sober lifestyle


I feel bad putting my mom on blast, but this little snippet of her recent text message jumped out and smacked me in the face so hard that I felt compelled to drop everything and reflect on it the best way I know how.

That is, getting up out of bed at 2AM, pouring some coffee and pouring out my heart and soul on the internet.

I’ve expressed before how difficult it can be to measure progress in recovery, which is, to paraphrase a popular saying, an ultra-ultra-ultramarathon, as opposed to a sprint. Think: tortoise (versus hare), or better yet, stop-motion animation.

In the latter scenario, I’m arriving at the North Pole fresh off the boat from the Island of Misfit Toys, and my socialization process plays out in a series of painfully slow, nearly imperceptible movements that take forever to piece together and bring up to normal speed.

Still not sure what’s supposed to be “wrong” with this girl. She’s cute, cheerful, musical, has fashion sense and a few friends…guessing it must be perfectionism and performance-based self-worth causing her crippling anxiety and depression? (I know the type. 😉)

You get what I’m saying, right? The fact my mom now sees me, at almost 44 years old, as an equal participant in our relationship means that I’ve taken a giant step forward since I quit drinking in the summer of 2019.

It means the work I’ve been doing on myself, as a student of the 12 steps, psychotherapy, “quit lit” and an ever-expanding catalog of podcasts, is indeed paying off — even if it often doesn’t seem like it.

It means I’m not living up in my own head 100% of the time…maybe 95? 🤷🏼‍♀️

Dealing with other people has always been my Achilles heel. So, more than any of my deficiencies, as a natural introvert coming out of a 20-year pattern of escapism via maladaptive coping behaviors, relationships are by far my biggest fish to fry. And if sobriety has lit a fire under my seat in that department, I admittedly haven’t turned up the heat as high as I probably should.

I know I’m not the best daughter, sister, wife, niece, aunt or in-law I could be.

I’m caught between self-care and self-centeredness, laying low and being a total loner, setting boundaries and unabashedly isolating, “picking my spots” when it comes to social engagements and getting too comfortable in my little cocoon. My natural instinct is to seek the safety of solitude and avoid interactions whenever possible. The consequences of that…well, it’s like my mom said in her text.

One-sided adult relationships tend to be short-lived, even when the other side isn’t actively abusing substances. Trust me; I know from experience: Ignore or neglect people for long enough, and they’ll leave you alone, all right! 😬 Just because my mom birthed me doesn’t mean she had to hang in there, waiting to see if I ever got my shit together.

So, to be sitting here today, a week from 1,000 days sober, with her not just in my life but feeling closer to me than ever… I mean, you guys, the woman seriously could have died of a massive heart attack back in January. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call our mended relationship a miracle, or to credit a higher power with her survival and ongoing recovery.

Speaking of which, my husband and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage this summer, a few weeks after my three-year sober anniversary. To tell you about the trajectory of our relationship between July 2019 and today — thanks, again, to the 12 steps and therapy, and him just being the world’s foremost stand-up guy — would require thousands more words. I’m not even sure there are any to describe how I feel about him, and us, right now.

So, I’ll end with a snapshot of another notable love story — a stop-motion animation one, for consistency — though there’s something not quite right about this picture. In our scenario, hubby’s and mine, wouldn’t the girl be the “broken” outcast wandering the wilderness alone, and the boy be the gold-hearted gift from the gods?

Pretty sure this scene is right after Rudolph’s fake black nose pops off and his big shameful secret is revealed, but Clarice tells him she likes him anyway. Here’s to all the partners/parents out there who see past social stigmas and don’t ask their loved ones to hide who they really are! ❤️

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