Yesterday in the woods behind our house. Awake, grateful, sober, and still occasionally, quite fun.
Do you remember Fun Bobby? He was a very minor character on Friends. He was *super fun*. And then he got sober and became stiflingly earnest and dull. And we never saw him again.
I was terrified of becoming Fun Bobby.
I had no idea who I would be without alcohol.
How would I cope with the debilitating stress of work, with the endless pit of grief and loss at Mum’s sudden death, with the fear that at any moment Ash would leave me?
Somewhere in the far recesses of my mind, I knew drinking wasn’t the healthiest coping mechanism, I knew it was actually creating a lot of trouble, but I didn’t know how to stop, and most of the time, I didn’t want to either. Everything that caused me stress was so much easier to deal with after I had fallen into the sweet numbness of drink.
One morning I woke up feeling desperate. I was sick with shame at things I had said, the state I had let myself get into. Again.
I don’t know if it was rock bottom, but I just couldn’t see an end to that rinse and repeat life. I quietly decided I didn’t want to drink anymore.
Today I have been sober for exactly five years. It is without a doubt, the most important, proudest achievement of my life. I could cry with gratitude when I think of what it means to me to be sober.
I’m all me, all the time.
I’m consciously myself in every context, with every person, at any given moment. I trust myself to show up as me every single time.
This is a world away from often feeling like a sham fortune teller, trying to read body language clues to help me figure out what I said or how someone reacted. I spent a lot of time apologising.
I’m not constantly looking for a cork.
I grew up in a family where any big display of emotion was part of our ‘gipsy, Italian, Scottish heritage’: we were people with big feelings. And we had them all the time.
But the power of these emotions seemed to overtake my reasoning, I was emotionally ‘leaky’ and often felt out of control. And because I had few tools to be with my feelings, I was constantly looking for corks to bung the leaks.
Drama filled relationships, constant spending, travel adventures and vodka: all excellent ways of dulling and distracting me from any emotion. When I drank, I often felt as if my emotions were a short distance away from me.
In the last five years, I’ve learned how to access my life – to feel the full spectrum of my emotions. I’ve found that no emotion is permanent, and few require an immediate response.
Mostly, I’m so fucking awake.
Particularly in that first hour of the day, just before the sun comes up. That’s my time to connect with myself and the vast mystery of everything. It’s when I tend to have the best ideas for what to write and share and create.
My mind is undoubtedly sharper without the dulling effects of drink; I have no idea if I would have been able to go back to grad school if I wasn’t sober.
I always feel awake, connected, alive (I promise I won’t use double exclamation points).
Everything is just better.
I love my life now; it’s immeasurably better because I stopped drinking. Within a few weeks of this decision, I experienced an ‘awakening’ that I still can’t explain. It woke me up to all the ways I was betraying myself and set me on the path to the second half of my life.
Still, sometimes I really miss that first sip of an excellent Central Otago pinot noir. But not enough to ever take one.
It just feels like too big of a risk and for such a comparatively tiny payoff.
Instead, I choose me.