7 years

I used to believe gum takes seven years to pass through the digestive system. I believed the seven year itch was the biggest threat to a relationship and that within a seven year period, all the cells in our bodies regenerate. The idea of getting to be someone new on a regular basis has its appeal, but the fact is some of our cells take longer to turn over and some stay with us until we die.

I am seven years sober (today!) and I have never felt more like myself. This does not always feel like a good thing. At certain (okay, many) social events, I feel that same third-wheel wallflower paralysis I remember from the eighth grade dance. I still somehow say too much for someone who talks too little. I still prefer the company of cats and dogs and certain children to most people and look forward to dessert and bedtime more than is probably healthy. These used to be things I wanted to fix and believed I could, especially once I got sober, but more and more I think, eh, there are worse things I could be than me.

Alcohol used to loosen my tongue and inhibitions and filtered some of the angst that comes with being a human, but it created far more problems than it masked. It numbed the joy too, the pure kind we get to find in the smallest things. Even in the early days when I didn’t really want to not drink and couldn’t guess how it would become appealing, I felt an underlying sense of relief. It always felt right to give up drinking and I have never regretted it.

And give up drinking strikes me as a funny phrase now. In the first two years especially, that feeling of missing out and nostalgia for drinking – maybe more so the contradictory longing to escape and belong – came over frequently if not regularly. I dreaded going out to dinner with my husband sans cocktails and hated beerless Friday nights with dark passion. I had to change up certain routines temporarily, even though it felt like it would have to be forever. The cravings and bouts of resentment and self pity gradually passed faster and with less drama. I don’t feel the same worries or fears I felt in the early days about what sobriety would do to me or my marriage or my place in the world. Even if it didn’t turn me into a brand new person, I changed and grew because of it. Somewhere along the way, I saw I hadn’t missed out on a single thing by not drinking. I gained far more.

Seven years later, I still love my sobriety. Even though it feels more like an appendage instead of an affliction, I think about it every day.  It’s like a smooth stone I keep in my pocket and knowing it’s there brings strength and peace. I know it makes me a better mother and human being, which probably accounts for a lot of that. I wish more people who struggle would get to feel it, that lightness and relief and return of spirit.

I want to leave you with a video for a song I find lovely, more than a little haunting, and a little bit maddening. It’s Wish That I Was Sober by Frightened Rabbit. Even the band’s name reminds me of something a petite, soft spoken woman said at an AA meeting years ago. She was talking about how fear had ruled her life when she was drinking. It had taken so much mental and emotional energy to hide how much she drank and how awful she felt. She’d felt trapped when she was drinking and then surprised to feel about the same in the early days of giving it up. She said she felt like a scared bunny and I remember there was a tremble to her voice that made me think of a rabbit’s twitchy nose. Even so, her eyes were bright and she was there, sober, and she was talking about it. I see her on a semi-regular basis, though not at meetings and I don’t think she remembers me. She still has that softness but with an underlying strength I admire and believe is there for anyone who wants it.

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62 thoughts on “7 years

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    1. Thank you, Robert. I have gotten a lot out of your posts and appreciate the goal of long term sobriety more because of you. You’ve shown how you never stop learning and growing.

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  1. Thank you posting this. It’s interesting timing for me. I continue to struggle with my nightly beer habit and I now have a clear cut health reason for doing so (a fatty liver). But even with that added reason, it is far too great a challenge for me to conquer. Or so it seems. This week after months of not being able to stop, I have managed to go two nights without beer. Not consecutively — Monday and Wednesday. I don’t know what my goal is. In my head, I think of it as re-establishing control. At times, I think that looks like just not drinking at all and seeing if I can make that my new way of life for the rest of my life. At other times, I think it looks like just not having beer in the house and only having a beer or two when I go out. But then that starts to look like my Tuesday this week. Stopping at a craft brewery for a couple of beers before I went home when I had no reason to do so other than … Beer! So, is that really maintaining control.

    I tried an AA meeting last year at one point. It was soooooo not for me. But I know that every meeting is different and it may just be a question of finding the right meeting for me. I may try to do that at some point, but for now I’m still trying to do this on my own.

