365 days ago, I took my last drink. In a little over an hour from now, I will have been like this for a year.
If you are considering quitting drinking, any day is good. But October is as good as any other time. The holidays, milestones and regular days are placed for you to have a challenging and meaningful first four months.
After a few weeks or sobriety, by Halloween you’ll be dying to be covered in costume. Then Thanksgiving. Remember all the wine that you used to have at Thanksgiving? Everyone else does too. Christmas coziness and cheer help soothe the awkward former drinker. Snow. If you can survive New Year’s, you’ll feel like a million dollars. Super Bowl, Easter, Memorial Day, Summer. For this entire year, everything that happened was for the first time. Vacation. Labor Day, Back to School. All for the first time sober.
The last occasion in my amazing year was to celebrate another special anniversary. I spent it with someone that never gave me an ultimatum (that lasted more than a few hours, lol). Watched me come and go. Let me buy tons of beer, wine and liquor and keep it around…to consume. She was my part time partner in indulgence. And surprisingly, has become my partner in not indulging and to still try to have fun. I wrote in our Wedding Anniversary card:
Thank you for staying with me all these years. This year is extra special. I get to fall in love with you all over again.
It’s true that when you choose a life of sobriety you may have to say goodbye to old friends. So bye old friend. Thanks for sticking with me and trying to help me feel better, although you fought a hopeless battle.
(I found this bottle hiding behind my bedside lamp. I last drank from it on Oct 1, 2012, Day 1 of my new life).
After I successfully made it through the Holiday Season last year, I said to myself, “what’s next?” Do I continue counting days and months? Is that all there is left? Then I realized the Super Bowl was not far away.
We decided to stay home that day. I don’t remember why. It wasn’t because of me. I guess we were ready for a low key weekend. I was happy enough to make the small party. I bought some food to grill, some veggies and dip, soda, seltzer, iced tea, coke and smokes. But my favorite item of the day was the six pack.
The supermarket six pack of cupcakes with two sets of three, colored like colors of the team’s uniforms. Some had plastic championship rings and others cupcakes had football shaped rings.
I watched the game on my big screen t.v., alert and mostly happy. The kids stayed with me a little, left and came back. The wife sat for a while. Sometimes I sat there by myself. That’s when I reflected on my Sober Bowl. I was going to make it through the Super Bowl ok. Nothing missed, except I realized that I wasn’t moving. I wasn’t swaying. The room was still. Nothing moved. In the days when I drank, days just like today, everything was in constant motion and I was buzzed riding the waves in the ocean of my buzzed reality.
The game ended. We came upstairs. As we cleaned the plates (of course I cleaned plates! I wasn’t passed out you know!), I washed a few of the cheap super bowl rings. I saved them to remember my first Sober Bowl. That’s what winners do.
He did not.
That’s right. I have not. I can’t believe it. Most days are bearable and I live my life. Some moments are hard. But they always pass.
It almost seems like it was too easy. But it wasn’t. I tried hundreds of times to go for a week without and I could not do it. The most I ever lasted was four days and never a sober weekend in 23 years. Then, suddenly, I stopped again. October 1, 2012. That time it worked. I found some blogs on my phone during my long commutes and they helped me make choices. Almost nine months later, I have compiled a list of triggers and excuses in my brain but at the end of the day, I’m starting to think that it always boiled down to choices that I made (or did not make).
What happened after I stopped? I was anxious, sad, twitchy, bitchy, itchy, serious, remorseful of what I missed from the blurry past. I gradually became happy, confident, pensive, driven, outspoken and aware of my new purpose…to make up for lost time with my family. To make up for lost time with myself. For those of you that saw me read or comment on your blogs, thank you for what you do. Most of my free time is during my commute to work but it absolutely sucks to post on my or anyone else’s blog with a cell phone. So I made the choice to lay low and just read.
For any of you on your first day, week, month, I’ll try to post more so you can see that quitting is worth it. We don’t need to drink and forever is not that scary of a concept once you see that all aspects of your life become better. I’m not saying life is easy. It is not. But even when you have to deal with the worst shit imaginable, it’s still better to face the worst shit imaginable sober.
I choose to click “publish.”
Not mine. Not yet, thank God.
A few nights ago I took my wife to a funeral for someone she worked with for many years. I knew of him during those years but never spent much time with him. We arrived on the late side. Many people came and left before we did and you could tell by speaking with people and by reading the names and addresses in the condolences book that people traveled from hundreds and even thousands of miles away to be a part of this one day event.
The condolences were overwhelming…. Dear father, husband, friend, mentor, partner, boss, brother, leader, teacher, workaholic, judge, student, artist, lover, philosopher, daredevil, athlete, builder….we miss you. You had energy that was neverending. Through your work and play, you touched our lives forever. We can’t believe you’re gone. We were certain the entire world would pass away before you did. You never sat still. Always pushing yourself, always pushing others to be the best they can be. You were always honest with people and although at times you yelled and screamed, you were always fair and gave everyone that perfectly placed kick in the ass that was needed. Every single kick and hug was perfectly placed and perfectly timed.
And for those reasons they all came.
So here I am. I achieved the American dream with hard work and a little luck. But I am like Rip Van Winkle, awakened from my long slumber where everything is new again. Even funerals. What will people say about me? I always thought I was all those things I wrote above but I can’t be so sure anymore. Because everything I look at is new again and for these past 139 days, anything before October 1, 2012 can only be bittersweet memories. I’m making up for lost time and for that I can never go back. There’s my daily reminder.
Finally got a break from working ten straight days. While rushing to get the early train home the pangs start to hit. Flashbacks; beer at the bar before the train, beer on the train, get home, see family, open a wine, take some shots……blurry eating with the family. Wake up on the couch at 2am. Yey friday night.
Not tonight. I’m cool. I walk in the door and greet my loved ones while the flashbacks keep playing in my head. I’m cool but I’m still thinking about those stupid wasted friday nights. Besides I still have a vice or two to keep me busy but nothing’s wasted anymore.
As I successfully meld among my family….a few more pangs.
Will I ever visit a winery again? No more day trips? Would I just go there and watch people sample? Will my family be shortchanged if I dont go? I never visited Italy or Spain. I always planned to go there. I heard they keep the best wine there. Like the Germans keep the best beer there and dont export. No more champagne in our wedding glasses on our anniversary?Im sorry does that cake have rum in it?I still have a can of the original four loko with alcohol, caffeine and a million other types of meine before it was made illegal to sell. I was saving it and now I’ll never finish it?
So how do I maintain this lifestyle and not feel sad about what I’m doing without? Isn’t the answer to be like children? They have the natural wonderment of seeing the world as always new.
I’m thinking about this as we sit around the hibachi table. The chef flips the shrimp in the air, lights the onion volcano on fire, sprays water in the kids mouths (I pass on the saki spray in my mouth). Another family’s kids sitting accross from me smile and whisper jokes in each other’s ears and point at me. I look to my right at my two kids. They are the same; living the natural high and when life isn’t so great they deal with it. They don’t ask me for beer or wine in order to prentend to be grown up. They’re convinced at this age that they don’t need it.
I’ll maintain by staying grounded, staying serious but also will not forget a good coping mechanism is to act like a little kid.
“Got it dumb ass?”