Sobriety Birthday

I don’t remember much about July 12th.  Perhaps it should be my “sobriety birthday” since it was the first day: day one of no more drinking.  Ever.  But many who have been on the alcoholic’s journey know that there are many first days of “no more drinking, ever”.

“Today is the day,” then a few days later and more than a few drinks later: “Today is the day” . . . and on and on it goes.

So I didn’t dare hope too much on July 12th, 2014 that I would actually never drink again.  Sure, there was some hope but there was mostly fear and shame.  So much fear and shame.  I was scared shitless.

If I kept drinking someone would die: my son, me, a person driving on the road.  I believed this to my core that day.  Even just one more drink would be death because there is never “just one more”.

Even so: on July 12th I had no confidence, only a debilitating Ache.  An Ache that was the accumulation of all of the pain of the past, the pain that I was trying to numb with alcohol.  It never worked.  It would return full-force and I would be drowning in pain, drowning myself in alcohol to escape.  Then the pain would return . . . a never-ending cycle. I didn’t know how I was going to do it – get through this brokenness and my primary way of coping through drinking.  What was I going to do?  “Not drink” sounded like a pretty impossible plan.  I had told myself that time after time.  But there was something different about this time: fear.  Fear for my son.  He needed me and because of my drinking I was endangering him and myself.  That was unacceptable.  I had no idea what the next step was.  It didn’t really matter that day because I couldn’t think past the moment.

When I think about my sobriety, though, I don’t think about that date – July 12th.  It is not what comes to mind.  It is unfailingly July 11th that grips me, takes hold of me.  I find myself at the mercy of flashbacks and intense emotion.  July 11th: the turning point.  The day I got in over my head and had to call a friend.  She came over and I was so far gone, trying to eat something and sober up enough to think straight again.  Sober up enough to not be afraid to be home alone with my baby.

I read those words: “Sober up enough to not be afraid to be home alone with my baby” and my heart hurts.  Nothing had happened to him as a result of my drinking but it is what could have happened that made it unconscionable.  I was incapacitated that day.  At least I had enough wherewithal to call someone.  I was so ashamed and afraid and alone.  I could think of only one person to call.

It is that day – not the one after – in which my sobriety was born.  It was that moment I picked up the phone and slurred something intelligible (or unintelligible) enough that made it clear that I was in trouble.  It was the moment where pride and worry about what people would think of me crumbled and disintegrated into the waters in which I was drowning.  It was the moment in which I was bare and vulnerable and scared and I couldn’t hide it – couldn’t handle it.  It is the moment where “I” became “we”.  The moment I decided to face The Ache head-on and desperately fight my way out of damaging isolation through the long path of healing.

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