My first year or so sober, I remember being obsessed with relapse. I took every mood swing and longing as a warning sign. I heard horror stories, often secondhand, about people who drank after years of sobriety. I looked for similarities and clues. I didn’t drink. This last step is the only one that brought any measure of relief. Eventually fear of relapse faded from a constant roar to a fainter, warbly hum.
By now, I’ve stripped away a lot of the so-called protective layers that allowed me to numb and check out and avoid. This sounds like a big accomplishment, but most days it feels involuntary and like I’m standing naked in front of a mirror in the harshest light. This is me, cellulite and stretch marks and that scar from kindergarten from when I fell on rocks in the parking lot of a fair and limped on to win a stuffed donkey. It is possible to feel horrible and happy at the same time.
Next month I’ll be coming up on 3 years of not drinking. It seems impossible it has been this long. (This probably sounds good if you recently stopped!) I wonder if others feel this way or is it like how I can’t believe I’m already 40? Time flies when you’re having fun or oldish or sober. I wonder if other people have recently, suddenly found themselves unsubscribing to emails and avoiding Target like the plague and deleting entire inboxes with glee. I think sometimes I’m shrinking my life down so small there won’t be anything left.
I’ve worried before about shrinking my life too small. It might be an introvert thing, but free flowing information and interaction inevitably burns me out. For example, when I go on facebook regularly, I compare my reality with other people’s carefully presented posts and it’s not a good place for me. Hell, even my fantasies don’t measure up. I have options here – I can deactivate my account or pare down my list of follows, or just not log on as much – but I think what bothers me is how bad I feel about something that brings people together. I accept I am this way, but I feel bad about it.
Maybe I’m shrinking to grow in another way. This feels right. Above all, I am still an optimist. I am still fall-to-my-knees grateful to be sober. I am grateful that I am grateful. I’ve seen visible, exciting progress from the last not-quite 3 years. I run regularly and lost a good chunk (ha) of weight. I yell less and laugh more. I have a sense of spirituality that continues to sprout and grow. (I am most excited about this.) I cook less than I did when I drank, which is puzzling, but I read more. I find lately I don’t enjoy television as much and in fact find having to keep up with shows tedious. I love my bed more than I thought humanly possible. We’re practically engaged to be married.
This is where I am today, right now. Everything I just wrote could likely change in months or years, except hopefully not the part about not drinking. This is the gift that keeps giving, even as it strips away.