I was dead-serious about it and he said, “I really like you this way.” Of course, he really liked me the other way too because that’s the only way he had ever known me and he chose to marry me that way. And honestly, I was a little worried that he wouldn’t love me sober because I wouldn’t be as much fun. But he does and I’ll forever be grateful for his support.

But as disappointed as I was with everyone else’s reactions, I’ve started to understand them.

I have always been in love with Gerard Butler. But then like 6 months ago, I learned that he doesn’t drink and I thought, “Wow, this guy is boring,” and I immediately found him less attractive. Why did I think that? Because I was an alcoholic and I was jealous of people that had the strength to not give in to something so tempting. (Also, I have learned in my sobriety that the reason Gerard Butler doesn’t drink is because he used to be the type to drink until he hit the floor so he gave it up and now I think he’s even more beautiful than ever.)

So I think that the reason people respond the way that they do is for one of two reasons. Either they know that they have a problem and they know that they don’t have the strength or motivation or whatever it takes to quit. Or, I think that they were worried I’d judge them for doing something they loved just because I didn’t want to do it anymore. But I really don’t care if other people drink (unless I think they’re about to die like I was). I know that a lot of people are able to have a drink or two and then say “no thanks” and carry on without making an ass of themselves. That person was not me. That person IS not me. But I am not other people. It’s my personal choice and I’m not asking you to be sober too. I’m not even asking you to not drink around me. I just want you to know because a friggin' Pinterest post told me to and I thought it would help me!

But besides the lack of support, sobriety has been amazing. I sleep like a baby. Every. Single. Night. I don’t have a beer belly anymore. I never feel sick. Sex is better. Food has flavor again. I don’t feel like I’m dying anymore. And I’m more creative! I started writing a book and it’s actually really good. I also made the decision to chop my hair off after one week of sobriety. It was kind of felt like a self-initiation into sober-life. It felt like I was chopping off every bad decision I had ever made as a drunk. And I friggin' love it.

So I share this with you all to remind you to encourage loved ones when they make decisions like these. Whether they want to give up alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, caffeine, meat, or best friends, it’s their choice and if they are telling you, it’s because they love you and trust you and they want you to support them. And if you’re someone who is trying to give something up, you can do this. There’s a huge community of us and we all support you.