If you’ve been here before, you don’t need me to explain the above photo. You know that’s the whiteboard on the wall in my basement gym, aka “Fly The W Fitness.” And those are the one-day-at-a-time red hash marks I’ve been drawing on every inch of the thing — except a small space in the middle where we can write actual workout stuff, and a column where I collect inspirational quotes from the likes of deep-thinking former Cub Nick Castellanos and badass assassin/world-saver Arya Stark — to keep the score of my sobriety since July 7, 2019.
You’re looking at the tally as of last Tuesday.
Since I’ll officially run out of room in a few days when I hit 17 full months, my husband’s idea is to cover the walls with whiteboard paint so I can just start marking time there…
Sorry. Got distracted by thoughts of Homer Simpson scrawling all over the walls in that classic “Treehouse of Horror” parody of “The Shining.”
I can relate a little bit, my man! 🤣
Really, though, I might still be riding a bit of an emotional roller coaster, what with the stressful marketing job and the COVID and the election uncertainty and the fast-approaching holidays with all the “should we or shouldn’t we” over gathering with family, on top of the NO BEER, but I can at least say I’m handling sobriety better than that.
Elapsed time aside — if you’ve been here before, you also know how seriously I take matters of time — it really is hard to quantify progress when it comes to something like recovery. It’s all in how you feel, and by extension, how you act. How you live, today versus yesterday or (cringe) two years ago at this time.
Honestly, that suits me fine, because I’m not really one who cares for measurements. I do pretty much everything based on feel.
You should see me make breakfast in the morning, pouring liquid egg whites over a mound of spinach in a pan with abandon, and pouring coffee into the filter, straight from the bag. Same with the blender and the frozen fruit, later in the day when it’s time for my dessert smoothie. Literally can’t remember the last time I looked at a “serving size,” or any kind of food label, for that matter. As long as the cookware is not overflowing, and I can stomach the meal without feeling like I’m going to burst in two, it works for me.
I don’t track how long I run on the canal (I do take gorgeous pictures, though!), or how far I walk to/in the park, or how many rounds I get in my 20-minute (sometimes shorter) cardio circuit down in the basement. I just like to move a little bit each day, and I do whatever feels right at the moment. Which varies. Wildly.
I also refuse to weigh myself; my specific body size matters only in relation to the fit of my clothing. Too tight? Must change, either the wardrobe or the eating habits. Too loose? Great! Just cut a new hole in the belt with a kitchen knife and go happily on your way!
(All my belts have haphazard, cockeyed slashes in them. No trips to the ER yet! 🙏🏻)
When I’m shopping — haven’t been to an actual store to try something on in ages — I just buy “Large Tall” or “10/12” by default. There’s no point in looking at the size chart, because I’ve no clue how many inches my hips or chest happen to take up. Why would I even torture myself attempting to obtain that information?
Yeah, I’m also one of those people who likes to “eye up” a space rather than take the time to go find a tape measure, which is why my husband takes care of such matters as furniture arrangement and appliance installment. 😂
Turns out, this laissez-faire attitude toward specific distances, quantities, etc., and this natural reliance on my internal compass to guide my way, are perfectly suited to the sober lifestyle. Recovery is a very amorphous concept and subjective experience, different for each and every person. Difficult for any person to pin down, let alone define or slap a label on.
It’s easy to lose track of just how far you’ve come in 500 — now 503 — days. And it’s natural to want some kind of proof of the payoff, some tangible evidence that you’re on the right path. But, again, there is no set metric by which to assess “rightness.” It’s not something you can really put your finger on. You just have to sit, like I am right now, sans TV (and beer 😂), at 3:45 AM, and reflect. Let yourself feel.
…And, apparently, let your stomach gurgle. Shit, I’m surprised my husband didn’t wake up with that Richter-scale rumbling just now!
Maybe it’s the old internal compass trying to speak! …Or maybe I really should pay more attention to the amount of coffee grounds I’m dumping in the pot. 🥴
In all seriousness, though, this discussion of bodily function has brought us to the greatest gift of sobriety.
Free of the alcoholic fog — the crutch you leaned on to avoid shouldering responsibility, facing fear, dealing with discomfort and pain — you literally come to your senses. You’re once again able to access your true instincts, to see how things really are and know how you really feel, and yes, hear what your center has to say.
Seeing, listening to, and feeling real shit can be really 🤬-ing rough. It’s true. But the weight of reality, heavy as it sometimes seems, will never measure up to the unbearable burden of addiction. I can’t give you actual numbers to prove this; after 500-plus days of experience, you’ll just have to trust my gut.