Today, by some miracle, I’ve been sober for two years. This might come as a huge surprise to anyone who knew me in my ‘wonder years’, but, I promise you, I am the most shocked person in the room by far.
I went to my first AA meeting on the night of May 10th, right before I was due to start my new job in the city I’d just moved to. I remember I was lying in bed, detoxing, in mental and physical agony. I’d been binge drinking for about six or seven days straight – the days and nights were a blur, hazy blocks of time separated only by alcohol-induced sleeps followed by tormented, unwilling trips to the liquor store. Though I’d been daily drinking for about eight years before that, and was no stranger to out-of-control ‘benders’, this one had really stretched and rattled me. From my sickbed, I thought (and secretly wished) that I’d die before I’d rise – the wooden floor on all sides seemed to me like turbulent, shipless ocean.
I have very few memories from that chunk of time that was my last hurrah, but I do remember the liquor store counters. Swaying under lights too bright, embarrassed and concerned that the clerk might recognise me (never mind smell my breath or clock my glassy eyes) or know that my pockets were filled with pinched snack nuts and gum, the same question playing on a loop in my head: “Why am I here again?”. I was a stranger to the new city streets I now know so well, yet even then my feet knew exactly where to take me, knew just how to break me. Avoiding liquorless-ness at all costs was the one thing that I could count on myself for.
They say you should remember your last drink, but I was a messy, blackout, bottle-slugging drunk, so ‘drinks’ were just formalities – things I had in public when trying to convince you that I could drink like a gentlewoman. What I (constantly) did in my own time involved a steady flow of liquor where ‘drinks’ were kind of undefinable. So I don’t remember my last drink. But, as long as I live, I’ll never forget those liquor counters.
Today, two years on from that dark day, I’m cleaning out my old clothing for donation, because I have some major life changes on the horizon (that I will gracefully walk through) and I need to lighten my load. After that, I’m going to go home and eat lunch. I’m going to spend the afternoon practising music, because I’ve a gig next week – my first, playing a bunch of the songs that I’ve written over the last year. I’ll be seeing my therapist before dinner, then going to a newcomers AA meeting this evening in my local Alano club, because when I was a newcomer, it was the milestones of others that kept me coming around. There’s a full moon tonight, so when I get home I’ll have a little ceremony and spend some time in meditation, basking in the moon’s illuminating energy.
Today, in the space of twenty-four hours, I’m accomplishing more in miniature ways than I did in a whole bloody year of carousing. I’m expressing myself creatively, taking care of my mind and body, and connecting with a community so as not to think solely of myself. This isn’t Fakebook – I’m not trying to convince you that I have this desirable life. Things are still messy, and for every good, there’s plenty of bad. But my life today is beautiful. The little moments that make up a day these days are worlds apart from the chunks of misspent, muddled time that constituted life two years ago and beyond. Best of all, I’m present for them.
It’s strange receiving congratulations for this achievement because it feels to me like so many factors have worked in my favour that I can’t take credit for. Lying in that bed two years ago, woeful as bejeesus and sincerely feeling like I was going to drown in my own sorrow, J sailed to my rescue, a light in the darkness. All he did was tell me that there was an AA meeting across the street at 10 PM and that I should consider going. I did. I cried through the whole thing, but that community of people made me feel like I’d come home.
This feels like a group effort, truly. All the people who have helped me out and steered me in the right direction along the way – this is their day too. It’s more of a group celebration than anything else. I can only hope to help people in the same way that I’ve been helped these last two years.
So, here’s to life, to love, to second chances, and to each and every wonderful human who’s crossed my path. Many more to come!