From what I can tell, studying these selfies, living alcohol-free for three full years hasn’t altered my appearance. I mean, there’s no doubt I was more physically fit in my drinking days, when I hit the gym as hard as the bottle, but I was also addicted to exercise and obsessed with my body size/shape, so…let’s not get nostalgic about shallow shit.
I’m not sure sobriety has really changed my personality, either.
I’m still fiercely independent, and socially awkward, and I much prefer a clear calendar that lets me go off and do my own thing. I still feel most at home in the great outdoors, and most comfortable in my skin when I’m on the move. I’m still an anxious, highly sensitive, hyper-punctual control freak and creature of habit who craves certainty and thrives on structure. I still have hearty appetites and moderation issues, and, since I cut thousands of empty sugar calories from my diet by quitting drinking, I also have an insatiable sweet tooth.
Guess it’s only natural to sub in one self-soothing vice for another. 🤷🏼♀️
So, if I’m not dramatically different as a sober woman than I was as an active addict, is recovery really working? Is it even worth it?
Anniversaries tend to be points of reckoning, in my limited experience, and today — as it was on July 7, 2020, and again on July 7, 2021 — I feel compelled to try and measure my progress, to pinpoint tangible evidence that yes, I’ve come a long way, and I’m on the right track.
Do good grades in grad school count? I have a 4.0 through three semesters in DelVal’s Counseling Psych program, and I finished the summer session with extra credit in both classes. 👀
See? Same old Jen and her performance-based self-worth! Maybe we should look at the big picture and acknowledge: I wouldn’t even be in this program, training to be a mental health/substance abuse counselor in a time of high demand for such services, if I was still drinking. And that fact would be no less significant if I was getting (gulp) B’s.
Drinking ruled my entire life for much of my adult life, and no matter what nonsense my monkey brain spits out at me from time to time, about “learning my lesson” and “being able to handle myself,” I have no doubt it would again, in an instant, if I gave it the chance. Each and every time I lifted an alcoholic beverage to my lips from age 19 to 41, I drank for no other reason than to get drunk. Why would 1,096 dry days make that fact any less true?
The list of what I am doing differently at three years sober might be kind of short, but how about the shit I’m not doing anymore? Woo-wee! Now we’re talking!
For starters, you won’t see me stumbling around in public! …OK, so I tripped on a crack in the Point Pleasant boardwalk last weekend (I blame these new flip flops!) AND I accidentally face-planted into the ocean while soaking my feet at the shoreline (I blame the crazy undercurrent!) BUT, unlike the bad old days, all I packed in my beach cooler cooler was Fresca, and a couple of water bottles actually filled with water. Ask the guy at the gate! He checked, while I stood there, self-satisfied, grinning like Ralphie when he told Santa his real Christmas wish.
I’m also no longer making scenes at events, babbling semi-coherently on social media or waking up with unexplained injuries, lost belongings and no memory of the night before. And for all my evening candy “binges” nowadays, you will no longer catch me at the local 7-Eleven after dark, throwing pints of ice cream and processed carbs on the checkout counter in a drunken stupor.
Speaking of which, another thing I’m no longer doing is creating a safety hazard out on the roads, shuttling myself between bars and parties and liquor stores and mini marts and home! Not that I “deserve a cookie” for doing what any law-abiding citizen is supposed to do, but that alone is a big enough ➕ in the “Positive Change” column, don’t you think? 🙏🏻
It occurs to me, too, having just played host to my 10- and 12-year-old nieces for the past week, that neither they nor my three nephews know me as an immature, unstable drunk — and they don’t ever have to. It’s amusing; I used to think “I’m Fun Aunt Jen!” as I danced around, guzzling booze at holidays and birthdays or on family vacations, and whether the kids ever saw me that way, considering that Sober Jen rarely goes out, and usually goes to bed at 7PM, it’s possible they never will.
That’s OK. I’ll take “weird” or “boring” over “scary,” “pitiful”….or “dead,” any damn day.
You know, I do remember a dinner outing four or five years ago where my older nephews, along with the rest of my in-laws, saw me fall asleep at the table at the restaurant after consuming God knows how much tequila. Now, I can’t guarantee that won’t happen again, but I can make sure it won’t be related to alcohol! 😉
No doubt, I was capable of some really childish, embarrassing, and even depraved behavior while intoxicated. Let’s just say that a drunk with a smartphone is a disaster waiting to happen, and a drunk on Twitter is a complete train wreck. Knowing the hurt I caused with my selfish, shortsighted bullshit, I’d have to be a complete moron to want to awaken that beast again.
Now that I’ve regained my senses and am posting nothing but links to these posts on my social profiles, these are the types of DMs I get:
I cut it off so as to protect the sender’s identity, but you get the picture. Maybe it’s the old performance-based self-worth at work again, but shoot, notes like this sure do make me feel like my life has a purpose.
What does it really matter how fit I am, or how dull my social life might be, or if I have some “weird” habits that others don’t understand or approve of…blah blah blah. The point is, people have noticed: My true substance is showing. What you see on the surface today is not my whole story, and could I really say that three years ago, when my life revolved around drowning my feelings or chasing my next fix?
Of course, there’s one opinion I value above all others, and the best feedback I’ve received on my sobriety has come from that source. My hubby is THE reason I’m sitting here writing this today, and not dead, homeless, or in jail. For as “fiercely independent” as I have always claimed to be, I was 100% incapable of taking care of myself in the depths of my addiction, so let’s press pause on this self-congratulatory parade and give credit where credit is really due.
My hubby has been a loyal member of the 12-step fellowship for three full years and a committed spouse for nearly 15 (our wedding anniversary is the 21st). Although I’ve aired a lot of dirty laundry in this space, he thinks enough of my work to share my blog entries faithfully every week on his own social feed. This has opened me up to a whole new audience, including members of his men’s league softball team, and when I heard that some of them were regular readers, well…🤯
I’ve written hundreds of posts, but I’m not sure I’ve adequately conveyed the ginormous difference this man has made in my life with his rock-solid support and constant encouragement. I might not get there if I wrote a hundred more.
He’s always seen the substance beneath the surface, and stuck around when my ugly side started oozing out, and even if I haven’t completely cleaned up my act, it’s clear he loves me just the way I am right now.
Why else would he get me all this glorious sugar as an anniversary gift? 😋🍭