sober lifestyle

Quality

You could say that pole did us a favor; an obstructed view of last Monday’s 13-3 debacle was the next best thing to changing the channel. The Cubs have been unwatchable over the last few weeks, so it’s fitting that my husband and I organized a family trip to watch them play live at Wrigley Field, as part of our annual summer visit to Chicagoland.

We’ve lived together in the Philly area for almost 20 years and have an abysmal track record when it comes to Cubs-Phillies games. We probably should have warned my parents, sisters, nieces, brothers-in-law and aunt when we bought the tickets: “Guys, the steel beam blocking half the field will probably be a more pleasing sight than the final score.” 🤷🏼‍♀️

Of course, as lifelong Cubs fans, we’re all used to making light of losing, and we ended up having a blast. Or at least I did!

I sat next to my two younger sisters, a rare treat considering they both live in Illinois and have busy lives with jobs and kids. We spent three-plus hours sweating in 90-plus heat, me sucking down water and diet cola and keeping score on a $1 scorecard (cheaper than Citizens Bank Park!) We clapped and danced along to the ballpark organ and made snide comments (Patrick Wisdom’s pitch selection? Not very wise! …For those of you who missed BP, here’s Eric Sogard on to pitch!) that entertained some out-of-town fans in the row below. We laughed, long and loud and from the gut, just like we did when we were kids at the game with our friends.

It was real, honest-to-goodness “quality time,” the likes of which I rarely — if ever — experienced as an active alcoholic.

The morning after the game, we all reconvened at an indoor waterpark for a full day of fun, and if I felt hung over, it was only because we got home from Wrigley after midnight and I’m used to getting a solid 8-9 hours of sleep. 😴

On July 7, I celebrated my second anniversary as a woman in recovery. So, I have not consumed alcohol in TWO FULL YEARS. My hubby, who has been beside me every step of the way, working the 12 Steps in Al-Anon and participating in biweekly therapy sessions, gifted me with an official coin:

My mom and youngest sister sent me to a hair salon in the city for my first cut (in a year) and color (ever!!!), and while they said it was a belated present for my “real birthday” back in April, I couldn’t help treating it as a celebration of my new life as the “real me.”

Yes, the point of the dye job was to brighten up my dull, old-lady-blonde locks and cover up a sudden invasion of grays. Not exactly keeping it real! 🤔 Regardless, I’m going to enjoy this look while it lasts!

After two years of working on myself, I’d like to think my outsides reflect positive changes inside. And I’m not talking about my hairstyle or the size or shape of my physical body — which, let’s just say is a little bit farther from ideal after a week of deep-dish pizza, gourmet cheesecake and sushi, sushi, sushi.

I’m talking about my presence and level of engagement with my surroundings. My overall behavior. The vibe I give off, and how that energy affects other people. You know, all the little intangibles that add up to determine the quality of life’s experiences.

When I was drinking, I was constantly detached from everything and everyone. I was frequently oblivious and usually obnoxious. I believed I needed to be intoxicated to relax, smile, laugh — to face the world, in general — so as my addiction escalated, nobody knew who the “real me” was. Not my family. Not my hubby. Not even me!

I’m pretty sure no one really liked the person I was portraying. My poor track record in family gatherings/outings, whether it was all of us together or just Hubby and me, could give the double-digit-losing-streak Cubbies a run for their money.

I can only speculate how others might view me differently now. My great aunt’s anniversary greeting card (shown above) suggests there has been change for the better. In the end, though, it only matters how differently I feel. I got sober to heal myself so that I could live a better quality of life, which I hoped would improve the lives of the people around me in some way.🤞🏻

It’s difficult to recognize, let alone describe, the subtle, incremental shifts that come with recovery. At two years and change, I’d say I feel…more human. And therefore, more a part of humanity. If that makes any sense.

Maybe it’s because sober sleep is gloriously restorative, or my brain chemistry has started to balance out, or I’m just paying closer attention, but I feel more there, wherever I happen to be. That naturally makes it easier for me to relate to and connect with others.

Without alcohol, I’m actually sharing experiences — good and bad — instead of just occupying space in a room or restaurant booth or row of ballpark seats, with the booze forming an intentional, impenetrable barrier between me and the rest of the human race.

Now, I’m not saying I feel a great kinship with all humans, especially after spending a combined 24 hours on the road to/from Chicago in summertime/holiday traffic. I swear the pandemic scrambled the part of people’s brains that controls their driving ability. Or maybe it’s widespread social distancing-induced amnesia, like, no one actually remembers how to live in a society. Anyway, I feel very fortunate that we made it back to Bucks County alive. 😬

My actual kin deserve the best I have to give, whatever that happens to be on a given day. I only get to see them once or twice a year, and it’s sad to think about how much time with them I wasted in the past.

Even sadder to admit the reason: for most of my adult life, I loved a drug more than anything else in the world.

Things are different now. No doubt. And if I continue along this path of recovery, I know the “real me” that’s being revealed will be a more attentive, positive and loving sister/daughter/niece/aunt/wife than I already am today.

Better quality moments shared together > greater quantity of time spent in the same place.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but now that I know what those quality moments actually feel like, that’s a tradeoff I will gladly take.

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