Finish this sentence: Amazing things can happen when I …
When I first got sober I knew it wouldn’t be enough to focus entirely on not doing something. Not doing drugs. Not smoking weed. Not drinking. Sure, I needed to remember why I hit my many bottoms over the years—and I definitely couldn’t listen to that little voice that tempted me with “just one glass of wine.” That voice was lying. I never had just one glass of wine. I never wanted just one. Maybe one bottle! But one glass? That was like eating one Pringle.
As much as I knew it was important to remember where I came from—I was more interested in what would happen when I stayed sober for the duration. Not just for those few days I would string together after a bad bender. Not for the month to prove to myself that I could do it and give my system a break. I even went sober for a year just to prove once and for all that I wasn’t an alcoholic.
The strangest thing happened in that year—my life started getting better. Quickly. Dreams that I’d had since childhood, like traveling the world, resurfaced and became attainable. Did I stay sober then? Nope. I did my thirteen months to prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem and was off to the races, one-way ticket in one hand, glass of champagne in another.
Two years later I hit another bottom. This time I knew I had to be done but I did not go quietly into that good night. I rage, raged against the dying of Coors light. There were many days in those early years of sobriety when I wanted to quit quitting. The discomfort was unbearable. I longed to crawl out of my skin. Entering the world at 35 with zero coping skills wasn’t easy. Little things that adults handled like adults would send me into a spiral.
In the first couple of years alone I found out I had basal cell skin cancer, I got rear-ended, and a dude I was dating gave me bed bugs. BED BUGS. Those fucking spawns of Satan nearly drove me back into the arms of alcohol but I became determined to learn from their tenacity instead of succumb to it.
“I promise, it gets better,” my sponsor would tell me.
I had to stay curious about long-term sobriety in those moments. Only focusing on not drinking/using/smoking wasn’t enough. There needed to be something aspirational to keep me hanging on. I knew what life looked like on the hamster wheel of functioning alcoholism and I could count on always ending up exactly where I started.
But staying sober for a year, two years, five years? That seemed like science fiction when I first stopped drinking. It was so far out of the realm of anything I could imagine—I couldn’t begin to comprehend what life looked like without substances. It didn’t even need to get better per se. I just had to believe if I stayed sober day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year…that my life would change.
My sponsor was right. Little by little, amazing things started to happen. Around two years in my brain started coming back online. Around year three my heart started to melt. Year four and my relationships with my family started healing. At year five I experienced the classic: “that’s the sound of your head popping out of your ass.” I write for a living, my dream job. My company, Phetasy, still lives in spite of it all and I get to make podcasts and shows with my cousin. Another dream. I met my husband. We now have a baby.
If you had told me this story before I got sober, I would have asked you for whatever drugs you were on. Marry a man I met in a 12-step program? Get the fuck out of here. Have a baby at age 44? You’re smoking crack.
And yet, here I am. It’s all because of that one decision that I made and continue to make over and over and over. There is power in telling that little lying voice trying to undermine your health and sanity to kick rocks. Amazing things can and have happened when I stay sober. Excited to see what wonders the future holds.
Sobriety truly is the biggest trip of all.