    Anyway, thanks again for posting this. It is a good reminder, a needed reminder, that there is a positive outcome, maybe a number of positive outcomes, in the future for me if I am able to conquer this challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AA isn’t for anyone to begin with. It is a scary and humbling thing to walk into a room and proclaim you are drinking too much and life has become unmanageable. It feels like defeat.
      But it quickly changes to a position of complete power. Being sober opens up endless possibilities. AA is a nice method of self evaluation and awareness and leaning to live in the world as it is.
      Go back with an open mind. You don’t have to buy into it all. Just hear the message. Sober is better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Before I provide my response to your comment, I want to make sure you understand that nothing I say below is intended as a criticism of AA and of the people who have found that it benefits their quest for sobriety. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who have found the solution in AA or any other program that helps them with their own battle. I applaud you for having done so.

        However, AA is not for everybody and that’s what ruined that first meeting for me. I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem that exists in the human condition. But that’s what speaker after speaker stated — that AA was THE solution, that it was the only way to defeat alcoholism. If AA participants need to believe that to achieve their objectives, I’m good with that. But I don’t believe that for me. I believe there are other solutions that other people have found. I have a friend who developed a drinking problem a few years ago after the death of his father. He solved it on his own. There are plenty of examples of people solving an addiction without AA. I don’t believe, based on my experience and my beliefs, that AA is for me.

        And I don’t need to go to an AA meeting to either (1) self-evaluate; or (2) understand that sober is better. I spend my day self-evaluating, constantly questioning what I do and why I do it and challenging myself to be better at everything I do. And identifying the reasons why I don’t achieve “better.” I know the reasons I drink beer every night — I love beer and it has become a crutch and given all of the other battles I am waging in my life, I simply have no energy left to fight that battle as well. But I also know that I actually have to fight my battle with beer first because it will make me stronger in facing my other battles. I know these things, but it is far too easy to fall back on the comfort of habit and practice.

        It may not be the equivalent of being physically present in a room full of strangers, but given my comments here on a blog read by who knows how many strangers, I am willing to proclaim my problem. 😉

        Thank you for your comment. I do hope you appreciate it and please do not interpret any of my words here as criticism of your words, your approach, or your successes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t take any offence.
        I actually don’t go to AA often or use the 12 steps as my recovery.
        That said, I have gone to meetings and read the books and truly enjoyed the connection when I go. learned and continue to learn a lot from the program that I have taken into my mosh mash lifestyle.

        I found that a willingness to consider all options, even those that don’t turn out right for me, is the secret to success.

        I wish you well.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I’m willing to try just about anything, expose me to just about everything, and try to learn from every concept and idea out there. Much like you, I have a mish mash kind of approach to things because there is no solution that quite fits what I’m looking for and who I am.

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      4. I would just like to jump in here, if I might, and say two quick things. One, I took my dad to a couple of AA meetings (for him, not me), and although I encouraged him to go back, I never would have (or did) consider going for myself, when it came time for me to face my own problem, so I totally get the aversion. Two, I found the book ‘The Easy Way to Stop Drinking’ by Allen Carr to be incredibly helpful in getting out of the rut of daily drinking. I had to read it twice, with a few years between reads, but when it finally came time to stop, and I was ready to stop, that book helped me like crazy. I highly recommend it. I can only vouch for the version with that exact title (the cover is yellow), which I mention because it has changed titles at least once, I think, and possibly some of the content has been modified. That might not matter too much, but then again, it could. You can get a used copy online. Worst case scenario is you’re out 8 bucks. You’re even allowed to drink while you read it, so says the book, as long as you’re sober when reading.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. For me, taking alcohol off the table was a huge relief. It took me a long time and experimenting to get there. I started at meetings about a week into stopping and yes, they are not for everyone and vary quite a bit by meeting. I went for a year and a half and took what I needed and left the rest, as they say. No regrets. There is also SMART recovery and other in-person meetings as well as the good old internet. I also saw a counselor with a background in treating addiction for awhile. You sound insightful and open to finding what works best for you and your long term health and well being…I wish you the best!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I use this term as well: taking it off the table. If it’s on the table it’s always an option when your life goes south (as one’s life life tends to do occasionally). You can be “successfully moderating” and one trauma gets you back to the beginning. Put cookies on the table instead!

