I had a big talk with Roomie the other night about my sobriety (real surprise there, I know) I give her an enormous shout-out for always having ears for this subject, anyway, it was a goodie. I tried (and failed) to explain to her the feeling I have after another day of not drinking. This is the best I can do to describe it.
I feel like I have a huge secret. I feel like I won the goddamn lottery. Every night before I fall asleep I do some version of Yoga Nidra, and when it comes time to ruminate on whatever I’m grateful for before I set my sankalpa, I immediately think of only one thing; I am so fucking lucky that I’m sober. I can’t explain it properly. I won’t tell you that every second of everyday is filled with misty eyed wonder, that’s just not how it is. But I will tell you that it’s worth it anyway. My days still include an alarming number of miserable and sad minutes. There are hours filled with general disdain for everyone and everything. Yet hiding in every day are moments where I am stupefied at how quickly things are falling into place for me.
I remember waking up the morning after I had my last drink and wanting an immediate fix. I wanted to erase the damage I had inflicted on myself and the man I love (but couldn’t remember what exactly I did or said). I wanted to erase the crippling shame of not knowing what happened. I wanted to erase the tears and the snot pouring out of my face and teleport anywhere else, to a time where I wasn’t a huge fuck-up drunk failure. I wanted to erase myself. I didn’t want to do the work, I just wanted it to happen. I quickly came to the reality of it all; that changing my life meant changing this one thing. This thing would change everything else. It seemed simple and impossible all at once, but I knew it was the only way. So I said to Roomie ‘this is it’ and that I might need help and that I might stumble and cry and suck at it, but I was going to do it anyway. This thing held a few big truths and a million little truths in it and I hated myself for having to accept all of them simultaneously.
The one thing was obviously that I couldn’t fucking drink anymore. I had to quit. Not moderate or take it easy. Fucking quit. Forever. Roomie sat with me and chain-smoked and told me she loved me no matter how many awful things I had done and didn’t remember doing, but that if I continued down the path I was on I would lose everything and everyone around me and I would regret it for the rest of my pickled life. I hated that day. I hated every wide awake hungover minute. I hated the talking to NB gave me in bed later that afternoon. I hated the spotlight that followed me around my house. I hated that I couldn’t take any of it back and that I would carry all of it with me for the rest of my life.
I look back on the whole day with tenderness, strangely enough. I want to give the ugly, hungover, shame-filled Lana a fucking hug. I want to tell her how funny life is going to get and how much it is going to hurt. I want to explain that things won’t really make anymore sense than they did before but they will also make the most sense. I want to tell her that in a few short months her drinking life will feel like a book she’s read about somebody else.
I kept hearing about how once you make the choice to quit boozing/drugging/whatever-ing that your life opens up; things happen that you can’t even fathom while actively addicted. It all sounds like bullshit, I know. I rolled my eyes at everything I read about sobriety. It was ridiculous to think that I, someone who will be forever fucked up, could possibly stoop to a level where meditation and saying no were in my list of daily to-do’s. How trite! How mundane! How yucky! I know, I know. What I didn’t (and you probably don’t) know was that the whole ‘journey being a gift’ spiel everybody parrots starts to ring true.
My first sobers days arrived and I quickly realized that I knew absolute dick about myself. I knew dick about recovering from addiction, even a secret/insidious/do-I-really-have-a-problem one. I knew dick about honesty or surrender or building a healthy environment. I knew dick about life. More specifically I knew dick about my life. And that’s the only truth I’ve still got some days; I won’t bullshit you. I still wake up certain mornings and feel like I’ve been run over by a freight train. I still wake up exhausted and frustrated and weepy for no reason. I still wake up lost and confused and questioning. It’s different now, though, because I feel all those things without a safety blanket (and without a hangover). That’s the real thing all the sober people are constantly talking about, guys, you have to live your life 150% present. Which means you have to be heartbroken and not drink it away. You have to talk about (and have) sex without booze to remove your inhibitions. You have to figure out how to fall asleep without a nightcap. You have to plan dates and get-togethers and weekends away without a stocked bar. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I feel you. But maybe I should have written that differently… instead of ‘you have to’ do those things it really should say you get to do those things. You get to live out your life without blinders and bubblewrap on.
You Get To Live Every Fucking Second.
I know that also sounds terrible to you, right? It isn’t. I promise. It’s raw and beautiful and definitely intimidating. So I guess it is terrible while also not being terrible. Confusing, I know. I will say this; it’s mostly a fucking privilege and a gift and a god damned miracle. Especially for me, for us, the ones who have craters in our memories from years of drinking ourselves into oblivion. You have conversations late at night that hold the truest, quietest epiphanies and you wake up the following day remembering all of them and they are still real and you aren’t cringing remembering how your voice sounded! The entire experience of a sober life feels like one giant holy shit moment. The kind of moment we talk about with only our closest friends, with our lovers, with our mentors, with our shrinks. And yes, sometimes those moments are fucked up and ugly. But sometimes they are perfect and spectacular. You get to be present for every single second of every single one of them.
Sobriety is the key that opened (and continues to open) every lock that exists inside of me, and I can’t fucking explain how wonderful that is. Not fully the way that I feel it, not ever. I will keep trying to though, because it is impossible to keep all this beauty to myself. Quitting the sauce was the most magical, preposterous, petrifying thing I have ever done. It continues to be all of those things. I thought this feeling would go away after a few weeks, but it hasn’t. Not yet, and hopefully not ever. I’ve put over four months of sober time together and I am fucking flabbergasted at how awesome I feel when I realize that I never have to do all of that again. Wait, sorry, I literally get to Never Drink Again. This is huge, guys, it’s fucking enormous. Without a doubt I can say that sobriety is the biggest, most incredible gift that I’ve ever given myself and it’s also undoubtedly the most important thing I’ll ever have.