Have you ever gone 15 years without getting drunk or high? Me neither. Well, until today ... Today is the first time in my entire life I can say that. Because I got drunk for the first time in junior high. I was 13 years old. I got drunk at school, in the bathroom between classes, and I loved it. And then I went on to drink alcohol for the next two decades. Not every day. But a lot. Usually none for several days or even a week, and then a lot all at once. But today, today I have not had a drink in 15 years.
To say that is a miracle is an understatement.
I can still remember the feeling of being drunk and what I loved about it. For me, it was an unbelievable feeling of being free. Free of my negative thoughts, free of all the overthinking and second-guessing. So free, at times, I was lucky I didn't ever actually believe I could take flight -- because I might have tried. On the upside of a really good drunk, there was no worry, no consequences. I felt light, so so light, something I simply don't walk around feeling on a daily basis.
Simply put, light felt better than heavy. And that's why I chased that feeling for so long.
But, of course, all that lightness and freedom was temporary. It was only a feeling. A feeling provided courtesy of alcohol. And, come morning, it had fallen away and was replaced by an even heavier weight of negativity, doubt, fear, and shame. And the longer I drank, the less I felt the lightness and the more I lugged around the heaviness.
So a big part of getting sober for me -- one of the hardest parts -- was facing the fact that that heaviness (that negativity, that doubt, that fear, and yes, even that shame) was part of my makeup. It was part of who I really was and am, and I had to learn to love, or at least appreciate, that part of me. I was able to do it with others, with the people I love. In fact, complex people are my favorite kind of people. So it certainly made sense that I could do it for myself.
More from The Stir: 12 Scientific Facts About Alcoholism Every Woman Should Know
I stopped drinking. I went to a 12-step program. I got a sponsor, and I worked the steps. For a long time, when it was difficult, I stopped going to events that centered around drinking. I stopped sitting with certain people at certain parties. I started saying out loud, "I don't drink," often adding "anymore" (for cool factor, haha). I put one day at a time together and they turned into weeks and then months. I thought being sober would kill me. And I still didn't drink.
Has my life become perfect without alcohol? God no. Just ask my husband and my kids how fun it is to live with me on the days I have that "not so light" feeling. In fact, once I came to terms with the reality of my own internal heaviness and light, I realized life was dealing up equal portions of both, and never in sync with the highs and lows of my current mental state. Oh, life on life's terms. That's what they mean by that.
But with tons of support -- from sober friends, from counselors, and from all the friends and family in my life who love me, because of or in spite of my "complexities" -- I keep doing it. I've been doing this for 15 years, and today does make me feel like anything is possible.
If you think you have a problem with alcohol, there is hope and there is help. If you are struggling, you can find an AA meeting near you or talk to your doctor or counselor.
Image via iStock.com/Natalia Moroz