Now I (Am Starting to) Understand

One year.  365 days. 8670 hours. 525,600 minutes.  Without a single drop of alcohol.  Not one drink.  Not even a dose of NyQuil.  No mouthwash with alcohol in it.  If you had told me on the first day I stopped drinking, Memorial Day of 2012, that I could make it a year, I would have told you that you were insane.  As I looked down at my hands shaking, I didn’t think I could make it an hour.  Yet here I am, one full year later, sober, stronger, healthier, and happier.  Some days were easy.  Some were hard.  Some were downright miserable.  And for some I just had to stay in bed.  But I did it.  I went from shaking to calm.  Hungover to energetic.  Bloated and heavy to fit and 15 pounds lighter.  Lost to finding myself.  Alcoholic to recovering.  But still an alcoholic.  That will never go away.  But I will be a recovering alcoholic with one year of sobriety under my belt, and a shiny coin to carry proudly.  Now I understand the will to change and the meaning of endurance.

One year ago today, I woke up in NYC (sounds eerily like a Ricky Martin song….) after a late night with some friends on a girls’ weekend.  I was a strange shade of green, head throbbing, stomach roaring, brain trying desperately to grasp some idea of where I was, what I had done the night before and what was going on.  As I started to stir (and probably moan), things began coming back to me in bits and pieces, and I felt my friend take hold of my hand.  That simple act meant more and said more to me than any words ever could—that I wasn’t alone and that somehow everything would be okay.  (“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention” Oscar Wilde eloquently penned).  One thing I knew for sure was that despite how humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed and badly I felt, there was an enormous weight that had been lifted from my shoulders.   My life was going to completely change that morning.   It had to.  Now I understand why they say “change I must or die I will”.
Admitting I had a problem was a huge step for me, and the first move for most people toward any sort of recovery.   I knew it deep down and had denied it for so long, rationalizing everything as much as I possibly could to convince myself that I didn’t have a drinking problem.  It still amazes me how hard it was for me to admit, and amazes me even more that I could ever actually say the words out loud.  Some people have admitted their addictions to therapists, doctors, priests, parents, siblings or close friends.  I, of course, had to admit it that night in New York to my friend who had recently lost her husband to alcoholism.  Great choice, huh?  Because why wouldn’t someone who endured a horrific battle for two decades with her spouse, who eventually lost, not want to deal with it again with a friend?  It would have been completely understandable for her to bail and say  “I just can’t do this again” and point me in the right direction to get some help.  But she didn’t.  She told me she would help me through this and has been there every step of the way.  She hasn’t missed a single day in an entire year of checking in with the same text every morning–Good morning sunshine, how are u?”    Now I understand the true meaning of the word friendship.
As I have said before, everyone has their own trials and tribulations and crosses to bear.  Sometimes we are strong for our friends.  Sometimes we need them to be strong for us.  I honestly couldn’t have made it to this point in my sobriety without the help of my friends, without their strength, devotion and commitment, and without their confidence in my strength.  So to my friends who didn’t give up on me, were my wingmen, called me at 5pm on Fridays and went for a walk with me, stocked their fridges with flavored seltzers, literally pulled me out of my bed, made my exercise group come chase me down when I tried to hide, convinced me that I was still fun to be around without alcohol, told me they were proud of me, offered to help with my kids so I could get to a meeting,  helped get me to focus on other activities that didn’t involve drinking, helped me see that life can be so much better and brighter, and, despite their fights with their own demons, showed me that they cared and held my hand……thank you from the bottom of my heart.   As Shakespeare said, “a friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”  Now I understand unconditional love.
One year down, hopefully many more to go.  But, as they say, one day at a time.  Today it’s time to stop, breathe and take a minute to pat myself on the back.   Now I am starting to understand that it’s a choice.