Today marks 2300 days of sobriety. Not sure if there is any particular significance to that number, other than it’s 2300 days without picking up a drink. 2300 days of not succumbing to temptations or cravings. 2300 days of learning that life is so much better sober. 2300 days of not choosing numbness over feelings, even if those feelings are painful. 2300 days of not relying on alcohol to provide me with an escape from reality. 2300 days of no hangovers. 2300 days of being present. 2300 days, one day at a time. 2300 days stronger. Basically, 2300 days of living life on life’s terms.
Please don’t get me wrong –while I can honestly say that life is so much better sober, it does not mean that life is by any means easy or all rainbows and sunshine. Bad things happen in life, whether we are sober or inebriated. I used to do a great job of convincing myself that it was easier to deal with difficult times by escaping reality and anesthetizing myself with alcohol. If I simply ignored the things I didn’t want to deal with, perhaps they would go away. Funny, that never seemed to work. They would still be there in the morning, along with a miserable hangover and pounding headache.
Yes, life is tough. But what I wish I could convey to people who are still struggling with addiction and alcoholism, still smothered with hopelessness and despair, is that the difference when you get to the other side boils down to one simple thing: hope. Miraculously, recovery has given me the incredible peace of mind and comfort that somehow, someway, everything will turn out ok. As. Long. As. I. Don’t. Pick. Up. A. Drink. Or, put another way, as a friend in recovery often says, “Not even if your ass is on fire.”
I’ve been dealing with significant health issues for over 14 months now. To say that I’ve been frustrated is a huge understatement. For a person who is used to going full-speed (and then some) to not have the energy or stamina to make it half-way through the day has been brutal. Being in a constant state of pain and exhaustion has taken its toll, not only on me but on those closest to me I’m sure. As days of feeling crappy turned into weeks, and then into months and a year, I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t think about picking up a drink. I did. Several times. But I remembered: not even if my ass is on fire. 2300 days of sobriety has taught me that no matter what, a drink would only make things worse. Much worse.
I’m finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve written many pieces about the trying to find the silver lining in all situations, something that a very dear friend has taught me. While this whole ordeal has been pretty damn miserable, I have been able to take away a few key lessons. First and foremost, I have learned to put myself first. I do that with my sobriety because if I don’t have my sobriety I won’t have anything else. But physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand with that. I’ve learned to listen to my body and that when I’m exhausted, I need to rest. And that it’s OK to rest. Without feeling guilty. For many of us, especially moms, it’s been drilled into us by society that we have to go a million miles an hour, take care of everyone and everything, and be constantly on the move, doing something productive at all times. We often put ourselves last on our lists, if we even make it on there at all. Self-care is not a luxury. It is imperative.
I’ve also learned to prioritize and reassess what is truly important. It shouldn’t take being sick to do this, but it is what it is. When you have limited energy and capacity, you have to be realistic about what you actually can do and what really needs to be done. And what can take a backseat. It’s often probably more than you might think.
I also came to understand that it’s okay to wave the white flag and ask for help. Since my sobriety is very much at the top of that list of priorities and what is truly important, and sometimes getting to meetings wasn’t an option because I wasn’t feeling well enough to attend, I reached out to friends in recovery and they graciously brought a meeting to me. Or, if my tank was running on fumes, I chose a meeting over doing a load of laundry. Filling up my tank with fuel for staying sober was more important than loading up the washing machine dispenser with Tide. Clean living over clean laundry? Sorry, I’m getting carried away…
Self-care is crucial for everyone, not just those in recovery. Taking care of yourself, in every way that is important, will allow you to live life on life’s terms. On the good days and the bad days. On the days when it feels like your ass is on fire. Be kind to yourself. Put yourself first on your list. Aim for more days of rainbows and sunshine and you just might get there.
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”— Unknown