As expected, decorating the Christmas tree without draining a bottle of Jose Cuervo — as much a staple of the season, for me, as Mannheim Steamroller music, “Christmas Vacation” quotes and Hallmark keepsake ornaments — was the hardest part of this holiday weekend.
Well, that, and getting my 🤬-ing period on Thanksgiving Eve, but we don’t need to get into that…too much.
I did dump a bottle of tequila, technically (see picture), but that wasn’t the least bit difficult. When I came across the cheap piece of decorative glass I brought home from my retail job last year around this time, when I had just about reached “raging” on the alcoholic spectrum, I marched right past the tree and over to the recycling bin. RIP, shiny souvenir of shitty decisions!
If there had been any actual booze in that bottle, this might have been a different story, because for all the years since I moved out of my parents’ house back in 2000, drinking and decorating went together like “Why is the carpet all wet, Todd?” and “I don’t KNOW, Margo!” in my head.
I mean, in recent years, pretty much everything I did went together with drinking, such as, being awake and sitting upright. I’m not sure why I fixated so much on the tree thing being a hurdle, but sure enough, I started crying on the drive home from the choose-and-cut farm on Saturday morning with a Fraser fir tied firmly to the car top.
“I’m having thoughts,” I told my husband.
He reached over and took my hand. Silence for a second, then: “They’re just thoughts.”
Thoughts can be an addict’s worst enemy, but luckily, I’ve made some progress in that department — with a whole lot of help.
If anyone wonders how you get through your first sober holiday WHEN YOU ARE MENSTRUATING without a complete meltdown, or how you make it to 147 days alcohol-free when you used to drink at least two liters of tequila every week for nearly a decade, the best I can tell you from my experience is three things.
- Lean on your support system.
2. Look to the sky and say “thank you.”
3. Repeat — and do not ever stop.
I’m not going to make this a long post, which is great news for all you squeamish folks (if you’re still here) because that means I’m almost done discussing my cycle. It’s significant, though, because even before I got sober, I was positively rabid around that time of the month. Quitting drinking has turned me — every 26 days for the past five months — into a snarling beast who must actively employ every ounce of inner strength not to tear everyone who looks at me limb from limb with my teeth.
So, I haven’t been a lot of fun to be around this week. I haven’t much enjoyed hanging out in my own body — and I don’t just mean because I basically ate half a turkey and 25 percent of the world’s sweet potato supply all by myself.
No, to borrow (and bleep) a favorite “Sopranos” phrase, I have admittedly been a bit c**ty.
And yet, whenever I started to slide down the chute of self-pity (or seriously contemplate violence), there was always someone or something right there to remind me: YOU ARE A VERY FORTUNATE GIRL. BE GRATEFUL!
It was the coworker who saw me walking into the office on Wednesday morning, like a riled-up bull charging at a red cape, and stood up and gave me a hug. It was the other coworker who came over later in the day, when I was ready to cry for no apparent reason, and said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. You look great.”
It was my aunt, sending a tiny note of encouragement with her traditional Thanksgiving card: “Never forget how great you can be…and how amazing you already are.” I went to tape it up on the mirror in my bathroom, alongside the rest of my family’s snail-mail sober support (see above), and I let it sink in how much I am loved, in spite of it all.
Then, it was my sister on the phone from Chicago early Thursday afternoon, when I was getting ready to watch the Bears game — and woefully remembering how the old me would have downed at least three drinks and been flying by now — getting choked up as she told me how proud she is that I’m doing “such a hard thing.”
It was my husband, just being there — as he’s always been — holding my hand through good, bad — and c**ty.
Gratitude, as it turns out, took me by its teeth and refused to let go until it shook my bloody carcass back to sanity.
I’ve heard people in my recovery group say to people celebrating sobriety milestones, “Your higher power must love you very much,” and I thought it rather cheesy. But as I near five months, surrounded by amazing people and more blessings than I can count or claim to deserve, how can I possibly poo-poo what’s true?
Driving back from my husband’s parents’ house on Thanksgiving evening, we passed one of those fire-and-brimstone religious billboards. No, not the one that gives you a number to call to find out if you’re going to heaven or hell. This one simply said, “When You Die, You WILL Meet God.”
Normally I would just snicker cynically and go back to scrolling through my phone. This time, though…
I had a thought.
I looked over at my husband in the drivers seat, and although I don’t think he noticed the billboard, I still said what I was thinking out loud:
“I already have.”