I am celebrating a milestone (my sober app tells me) of 1000 days alcohol free.
I was pleased to get this notification and felt a sense of satisfaction about the big round number. But, what made me want to give a big “yeee hawww” about the accomplishment was not the abstinence, but the realization, that sober has finally…. become my new normal.
That may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is huge for me. When I quit drinking 1000 days ago, I had to put some serious faith into the idea that a few years down the road, my sober lifestyle would feel more natural. In the beginning it certainly did not feel normal. Every moment involved a conscious effort. Nothing seemed right. Everything I did, everyone I spent time with, almost everything I was motivated to do, think or be, somehow involved drinking. It was hard to imagine a life without it.
Perhaps it seems like I am romanticizing alcohol here, but in this case I am not. It was not that I was always wishing I could drink again, white-knuckling my way through life. I had weighed the benefits and costs of booze and decided it was not for me. Rather, the conscious effort was needed because I didn’t know how to live my life without alcohol playing a role somehow (good or bad). It had permeated my work, family, social life - even my dreams.
For a while I continued to let alcohol take centre-stage, even after I quit drinking. If alcohol was going to be at the party - I wouldn’t go. If alcohol was the topic of conversation, I left. If alcohol was posted on your social media page, I unfriended you. This was what my first year of recovery was like. Alcohol became the enemy. I avoided it (yet studied it carefully), while formulating my defense plans.
In the second year the tension subsided. I realized that my addiction was an aspect of a greater problem - depression. In the second year alcohol free I was able to investigate and explore my issues with depression, from a sober and more chemically stable perspective.
Over this past year, leading up to today (1000 days sober) I have been focused on building a healthy lifestyle. I am back in school doing a Master’s in Counselling Psychology; I am a Recovery Coach and Addictions Counsellor: I am a volunteer mindfulness instructor and I also teach yoga! My daily routine includes a LOT of self-care and I get nine hours of sleep at night, every night.
Last night, I was getting ready for bed after studying, blogging and hanging with my family when I got the notification I was about to hit the 1000 day mark. It occurred to me that I don’t check that app everyday anymore. Actually I don’t check it every week or even every month. My sobriety is not a constant and conscious effort anymore - sober is my new normal!! Hallelujah, Amen!
Neuroscience says we can re-wire our brains to learn new habits. And my personal development books tell me that with practice, we can become more resilient and live more meaningful lives. But, I had not genuinely experienced this phenomenon myself. Or at least I had not experienced it to the extent I wanted to. I wanted to be free from the addicted mindset. I wanted this beautiful world to be enough for my craving mind. I wanted to love life the way it is - and not always need to alter it.
Getting that message last night that I was 1000 days sober felt like an encounter I once had with an old boyfriend. When we broke up I was pretty emotional. I was angry and sad and lonely. I would often think about the things I would say to him if I ran into him again. I had quite a speech prepared. Then one day, several years after the break up, I did run into him. I had my chance to let him have it! What happened of course? I couldn’t even remember his last name. I felt nothing for the guy. I was over it, soooo over it.
Now, I know I am not over drinking, in the way that I was over that boyfriend. I know recovery is going to be part of my life-style, for a long, long time. But, I am free from the grip alcohol once had on me. I am feeling good about my lifestyle and I have found purpose and meaning in my life.
There is an expression in the recovery world that goes something like this: Recovery is about building a life you don’t need to escape from….
My 1000 day gift to myself is my wonderful life. A life I don’t want to escape from.