It's coming up in about a month and a half, so I'm jumping the gun a little, but I'm so excited - I'm hitting four years sober in September.
It seems like hardly any time at all, and it seems like a lifetime. It's an entire high school or college career, and it's time that goes so fast and days which, sometimes, feel very long. In those four years I have dealt with massive challenges, and there was a time in my life when I thought I could not handle anything on that scale without a drink. I hit six months just as my biological father started home hospice, attended his memorial service a week after eight months, and in the ensuing years I have lost and found myself again and again.
I didn't know what it was to endure without alcohol. Alcoholism is progressive, and it took two years - ages fifteen to seventeen - to go from a glass of wine with dinner to splitting bottles of vodka on Saturday afternoons. Curing the same-day hangovers with more wine, cheap stuff, jazz on the radio, food on the grill, the muddy purple Baltimore sky, boundaries perpetually crossed. Alcohol was a problem and it was my solution to everything, especially to the deep pain of knowing it was a parent, a guardian, who was passing this problem on to me. Alcohol was love. Alcohol was forgetting.
I've heard, and said, that I'm powerless over alcohol, and it's true - but there's a snarky part of me which thinks, hell no, I was kicking alcohol's butt. I was chewing it up and neglecting to spit it out. I couldn't stop and for a long time I didn't want to, and gosh it was powerful, I felt untouchable, the first drink always tasting like the promise of the next, and the next. I could handle it, another thing I frequently said. I was better than the drink - how else could I drink so much and feel just fine?
But I knew. Of course I did. Because from so early on, drinking was the only thing which made me feel human. I could drown out the bad things, and the anger, and the utter loneliness, because there was the person I loved the most in the whole world, and he mixed a fantastic martini. It was easy to slip into it, a slow slide that felt so elegant, and I just did not have to think. It was a relief. And I knew.
I'm responsible for all the drinks I took after that, without a doubt. I'm the one who bought vodka and scotch and rye, and I'm the one who drank all that beer, and I created my own world of brewery tours and trips to vineyards and cocktail mixing and anything, anything to make it look better. To make it look fun. That was all me. I was the girl at the party with her own bottle of Bushmills which was nearly empty at the end of the night, the girl who always took her shirt off or kissed other girls or said terrible things. I'm the woman who cried when there wasn't alcohol in the house, when there was no numbness on offer. All of that is my responsibility. I bought the drink, I poured the drink, I drank the drink.
Again. Again. Again.
And I had no idea how damned wonderful life could be.
Sobriety is fun. It's hard work, and there are moments when those pains come back, the loneliness, the fear of being unloved, the power dynamics of me against the looming purple sky and looking up to the people I adore, and I think that I know what would make it easier. And then I remember that all things spring from my sobriety. The health of my marriage, and my relationships with my family, and my enjoyment with friends, the words on the page, the tears I finally let fall, the trauma I sit with and allow to heal. All things come from that. From being awake - being fully alive.
My sobriety is a commitment to my body and its functioning, and to my mind and its continuation, and to my raw and wounded heart. My sobriety is the way I laugh with my husband and remember, the next day, what he said, and can smile in that remembrance. My sobriety is taking my sister to see shows on Broadway, no longer counting the breaths between each drink, no longer itching with a need I feel I can't control. My sobriety is evenings spent with my best friend when I tell her every stupid feeling I have, when she shares her life with me, and it's healthy, and it makes me whole. My sobriety is vacation with my in-laws, and weekends in Baltimore or Philadelphia or New Orleans, and quiet days on the back deck when my husband and I share the best bits of our favorite books.
It is sobriety, now, which is love.
And I have so much love. I'm boiling over with it. It hurts, sometimes, to face love, especially when it used to come from the bottom of a pitcher of martinis. Especially when it was permissiveness; especially when it was abuse. It hurts to trust that I'm worthy of love when it doesn't come with such a terrible price, with hangovers, with a desperate acceptance that it will never, ever, be enough. With the knowledge that it is sickness. Sickness was what I knew, and it was easier, and I wasn't at risk in the way I am now - a self exposed, a self unbound, a clarity of focus, an admittance that yes, I love, and I love, and I love.
What I grew up with wasn't love.
What I deserve, is.
And I couldn't understand that until I got sober.
So yes, everything springs from that. I'm hitting four years, and there are some days which are so dreadfully long. I have a catalog of moments when I'm so scared and angry and broken, and I think I can't keep going, but I know, of course, that I have to. There are times when I look at my loved ones and I think that there's no way they could possibly love me the way I love them, and I taste absinthe in my mouth - and there are horrible hours when I feel like I'm such a monster, because how else could this have happened to me, and I remember the burn of citron vodka.
But most days are such incredible joys. Because I have my husband, my darling partner - and my sister, and my friends, and such beautiful family. Because I'm here. I am alive. And some of that impossible, all-powerful, agonizing and indescribable love -
I keep that for myself.