On December 19, 2016 (for what felt like the millionth time) I decided I was done with alcohol. Nada más.
It had wreaked havoc on my life in more ways than I could count. My health was deteriorating, my weight was skyrocketing, I was depressed, riddled with anxiety, and zombie-crawling through life. That I functioned at all was a small miracle.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered I was pregnant which upped the stakes significantly. It was a difficult pregnancy from the very beginning, and for the next nine months, I would struggle to do anything without vomiting. As it turns out, hyperemesis gravidarum coupled with an intense regimen of hormone injections to save a high-risk pregnancy is a fantastic deterrent to drinking.
It felt like cheating a little.
I was able to get over the initial hump of those first few days and weeks without alcohol or cigarettes (my other vice) pretty easily. I was too sick to consume either and, frankly, would not have been capable of doing it even if I felt fine. I had no issue harming myself, but the baby was a whole other story.
Eventually, I stopped writing on my blog because what was there to write about?
I felt like a fraud. It was a sobriety blog, sure, but of course, I was sober. I was pregnant. My brain and body were on loan to the growing child in my belly. I didn’t have much to say about sobriety at the time that didn’t feel forced.
Then she was born, and I didn’t drink because I was breastfeeding.
Besides, I wasn’t sleeping more than an average of four or five hours per day (not even consecutively). My husband was away for 12-15 hours a day working. I was all my daughter had most days and she was a handful. She had gastrointestinal issues and was screaming hysterically 80% of the time she was awake.
Getting drunk was never an option. I was in survival mode and couldn’t have made it to the liquor store if I’d wanted to.
But things got better. My daughter started sleeping. So did I.
Eventually, I stopped breastfeeding and all those reasons that insulated me so tightly against a relapse started to disappear. My husband got transferred to a closer work location and was home more often. It was possible to go out again and have a life separate from work and caring for my daughter. It was possible to drink again.
But I didn’t.
Staying Sober Anyway
My daughter just celebrated her first birthday in September and I’m still here, still sober. I tried to drink alcohol once when my mom was visiting, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. That little experiment failed miserably.
I didn’t want to be drunk; I just wanted to sleep (as most new moms do). After a glass or two, I ended up curling up on the couch to watch old movies on the local TV channel until I fell asleep.
Am I “cured”? Do I still get to say, “I am a sober person” and if so what does that mean?
My sobriety is valuable to me. I remember that I once was a person who came home from work every day and chain-smoked 1-2 packs of cigarettes and drank until she passed out. I’m not so naïve as to believe I couldn’t become her again. However, I have too much to lose now.
Every time an urge pops back up to surprise, I think of my child. I think of what her reaction might be, how her little one-year-old mind would process drunk mommy. It breaks my heart and shuts down any bright ideas I might have of slipping up again.
And yet, I still shy away from the subject of sobriety in my real life.
Despite how far I’ve come, I still find myself squirming when I tell people in my real life that I’m sober or that I don’t drink. I quit my job back in June to focus on my writing and have spent a considerable amount of time revitalizing my old blog.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but when I tell people the name of my blog and what it’s about, I shrink a little. I become inarticulate and I notice my brain scrambling for a way to downplay it or change the topic instead of standing boldly in my work and sobriety. All of my insecurities come flooding out.
“Hi yes, I used to drink a lot. I had a problem with it but now I don’t drink anymore, and I spend my time writing about it with the hope to help out others who don’t want to drink anymore as well.”
Why is that so hard for me to say?
There’s still a huge stigma surrounding sobriety, substance abuse, and recovery. I know that I’ve internalized a lot of it and it holds me back both personally and professionally. I do not need to tattoo my sobriety on my forehead, but neither do I need to shy away from it.
If I’m feeling ashamed to talk about it outside of my blog, what benefit am I even providing? Who does that help?
My sobriety is important and a major character in my life’s story.
In my moments of weakness when something is wrong or I’m having a hard time with my anxiety or other mental health issues, I find myself doubling down on my sobriety.
It comforts me.
“The old me would drink right now, but I’m not going to handle it that way.” In those private moments, sobriety is a salve. Whatever is wrong at that moment could be infinitely worse because at least now, I’m not shit-faced trying to handle it.
It’s the quieter, more public moments when I get uneasy about saying the “s-word” out loud, to not always link sobriety to a personal crisis, but something that simply is part of who I am.
When I tell people about my work, I need to stand as proudly in the driving force behind it (my sobriety and personal journey) as I do the other aspects (my technologically challenged brain created a whole ass website and now that’s what I do full time).
One of the biggest things any of us can do for each other is to embrace sobriety more openly and not be afraid to talk about it. Oh, you don’t drink? No, I don’t and it’s actually really great, and here’s why.
I don’t mind if other people drink, but I want to also help create an environment where the vibe doesn’t suddenly get weird if I tell someone that I don’t. I want that for myself and I want it for everyone else who is sober, no matter what their reasons for sobriety. I want that for you.