sober lifestyle

Seventeen

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since I moved away, back in the year 2000, but on one relatively recent visit to my parents’ house in suburban Chicago, I snapped the above pic — of another pic that hangs in their basement with a bunch of framed sports memorabilia.

My high school softball glory days aren’t really relevant right now; I post this to call attention to my jersey number.

I always felt a special affinity for 17.

So, having made it through that many months of sobriety (510 days as of today), I’m struggling to come up with anything wise to say, because thinking about that number immediately sends my brain into a Mark Grace rabbit hole.

He was my favorite Cub growing up, which made me just like every other female in about three Midwestern states — and any females elsewhere whose homes got WGN — but the sex appeal wasn’t what really mattered to me. The important thing was that Mark Grace was a Gold Glove first baseman and a .300 hitter who was really cute, and he was basically the captain of my team throughout my teens. He inspired what we all know is a HUGE life decision for a young girl: what number to wear on her back during athletic endeavors.

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sober lifestyle

Measurement

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! 🤣

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sober lifestyle

Accountability

Not to be flip, but if you want to stay on the path of recovery, sidestepping the inevitable landmines of temptation lying in wait here, there, anywhere…might I suggest heading in the direction of higher education?

I can think of no better way to keep yourself accountable than to air your dirty laundry in front of a grad school admissions board, presenting your own battle with alcoholism as a reason you’d be a great fit for their program, and discussing with great passion and emotion your goal of taking your Masters degree and using it to help other addicts change their lives.

No offense to you internet friends — all three of you — to whom I pour out my sober heart and soul every week on this blog, but I could easily just ghost you and “go back out” without much of a brouhaha. It’s a lot more difficult to say “🤬 it” to Doctors and Professors who just heard your story and thought it warranted acceptance into their university’s Class of…(hamster wheel in head turning)…2024?

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sober lifestyle

Victory

I put on a pair of jeans to go in to the office.

They fit.

That is the biggest news in my life, lo these past few weeks.

I’ll give you a moment to yawn, because if you’ve never had an eating disorder or grappled with obsessive body image issues — or, on a deeper level, a lack of self-esteem that manifests itself as obsessive body image issues — you have no idea how intense a love-hate relationship with denim pants can be. You don’t understand what it’s like to have your whole day ruined by that snug feeling in your hips and thighs, which in your head means you’re gross and unattractive and lazy and worthless, when in reality nobody else on Planet Earth notices nor gives a 🤬 about bunched-up fabric around your ass.

You think it’s NBD, or maybe a symptom of batshit insanity, but to me, the simple act of putting on said pants, then feeling comfortable enough to leave the house in them, really does evoke enough emotion to inspire an entire blog post.

Maybe I should’ve called this one “Vanity.” 💁🏼‍♀️

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sober lifestyle

Clarity

Was there a second of time I looked around? Did I sail through or drop my anchor down? Was anything enough to kiss the ground, and say ‘I’m here now…’?

— John Mayer, “Clarity”

I woke up feeling old the other day, all lethargic and ornery, dreading everything that lay ahead on my schedule. And as I staggered downstairs and plopped into my same spot on the couch to drink my same cup — sorry, pot — of coffee and eat my same gluten-free chocolate peanut butter protein bar, I thought to myself with a twinge of despair: “This is it? This is my entire life, right here?” 😩

Side note: I would be cool with a life filled with chocolate peanut butter protein bars. Sobriety has stricken me with an insatiable sweet tooth.

That, and an ugly self-pity streak.

Sometimes, though, in the midst of nursing the dull ache of what’s-the-point-itis — an existential affliction that’s plagued me all my life — I have flashes of clarity. Reminders that “this,” whatever it happens to be at the time, is everything I need.

Sure enough, there I sat in the midst of my morning routine, not really thinking of anything in particular, and I suddenly remembered the hangovers. Out of nowhere, memories of pounding headaches and searing shame, the visceral remnants of a drinking binge, came flooding back.

I used to wake up on mornings just like this, feeling half-dead — but in a much different way.

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sober lifestyle

Honesty

My phone ran an update overnight, and when I reached for it, by irresistible force of habit, the second my eyes shot open (around 1 AM), it wanted me to jump through a few setup hoops before I could use it.

CREATE PASSCODE, it commanded.

No, thank you! — my mental reply.

Of course, there was no disobeying the iPhone, and I had to set a passcode before immediately heading to “Settings” to shut it off. The whole exercise took 90 seconds, but the significance of it remains stuck in my head.

I don’t have any reason to lock my phone. And that might be THE greatest gift of sobriety.

It’s difficult to explain, and I’m not going to get into specifics, but when you’ve lived the life of an addict and watched yourself spiral downward into dishonesty and depravity until you are so disgusted with the person you’ve become that you actually drink more to avoid dealing with that guilt and shame, and your spiral picks up steam, driving you lower, quicker…

I mean, yeah, after all that, it feels positively exhilarating to have nothing to hide.

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sober lifestyle

Exhaustion

On Thursday, I overslept and missed my regular weekly recovery meeting.

The meeting starts at 6 PM.

Such is the surreal world I’m living in at 16 months sober. I’m not sure how it happened, but my schedule got completely out of whack —waking up and doing work at 2AM has become the norm — and during the hours I’m actually awake, my energy levels have plummeted so drastically that I literally cannot wait to climb back in bed. I find myself eating dinner at 3PM, drinking “Sleepytime” tea while the school buses are unloading kids outside my window, and thinking it’s morning when my husband comes in the bedroom to announce he’s done with work.

I’m tired, you guys. More tired than I can ever remember feeling.

I think maybe all the fighting has taken its toll.

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sober lifestyle

Punctuality

Gratuitous nature pic, Day 475.

“If I’m ever late, alert the authorities; there’s been foul play.”

They could put that on my tombstone. I mean, hopefully they won’t; I’d much prefer natural causes, but you know what I mean. If I have anything close to a catchphrase, it’s that little nugget of brilliance. 😏 You might’ve even heard me say it, back in the days we used to go places, when I showed up somewhere like an hour or more early. (Thanks for humoring me with the polite chuckle, BTW.)

Punctuality is actually listed among my professional skills on my resume. It should probably have a “hyper-” before it.

Come to think of it, hyper is putting it mildly, considering the intense physical reaction I had those two or three times in my life when I thought I might be late for something. Still have nightmares about driving to the Atlanta airport on the early morning of Christmas Eve 2000, that fateful day the alarm in my Macon apartment didn’t go off and I ended up with only 15 minutes of wait time at my gate. 😱

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