I love those people who introduce themselves at meetings as Dave, Grateful Recovering Alcoholic with 282 days. I imagine Dave with 282 tiny notches on his bedpost, but it’s more likely he has an app. I knew I was coming up on a year this week, but I only know it’s 363 days today because of google and the sobriety calculator I found.
I don’t feel happy or relieved like I thought I might coming up on a year. That might be because it hasn’t passed yet, but I doubt I’ll feel much different in a few days. I thought about it this morning and the thing about a one-year anniversary is that it dredges up a lot of bad memories.
I remember acutely what it was like to stop drinking. I remember how hard it was that first week, physically and mentally. I remember how sick I felt drying out. I didn’t go to rehab or get anything from my doctor, though I should have at least done the latter. I was afraid she would insist I go to rehab and I couldn’t fathom this as a mother of little kids and a full-time employee. It’s not that I was in denial of my problem…I just didn’t want anyone else to know how bad I’d let it get.
I remember when that Monday came around that I’d decided I’d stop drinking. I had told my husband the Friday before “I’m going to stop drinking on Monday but I want you to leave me alone until then.” I didn’t go on a bender or anything, but I didn’t want to hear his concern over how much I was drinking. That’s what the end was like for me. It was pretty pathetic, and I’d had enough of that.
Except that when that Monday morning came around, I realized I couldn’t just quit. I had two drinks that day, the first one strong and spaced out over a long period of time. I imagined it like an IV drip that kept me from laying on the floor in a pitiful lump. It did nothing to stop my stomach from churning or my body from trembling just enough to make my eyeballs feel like googly eyes. It did help me through an incredibly long day. My last drink was a lukewarm Yuengling in a can that I pulled from a case in the garage. Do you know how hard it was to stop at that and not pad out for another and just quit tomorrow instead? You might know.
My impending one-year anniversary reminds me of where I was one year ago, and it was not a good place. It took about another day for the shakiness to leave and several more for the mental terror to go away. If that sounds melodramatic, I’m sorry because I don’t know how else to describe it. Drying out was like a black hangover with bouts of irrational panic and overwhelming sadness I was determined to keep private. I wasn’t even mourning the loss of alcohol, which didn’t truly come until many months later.
About a week after I stopped drinking, I went to my first recovery meeting with a sober friend. That was the beginning of my sobriety, and the start of an upward climb. In the early days, I replaced my old drinking routines with new rituals. I’ll write about those later this week. I want to do something more positive to celebrate one-year, but it feels important to start at the beginning, which was really the end.