In the journalism world that was more or less my life for two decades, between junior year in college and last year right about this time, the symbol — 30 — signifies the end of a story.
It’s now been a little more than 30 days since I closed the book on alcohol, and I have a beautiful red 1-Month coin from my regular Tuesday night A.A. meeting to show for it. But this is, by no means, any kind of ending.
Thirty days is where my story begins, and at this moment, the plot is an absolute mystery.
I’ve never made it past 30 days without drinking in my entire adult life, and only reached 30 days twice before. In 2016 and 2017, I messed around with “Sober October” experiments that were never borne out of a serious desire to quit. I celebrated the end of those dry months with Big Gulp tumblers filled with silver Jose Cuervo and flavored sparkling water, a concoction I dubbed “The Jengarita” and was so proud of that I regularly posted really compelling photos like this on my social media:
Brilliant. 🙄 But this pic actually serves as a relevant visual aid, because one of the tough realities I’ve confronted in the past 30 days is the unbelievable damage I was doing to my body at the height of my drinking, and how absolutely delusional I was about it.
Today I used the whiteboard in my basement gym, where I track each sober day with a hash mark, to do some not-so-pleasant math. I Googled — for the first time ever — the calorie count for tequila and calculated just how many excess calories I would have consumed over the past month, had I continued to drink my standard 1.75-liter bottle every week.
Consider this stupid shit before I give you the number: I chose tequila as my signature drink because I thought it was the healthiest option! I was fitness-conscious, you see, and beer has too much wheat and cider has too much sugar. This stuff looks like water, so it must be “guilt free!”
Meanwhile, I was guzzling an extra FIFTEEN THOUSAND CALORIES AND CHANGE every month for at least a year.
Raise your hand if you’re surprised to hear that I recently weighed in at the doctor’s office, and I’m the heaviest I’ve been in 20 years. If there’s any silver lining in that experience it’s that I didn’t let it trigger me to drink; my weight has always been a very sensitive subject, but what’s the point in living another day in denial?
Sobriety isn’t about vanity, but good lord, I am not going to miss these 20 excess pounds of meat on my 41-year-old bones and joints. In case it’s unclear, I absolutely plan to lose that weight, though I probably will also need to stop anxious-eating everything in the house every night and weekend because I sadly didn’t stop being an all-or-nothing person when I gave up the booze.
What happens to that person now? Clearly, there are much bigger challenges ahead, including family events and social situations that I went out of my way to avoid over the past month. I basically got through the first 30 by putting myself on lockdown, doing nothing but getting up, working out, going to work, coming home, eating, eating, eating, going to A.A. meetings and going to bed.
I said “no” to a company outing at a baseball game, “no” to a coworker happy hour and “no” to Thursday’s Eagles game, because forget drinking, I think trying to sit through an entire NFL preseason game would drive me to self-injure.
Can’t avoid that stuff forever, though. In fact, next Thursday, we have tickets to Cubs-Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, and as I’ve said before, I never don’t drink at baseball games.
The last time I didn’t was Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS at Wrigley Field, only because the game fell during my “Sober October.” Of course, that night was a top highlight of my life as a Cubs fan, and it ended with joy and celebration, whereas I absolutely cannot say that for most of the other times I did drink at baseball games, before and since then. (Do not bring up Game 5 of the 2003 NLCS to anyone in my family, Just don’t.)
That’s another hard reality I’ve had to contemplate in the past 30 days. Drinking, the way I drank, with an inability to stop once I started and a total lack of regard for the consequences, didn’t just make me fat. It made me someone I do not like and do not wish to be anymore, ever. That’s why we are here on this blog discussing A.A. chips and the like.
Drinking made me a subpar wife, daughter, sister, friend, companion — someone you might like to tailgate with before a baseball game, but wouldn’t want to be anywhere near during the 7th Inning Stretch, particularly if the Cubs were losing.
Knowing how badly I want to do better should trump any feelings of FOMO about a stupid $10 cider (or seven) at a Cubs game with my husband and his parents. That seems like such a no-brainer when you think about it like that.
Of course, this is the same brain that came up with the “tequila calories don’t count” theory, so we won’t give up saying the Serenity Prayer just yet. 😉
A huge thank you to every single person who has read this blog, reached out via email, text, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or shared their story in an A.A. meeting over the past 30 (actually, it’s 31 now!) days. Every single one of you is partly responsible for my success thus far, and the hope I feel that a better life is within my reach, one day at a time.