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    3. I’m totally with you on this! Personally, I’ve enjoyed AA meetings here and there but I strongly disagree with the attitude that it’s the only way, the whole “it works if you work it” – well, dahr! In that case, I could also devise a method and promise you that it works, 100%, IF YOU WORK IT and here it is: don’t drink. Tah-daaaa! So that bit I don’t like. Also the assumption that if it doesn’t work, then there’s something inherently wrong with YOU. Er…. so if the patient has an infection and gets prescribed medication, yet the infection comes back again and again… you just wouldn’t state that the medicine works, would you? But there are other things that I really do like about AA, not least how in every meeting it’s like walking straight into a big, warm hug of genuine love and concern for the next person, smiles all round. And to share and listen to others with the same problem is invaluable in my opinion. I agree with you completely in that we all have to find our own way and I think so long as it works for you then who cares if it’s full-on AA doctrine with no deviation or a routine of doing cartwheels three laps around the house each morning. I can also vouch for the Allen Carr book – really great. Lastly, the one thing that “clicked” for me and got me to the point where I was truly ready was the realisation that I wasn’t giving anything up. Not a thing. CONGRATULATIONS ON SEVEN YEARS OF SOBRIETY, byebyebeer!! Amazing!! Anna x

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      1. This feels like a realistic description of AA to me. There was a lot I didn’t embrace or agree with, but I always felt welcome and supported and never alone in the struggle to not drink like, it seemed, everyone else. No, you don’t have to go forever. No one will tell you that in a meeting though…I know because I asked. There are many other options to try and I’ve heard high praise of that Vale book too. Find the right fit for yourself, always. It changes as you do.

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      2. I didn’t feel a warm hug from the group at the meeting I went to. To be honest, I felt like an interloper. Nobody said hello to me, nobody greeted me, and I felt invisible for much of the meeting. That may be on me somewhat, but I didn’t get the connection others have described. Again, just may be this particular group.

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      3. First time I went with a friend to a big clubhouse meeting. Second time I went alone and didn’t get nor want a warm hug, ha. I stayed to myself though eventually experienced the warm welcome. I’m not a group person at all, so I preferred staying on the periphery at first. I liked listening and sometimes sharing and felt comfortable early on. Smaller meetings can feel more intimate. It kind of depends on the crowd since the format is fairly (though not always) similar.

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      4. I didn’t expect or want a warm hug either and I am not much of a group person either, particularly a group of people I don’t know. But there was no attempt to connect with anybody who might be new. I get that on some level because each individual needs to come at this in their own way.

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      5. Odd but not unheard of. Maybe they thought you were seasoned or wanted your space or maybe the group dropped the ball. As you will hear if you go back, the newcomer is the most important person in the room. They want to help, just as you or I would want to make someone new feel more comfortable and less alone. You could also introduce yourself as someone new and then I almost guarantee a flurry of welcomes and phone numbers.

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      6. Yes. As I said part of it is on me. I’m an introvert. Don’t do well in rooms full of strangers. I probably gave off a “do not approach” vibe. There is a group that meets near my office I have been told may be more suitable for me. Just need to decide to go.

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  2. AH! congratulations (and also to me for finally breaking the code of why I couldn’t get onto WP for so long!)

    I hit 7 in March…there is a slew of us who are around the same time…my online trudging buddies, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

    The idea of an appendage vs affliction…yes. It just is a fact that I don’t drink. I rarely even think about it and am so grateful for that.
    xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Congratulations. This is a beautiful post. I’m going on 5 years and I love the smooth stone analogy. Yes. Being sober is a vital part of my relationship with the world. Remembering that only makes me stronger.

    I’m going to share your post. There are many new people who would benefit from such a beautiful perspective.

    Thank you. One day at a time.

    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reading this makes me realize how much I’ve learned from you over the last 6 years. I’ve learned to live in the moment, appreciate lessons from the past, and run from nasty geese.
    You continue to inspire me as well as write the words I wish I could have written. You’re the goods, Kristen. xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Margaret. I’m glad we met too! I always enjoy your thoughtful writing. Btw, I have two daughters now who say they want to teach elementary school (one still in elementary school, but still). That’s a sign of some pretty great teachers out there.

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  5. Aw, Frightened Rabbit… we know where it ended for him; the lyrics are more singular to him than universal, i think, except for one bit stands out to me everytime i hear it: “the best of me left hours ago” which is a perfect descriptor for overstaying your welcome on a night out.

