You guys. Today is one of those brilliant, twirly days where the stars align and all is bright and I was extra nice to the coffee lady on my way to work. I even held the door open for a COMPLETE STRANGER (hold for applause). Today marks 100 days free. Of cigarettes. Of alcohol. Of easy buttons. Of running.
One hundred days ago, I decided to show the fuck up for my life. And then I made that choice ninety-nine more times. Mind. Blown. They say the universe will rise up to meet you wherever you are. I can think of no fairer description of the universe.
I’ve officially made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, and many work and social events without altering the experience by consuming ethanol (yep, I’m in that obnoxious, self-righteous recovery space where I refer to booze as ethanol). My immediate and egocentric urge is to write about all the ways my life improved when I removed alcohol and all of it’s complicit sneakiness. On a monumental day like today, it’s easy to feel like a woman in a southern baptist church…hands up, eyes closed, mmhmmm, and ‘praise JESUS‘ dripping like molasses from my tongue.
Instead, I think I’ll simply remind myself why I’m here.
I’m sober today for, like, one million reasons…mostly, my stories. I first danced with alcohol at the age of 16. I chose to become sober when I was 27. In that time, I accumulated a fairly hefty collection of drinking stories…ranging in size, shape, and outcome.
For the past 100 days, I haven’t focused much attention on my drinking stories. A lot of them are painful and embarrassing and they feel like they happened to someone else, in a different lifetime. But like it or not, they are my stories and they belong to me. It’s important to own each one, to use them as reminders…to revisit, walk around, observe the scenery, and then come back to this new story and whisper ‘thank God.’
Like Lemony Snicket, I’ve come to think of my alcohol-infused experiences as if they were a kind-of heartbreaking, kind-of necessary, kind-of brilliant misadventure sequence. I dub said sequence Brittany’s Drinking: A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Rather than hoot and holler and cheer for sobriety (all of which I’m doing during all hours of every single day and night), I’m going to remind myself that one of the reasons I’m here is because I often behaved like an absolute ass when I was drinking.
He’s drunk, I realized as my heart sank just a little bit. It had been a most pleasant surprise, his name flashing across my phone screen. I hadn’t heard from him in a few months and I missed him. But within a matter of minutes, I realized he had only contacted me because he was wasted. I knew the signs all too well.
The he I’m referring to is my first boyfriend. When I was 15, he gave me my first kiss while we sat in his little gray Saturn in the parking lot of our church and that was it; I was in love for the first time. We didn’t reconnect immediately following my breakup…it was over a year before I thought to reach out to him. Of course, it was only after I’d polished off a bottle or two of Cabernet that I began scouring various electronic resources for his contact information one evening. I settled on an old e-mail address that I dug up from god knows where. I sent out a quick, breezy message. He replied within 10 minutes. And just like that, I was 15 again and he was holding my hand through the barren wasteland that is transition and loneliness.
We quickly fell into a routine. I work first shift; he works second. I live in Michigan; he lives in Minnesota. I was single and killing myself multiple nights a week on my sofa; he was almost engaged and had an hour-long commute to downtown Minneapolis. So we started talking on the phone most evenings while he drove to work and I settled into the corner of my couch with wine and cigarettes. It didn’t feel like a decade had passed…but somehow it had and we had lots of catching up to do. I became a sounding board for his relationship struggles…he became the company I needed when I couldn’t stand to sit by myself in the quiet (I had repeated this trend with multiple men by that point, but it would take me until much, much later to figure any of that out).
Sometimes I told him I was drinking; sometimes I didn’t. I had long-ago decided I didn’t get “drunk” anyway…I had convinced myself my tone of voice didn’t change and my personality didn’t change and my behavior didn’t change. Sober, tipsy, drunk…it didn’t matter – and I assumed no one else could tell the difference either (lol). In any event, multiple nights a week, I’d drink and smoke while we talked on the phone until he arrived at work…then I’d drink and smoke while we spent the rest of the night texting until I went to bed (aka passed out).
Several things happened during my inebriated walk down memory lane with the boy to whom I gave all my firsts. The first thing that happened was, I decided we were meant to be together. I wasn’t sure how, but this was all going to end in an explosive, fairytale love-festival and Oprah was going to want to interview us because our story was just THAT spectacular. I could see the headlines, “STAR-CROSSED LOVERS FIND EACH OTHER AND FALL IN LOVE AFTER A DECADE APART.” I know. Delusional, much?
When I was drinking, facts didn’t matter much to me. “Facts” were immaterial, insignificant, banalities to be sorted out later…no matter how clearly important they were. The facts were: He lived in Minnesota and owned a home with the woman he’d been dating for many years and they just picked out a new puppy to add to their little family and we hadn’t actually been in each others’ presence for over a decade and I was a complete fucking disaster of a human being. No matter! my drinking mind would say. This was MEANT. TO. BE! What a perfect ending!
Another thing that happened during all of this, which had actually been happening since the first time I cheated on a boyfriend when I was 17, was: when I was drinking, I had about as much respect for relationships as I have for Bill Cosby. None. Zilch. Notta. Mine, yours, Barack Obama’s…boundaries meant nothing.
So I started upping the ante. I started saying things like, “I wonder what would have happened if we never broke up?” and “Do you remember the night of your open house wink wink?” And just when you’d think I couldn’t get any more obvious and/or disrespectful, I sent him pictures of myself, heavy on the cleavage or (probably) without a shirt at all. The mornings after our conversation crossed the line were hard. I felt something akin to shame…though I was still mostly numb and selfish and unwilling to examine my behavior.
I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do know he eventually called me, ever so politely, “relationship cyanide.” He explained that all of this was hindering his relationship with the woman he loved and we ended our communication. I was bummed because I was really looking forward to meeting Oprah, but whatever.
Months passed. Then one day, there was his name lit up on my iPhone screen like Christmas. I happened to not be drinking at the time so I was sane and polite and careful. I must have also been a bit condescending about the fact that he was drunk because he came at me with the conversational equivalent of a slap in the face:
“Yeah, well…go back a few months, throw in some slutty pictures and flirting and I’m basically you.”
Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. It stung, man. It stung bad. It stung because he was right, of course. But more than that, it stung because I hadn’t fooled him. I’d been caught. He saw right through me. He knew I was drunk for most of our conversations. And he knew I was behaving that way because I was drunk. I’d been had. I was entirely, utterly, thoroughly embarrassed.
I’m here…100 days sober, because of moments like that. I’m here because it hurt too much to continue collecting those stories. I’m sober because I don’t want to behave like relationship cyanide and I never want to be disrespectful of relationships again. I’m here because I was, in fact, very different when I was drinking. My tone of voice was different, my personality was different, my behavior was definitely different…and the only person I ever fooled was myself, for very brief intervals of time.
So YES! mmmhmm and Praise, JESUS! for 100 days of sobriety. The view from here is magnificent.
P.S. Today also happens to be the two year anniversary of my break-up. Isn’t the universe crafty and magical and a better storyteller than I could ever hope to be? Gotta love those Divine “coincidences” (wink wink). ♥