Today, 23rd January 2017, marks 7 years for me without drinking alcohol.
The celebration of my sober anniversary is a weird thing for me this year. It feels different than any other year and I think it’s because the dynamics of my choice to not drink has shifted in my consciousness. Now, it just doesn’t seem that big a deal. Celebrating it seems a bit too luxurious at this point.
Not drinking alcohol has become just a small part of life my life. I’ve settled into it comfortably and it is now my normal. If I’d been asked several days before I stopped drinking if I’d be booze free for the next 7 years, I’d have laughed hysterically, or been so appalled at such a thought I’d have fainted.
But now my life has become enormous. Simple, but enormous.
Then, drinking alcohol was my normal. It served many purposes in my limited experience of living. It was my motivator, my tormentor, my joy, my pain relief and my laughter. And I saw nothing wrong with that. The bars and clubs were full of people doing exactly the same thing as me. And peoples living rooms were occupied in the evening, by wine drinking mothers, just like me all over the globe.
Just totally normal….right?
At some point, everyone is forced to face themselves. That point for me came when I basically had no choice. My life was catastrophic at best. But something else had changed too. The desire in me to excel at life became much stronger than staying in that wasteful, pitiful limbo I was in. Peace was not available to me. I was stuck between either facing crippling pain, or forever numbing it with alcohol.
I had to make a choice.
I chose to face myself.
Choosing to face ourselves brings with it a great freedom. We then have a choice about what we do with what we see. If we find ourselves in a situation where we need to be picking ourselves apart with microscopic precision, then there’s definitely been some prolonged and very uncomfortable occurrences and realizations to bring us to the greatest challenge of our lives.
The challenge of change.
I had nothing to lose. Whatever I chose was going to be painful. The difference between one path and another was that quitting drinking and facing my malignant, internal pain was going to lead somewhere – probably a fulfilling and functional life. Not quitting and continuing to numb was going to lead to – more pain – that would require further numbing.
Numbing is expensive, life threatening, wasteful and creates the need to be a complete asshole to contain the pain. Who the hell wants to live like that? That’s not living. It’s maintaining existence. The street light outside my house exists. The pavement exists. My house exists. At least they all serve a purpose. Me living in a substance abuse bubble served no purpose, except to self-destruct.
I wanted more than mere existence.
And now I have it.
But sobriety is so much more than an abstinence from chemicals. If that’s all it was about I’d be eagerly waiting to celebrate each anniversary. It would be just about counting and accumulating days of being booze free as a signifier of success. Sobriety for me has to be about insatiable joy or it’s just not worth it.
My successful sobriety is defined by what I do with those abstinent free days. I’ve filled those days with purpose and passion towards the things that matter. My children, my writing, my passion to help other women empower themselves and my own self development is what life is about for me now. In short – liberation is the theme of my life.
The forward momentum of growth I have created rapidly detaches me from my past and towards liberation. I’m grateful for that detachment. But I will never conveniently forget how hard the past was.
Anniversaries used to be a big deal for me. Something that I defined myself by. I used to be a sober alcoholic. Now I’m Nicola O’Hanlon, a strong, driven, compassionate, empathic, fierce woman who happens not to drink.
I also turned 42 on January 20th. That is far more significant for me. Being 42 and the kind of woman I used to admire and aspire to be is a big deal. Looking at myself in the mirror and liking what I see is a big deal. Trusting myself is a big deal.
Could I be that woman without removing my alcoholic anaesthetic?
I highly recommend it.
Originally posted on http://www.iloverecovery.com