    You’ve also used M. Gira/Swans before, and i think he’s in a better place, he’s still alive for one, but just as dark and i’m guessing he don’t drink no more, but damn does he sum it up here: “Now show some pity/For weak of will/Because when we’re drinking/We can never be filled”

    And as you know, and put behind you, that’s the truth. Cheers (it doesn’t have to mean just that, Garth says it for everything!) to 7 years! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all have that hole and there are many ways we can try to fill it, some more destructive than others. Drinking does not fill it anyway, he’s right about that. Thanks for turning me onto both bands and even songs. You’re the coolest.

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  6. Maraschino cherries, too, I think. Seven years is definitely some kind of universal immutable law of nature. Seven rabbits in a litter, seven lucky gods in Japan, seven Hindu chakras, the Seven Seas, seven hills of Rome, and always seven un-matched socks in every load of laundry I take out of the dryer, even if I didn’t put any socks into the washer.
    A six-day week would have only given us a one-day weekend, that would have stunk.
    So mazel tov and seven-fold congrats to you. I am always glad to turn on the computer and find a post from you, R.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is why I should hire you as my ghost writer/editor. You know the coolest things. Plus you made me feel better about our unmatching sock situation (two yesterday!) and more appreciative of the weekend, which is double the down time of a sad 6 day week. TGIF!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You wrote about me! This is me!

    “I still somehow say too much for someone who talks too little. I still prefer the company of cats and dogs and certain children to most people and look forward to dessert and bedtime more than is probably healthy. These used to be things I wanted to fix and believed I could, especially once I got sober, but more and more I think, eh, there are worse things I could be than me.”

    Congrats to you and thanks for the reminder that it’s ok to be our true selves – day 177 today for me.
    jen

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    1. Aw, that’s awesome, congrats on day 177! Glad you could relate. It’s that goal of self acceptance versus improvement that proves tricky for some of us. I’m finding (hoping) age also brings a certain comfort and peace. Thanks for reading!

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  8. ” I wish more people who struggle would get to feel it, that lightness and relief and return of spirit.”

    YES – this!!!

    First of all, congratulations on seven years! God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll have four years in August – I want to be just like you when I grown up!

    I’m not an AA-er; stumbled through the dark in my early days of sobriety. I found “Tired of Thinking About Drinking” and signed up for Belle’s 100 Day A/F pledge. About six months in, I discovered UnPickled and the Booze Free Brigade (BFB) on Facebook. Game changer! I had a support group at my fingertips, 24/7.

    Back story: I’m a HUGE believer in the power of “me too” – about 10 years ago, we had two daughters who were heroin addicts. Seeking out a support group full of parents in the same boat saved our sanity. And the BFB filled the void, since I had ZERO sober friends IRL. I’ve made so many friends, and have had meet ups with some of them. We’ll be lifelong friends – these people GET me!

    But I digress. I was 100% terrified to quit drinking. But I was even more terrified of what would happen if I didn’t. What I never bargained for was the huge feeling of relief when I made that irreversible decision. The lightness took a while, not gonna lie – but I still feel so relieved. Like I narrowly escaped a tragic fate – I’m sure of it.

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I wish you all the best as you begin year #8!

    Hugs,

    Mary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi and thanks for the great comment! I am familiar with the sites and group you mentioned and agree the support is invaluable. And convenient as you can access anywhere/time with like minded people. Recovery has evolved a lot over the years.

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  9. My beautiful BBB (aka K.) Wow, is it possible that you are 7 years! What a gift you have been for all of us. Wishing you many moments of knowing just how beautiful you truly are. Love and light all over your day, Lisa

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  10. This post and its comments felt like a reunion of old friends. How lovely to read you all here, after having met many of you online when I got sober and watching you carve out the path ahead through the sober jungle. Like Lou and Sharon, I’m coming up to five years soon – five years which have been so much the richer for sharing them with you all. Thank you from the bottom of my sober, grateful heart. Xxx

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    1. Thank you for this lovely comment. Sometimes I miss the golden days of blogging…but I see they’re still here or just starting for others. It’s good to see the big picture and realize how many of us there are.

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  11. Amazing achievement well done you!
    I’ve been reading your story and stories for over 5 years and have loved sharing your journey.
    Thanks for your wonderful writing- so glad you chose this path
    It suits you 😀
    Carrie xx

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I read this post, thinking “yes, and yes and yes.” When I saw bye bye, I thought you were leaving the blogging world, I hope not. You have been of great support to me through my journey with sobriety. I’m glad you are out there. You are a beautiful writer, able to capture so well the inner workings that rise up: both the good and the ugly.

    Thank you so much

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