Some of them are more like millstones. The death anniversaries, the birthdays of your deceased loved ones, the date of your first wedding when you’re no longer married to that person, the day the music died…whichever time it died. These dates hang over us commemorating what might have been, what should have been, what was.
We each get a birthday that’s supposed to be our day. The day we were placed on the earth to enslave at least one or two adults for the next 20 years or so. For me, this has turned into a day for which I have NO expectations, and then I’m not disappointed. My husband threw me off my game a couple years ago when he had a surprise party for me, damn him.
But some of us truly have a day that really DOES belong only to us. A milestone we can celebrate however we choose. Except one particular way: we don’t drink to it. It’s our sobriety date.
Today, September 9, is my 13th. Thirteen years since my last drink. That’s a grade school and high school education. That’s some marriages. A car replaced. At least two presidents, three if things are extra messy. Some new houses start looking old by then. Carpets certainly do. It’s getting up there.
Each year of sobriety feels different. I’m feeling grateful this year.
The first year or two, my mantra was the great Carrie Fisher quote from Postcards From The Edge: “Thank GOD I got sober now so I can be hyper-conscious for this series of humiliations.” Two months in, newly divorced, broke, with Christmas around the corner, I was fired from a job I hated. And things went downhill from there.
It was a humbling experience to get sober in my hometown after having lived away for 20 years. I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, “the poor man’s rehab” as we called it. Outside the rooms, I had little support from people around me when I stopped drinking. The lack of support varied. A couple of my friends said, “I never thought you drank too much,” and that was that. No questions asked. On the bright side, my daughter said the same thing. Eternal thanks for that one.
Others said, right to my face, “I hear you took the cure,” an expression I’d heard since I was a kid in my town. Anybody who “couldn’t handle” their booze and had to quit was taking the cure, those lightweights.
If I ordered a Diet Coke amidst a table of drinkers that included my mother, she’d nod in my direction and say, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed ANYTHING.” Always a big laugh.
So, maybe you can see why the Carrie Fisher quote rang true to me. This lack of understanding pissed me off, made me feel singled out, even sorry for myself at times. But as the years of sobriety have added up for me, the quote has changed from sarcasm to truth.
I really am grateful now that I’m sober to feel all of it – the humiliations, the joys, the sad things and the crazy things – without being numb. Numb is dumb, my friend Ray used to tell me. And I really hate to be dumb. Nothing much scares me any more. Terrible things happen, and we get through them. Some people don’t. We learn. We learn how to feel. We learn how to help other people feel. Nothing is perfect, nor will it ever be. People are mean; people are nice. Sometimes nice people are mean.
Simply put, the last thirteen years of sobriety have given me a life I could never have imagined, not in my wildest dreams. And my dreams were pretty damn wild.