A friend who I’d met in an IRC chatroom for people who wanted to stop drinking asked if making it to 3 years was ‘all rainbows’.
As I began typing my response, my eyeballs rolled back in my skull and my fingers flew across the keyboard in a lightning bolt moment of inspiration. Through a lengthy Instagram messenger rant, I told him:
It ain’t rainbows, it’s still life.
But it’s a deeper quality of experience that almost makes you grateful for the time you spent down, because you can contrast your current experience to that former, bleaker one.
There is so much less shame, less compulsive need to make excuses for yourself (which is exhausting, and you never knew how much of it you were actually doing until you start truly holding yourself accountable), less lying to yourself, feeling like literal garbage physically and emotionally, less waking up in the middle of the night thinking you’re dying…
And on a less spiritually charged note, it is so nice to always know where to find your keys, wallet and phone.
You can actually trust the feelings you have in sobriety. That is, once you get used them, which definitely takes time and quite a bit of adjustment. I still have moments where I’ll experience a feeling, instantly panic, be tempted to Google it (don’t do this), but instead take a deep breath and realize that it’s just something basic and human like excitement or hunger.
Those feelings, which I’d numbed or drowned or ignored, are the unfailing, authentic connection to what’s real. That in itself is new and a little scary after years of skipping along the surface in the cycle of drinking, hangovers, fuck-its and more drinking. When you break that cycle, you’re no longer deliberately closing your eyes and plugging your ears and hollering LA LA LA so you can keep living blind to your own bullshit.
Which is great, but it also shines a bright spotlight on the stuff that really haunts you, that drove you to hide in the first place. The stuff that had you scared and hiding in your closet with your stuffed animals as a little kid, or that led you to play the role of the sloppy business traveler sobbing to a disinterested bartender in the Minneapolis airport after you got roofied and almost organ trafficked.
Suddenly you understand that those two are the same people, they have the same deep fears, and now it’s your job to heal them both.
And what a relief it is to pick up the torch and run with the task of healing yourself and your past selves in the best interest of your future self. You’re finally giving her a shot. Not literally.
I’m so thankful for these 3 years, and the decade of drinking that preceded them. Mostly I’m grateful for this newfound ability to create and nurture authentic connections with myself, my days and other people on this long, goofy road.
If you’re thinking about quitting drinking or quitting something else, I have lots of recommendations.