In addition to celebrating Christmas this week, I will also be marking my 18th full month of continuous sobriety. That’s 1 1/2 years, alcohol-free.
Forgive my presumptuousness in writing about this now, when Day 540 isn’t until Sunday, and technically, I won’t have officially cleared the milestone until Monday. But I’m sure you can understand my heightened (desperate?) need to have something special to look forward to and get excited about, in a year that has seemed like an endless barrage of bad news.
I think you’ll agree, an addict finding the strength to stay sober — and actually learning to love the sober lifestyle — in any year is cause for celebration and a pretty good excuse to be excited. Maybe the topsy-turvy trajectory of 2020 adds a little extra oomph to that equation? I don’t know.
For my husband and me, things here in 2020 could be a whole lot worse. We both have jobs (as of this moment), and we’re taking long-awaited vacation time through the new year, and while we’re not “doing anything special,” as you can see from the attached picture, we don’t mind spending time together at home.
No, we won’t be traveling to Chicago to see my family for the holidays, due to COVID concerns, but as I sit here, that family is alive and well and still as wonderful as it has ever been. Maybe moreso, considering that my nieces and nephew are growing like weeds, developing personalities and senses of humor, playing full songs on trumpets and pianos…it’s all so incredible!
We will be visiting my in-laws this weekend, in their cozy home in Northeastern PA, where I have felt welcome and loved since Hubby first brought me there to “meet the parents” nearly two decades ago. We will relax, exchange gifts, eat turkey and fixin’s, drink enough San Pellegrino to flood the town…
Um, wait, no. I will do that. They’ll have, like, birch beer or Snapple or something. In moderation, most likely, because that’s how the “normies” roll.
My point is that I have absolutely everything I could possibly need this holiday season, which just happens to match up with everything I could possibly want.
Sure, there have been times in the past year, and definitely over the past 18 months, when I thought I still might need and/or want a drink. But every time I waited and let those thoughts pass, feeling whatever feelings happened to pop up in the process, and came out just fine on the other side, I got a little bit more certain and a little bit more confident:
I absolutely do not need alcohol in my life. And guess what? I no longer want it, either!
Famous last words, I’m sure. And I know I can’t let my guard down. Still, I could tell I’d turned a corner in my recovery earlier this week when my marketing team’s weekly Zoom call transitioned from shop talk to a discussion of holiday plans, and nearly everyone — it might actually have been everyone — said their plans involved drinking. A few people provided additional details.
I wasn’t jealous, listening to them. I wasn’t bitter. I didn’t instantly snap into self-pity mode and slap on a sour puss. It was…how can I put this poetically? It was whatever.
I was “meh.”
Trust me, a year ago at this time? That would not have been the case.
I guess I’ve started to feel more comfortable in my “new normal,” looking around at all the good in my little life and not wanting to throw any of it away for a few minutes of unnecessary intoxication, especially when I’ve proven I can, in fact, handle life without booze.
I mean, it’s not even that anything is dramatically different in my environment — same husband, same house, same neighborhood — I just appreciate everything more, seeing it through clear eyes.
Also, if you participate in a recovery program, there’s no way you can avoid the concept of gratitude eventually working its way into your life. Giving thanks all day, every day, for little blessings has become second nature to me, thanks (see what I mean?) to 12-step meetings, related literature, and all the more-experienced recovering addicts I’ve met in “the rooms.”
I guess it really is true what they say: a grateful heart won’t drink.
I’m most grateful, this holiday season and in these first (almost) 18 months of sobriety, for the relationship I have with my husband. We’ve always had lots of fun together, but now, through joint and individual therapy and our respective recovery programs, we’re working on a more well-rounded marriage that’s based on honest communication, shared responsibility, mutual respect and, above all, trust. It’s still 100% a work in progress, but we’ve come SO far.
I don’t even want to think of where we’d be if I hadn’t quit drinking back in July of 2019.
This year has taught us to re-identify the absolute necessities in our lives, the truly important stuff, versus all the extras we can live without. Family and sobriety are “it” for me; it’s not a huge stretch to say I might not have one without the other.
I have both today.
Sure feels like having it all!
Maybe that’s why I’m so confident that I’ll reach that 18-month milestone, four days before it arrives: This heart of mine has never been more grateful. ❤️