Tra la! Yesterday was my 43rd birthday. I have been back to back birthday sober for the first time since I was about twelve. How cool.
I have been thinking about the past year- how my birthday last year was really just wonderful, how I was in a really gooood space then, and then just six weeks later I was dumped in a depressed place that I didn’t leave for almost six months.
I have lived a year. I lived it- I felt it. A year. It has been amazing and glowing and full of too much of me. There have been so many times when I wanted to stop recovering and just shut the hell up in my head for a while. I don’t think recovery ever stops, but I do think there can be peace and quiet with a lot of praying and practice.
This birthday was sort of plain: There was oatmeal and homemade cards for breakfast. I did laundry, made asparagus salad. My parents came for lunch and my dad made me a cake and a pie. We had a tentative peace. My husband took a nap and went to work. My youngest and I sat on the porch and started making a wind chime. Soccer practice. Scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. More cake. I’ll write and then go read and fall asleep. I already washed my face and flossed. Woot woot!
There’s something about this plainness that is deeply satisfying. I am not drunk and confused. I am not spending a load of money getting wasted. I am just here, by myself, on my birthday chasing nothing. It’s so exciting to just be still. To feel what it means to be content. To sigh a sigh of settled.
I have learned some things this year. In no particular order:
1. I like to love and be loved. I am getting better and better at saying kind things- brave enough to speak up and tell people how much they mean to me, or to say thank you. Brave enough to risk getting hurt. Brave enough to be OK with it. Brave enough to not second guess myself all the time, to just say it like I say it not the way I think someone wants to hear it.
2. I am also so much better at asking for help. When I feel like I can’t instead of saying “No, oh no why me I can’t I can’t” I say “Help me please” and then I close my eyes and free fall. Someone always catches me. ALWAYS.
3. Recovery is annoying. Sometimes I want to wash my hands of the whole thing- not that I want to drink again, but just stop all this getting better. Ack! Alas. I know that when I’m feeling the most cocky and un-needful of my recovery is when I need that sucker the most. And so I sort of make myself go back into the water even though I am so prune-y and over it.
4. I am getting used to praying. This year is the year I connect to my spirituality. I know I have always been connected, but it’s sort of like God and friends have been waiting on the porch and I’m sneaking a peek from behind the curtains. This is the year I throw the front door open wide and say “Come on in. I wasn’t sure if it was you or a murderer burglar. My bad. But now I recognize you. Welcome.”
5. I can do hard things and not drink. I can deal with what life hands out. Good and bad. There are so many reasons to drink. There are so many reasons not to.
6. I am an aholic. I’m an alcoholic, a thinkaholic. I am a my wayaholic, a cookieaholic. I am an obsess about my weightaholic. All of it is the same pleasure feeder in my brain: too much thinking about how much I totally suck and not enough of the pleasure of being just the me I am right now this minute today. I’m practicing. It baffles me how I fight and box myself into corners of sadness and despair. How I am totally fine, but I can wend and wind my way into feeling never ever good enough as fast as you can say stop that. I think that most of the battle against being an aholic is just putting down the weapons and maybe holding hands with yourself instead. I think I’m a yellow belt in this. But someday I’m going to really be kicking some serious ass. And it won’t be my own.
7. I believe believe believe with every bit of my big grace full heart in as many chances as it takes. People write to me and say things like “I keep going back” and “You must think I’m so wishy washy” and “Why can’t I quit”. Me too, me too. I was there for twenty years: wailing and excusing myself over and over again- making those early morning promises and then getting drunk that very same day. For years. I remembered this morning that I made a video of myself a few years ago telling myself not to drink. I remember watching it and drinking anyway. I think it takes a huge amount of courage and divine intervention to make a roadblock strong enough to withstand the temptation of the booze exit. I think everyone has it. I still sometimes scratch my head at why, why that one morning I woke up and had that inner earthquake that changed my lines forever. I do know this: I really deep down believed that day if I kept drinking I was going to die sooner than I wanted to. And that I was going to die alone and miserable and when I did I was really going to hate it. I could see my bloated lonely self in a dingy apartment full of longing and regret and I stood up inside and said “FUCK THAT”. Forever without a drink seems like a damn long time. So does spending a lifetime in a living hell. I believe you have to keep on giving yourself chances until you realize how worthy you are of being sober. That you have to get to a point where all the finger pointing and blame becomes being exhausted enough to try actually caring for yourself.
8. I am much happier when I am not judging anyone. Not the bitch in traffic, not the person at work who makes me nuts. And especially not myself. Reminding myself that we are all doing the best we can helps me so much. Some days it’s enough that all I did was not drink. Pretty much every day is that, and then some days are more magical than others. But I am alive and sober and so those two things make me innerly beautiful which makes me gorgeous all over. And I tell myself these things so I will believe them because they are true. They are true about you, too.
9. The biggest thing I have learned is that being sober has metamorphosed me into the woman I was always supposed to become. It has been ugly and sad and hard. It has been me, cheering myself on even when I wanted to give up and hide forever. It makes it nonexistenly important that I’m not rich, or skinny, or the best one of these or those. Sobriety has made me the best at me. It has given me what I looked for in the bottom of bottles and could never find- myself. I am who I am supposed to be.