Even Robert Downey, Jr (patron saint of alcoholics and addicts, everywhere) is celebrating with me
So, next week I will celebrate THREE whole years in sobriety. While that may not seem like a lot to you civilians, it’s almost inconceivable to me. I say celebrate, and by all means, it IS a celebration, but it’s been a difficult and painfully emotional journey – yet, so absolutely worthwhile. Everyone’s story is as unique as they themselves but the one thing I know to be true is that recovery and sobriety aren’t for those who need it, but for those who want it.
Of course, not many WANT it until they find themselves in pretty dire straits. A lot of people call this the “gift of desperation” and I suppose it is indeed, exactly that. You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. It’s killing you and ripping your life apart, but you’re powerless to stop. My situation was a little different in that my body finally waved the white flag, but, believe you me, I was ready. I’ve worked really hard to be honest with myself, identify crappy patterns, and to DO THE WORK that comes with being a sober, grateful, and serving human being, rather than spending my days running around like Courtney Love loose in a pharmacy.
I see a lot of posts out there about how differently things are in sobriety than in active alcoholism and a lot of folks publish helpful reminders and useful tips, as well. While I appreciate the importance of self-care, nutrition, and yoga, I couldn’t help but create my own personal list of things that have changed in MY life since putting the plug in the proverbial jug. I feel it would be remiss of me not to be frank with y’all on what it’s really been like.
MEMORIES LIGHT THE CORNERS OF MY MIND
This one is pretty boiler-plate, really. Almost everyone has a story about getting hammered and not remembering parts of an evening or event, not just alcoholics. However, drunks like to kick it up a notch. We sometimes miss a few weeks, years, or even decades, in our blurred and blacked out conditions. So, it’s two-fold, really. The good news is I remember everything now. The bad news is I remember everything now.
PASSING OUT SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
Sometimes when I was drunk I would wind up spending the night in a strange place, and often, with strange folks. I once came to in a Hollywood shithole and upon trying to find a bathroom before my escape, came across an almost 10 lb. live iguana sitting in a FRYING PAN on their stove, in their kitchen. I don’t believe the iguana was necessarily for breakfast, but more that it just didn’t have a cage at all and had perched upon the stovetop. Hell if I know. Another time I awoke in a gated neighborhood and couldn’t find my way out the next morning. I couldn’t go back to ask directions because I had stolen dude’s cigarettes and all the cash in his wallet. Don’t you judge me – there were no debit cards or cellphones back then and my ass had to get back to the San Fernando Valley, somehow. Now when I wake up, I know where I am and how I got here. Sometimes, it’s the little things.
MORE THAN A FEELING
Feeling and looking like death warmed over was commonplace. In fact, it was SO commonplace that I really didn’t realize just how crappy I felt every day until I was sober almost two years. Of course, I was seriously ill and it took awhile for my body to heal but when it did, the difference was stunning. I haven’t had to take an ibuprofen, vomit, or eat a sackful of sliders to relieve a hangover in three years. My baseline now is feeling pretty kick-ass and when I don’t feel kick-ass, I’m able to deduce the cause pretty rapidly instead of assuming it’s my hangover and/or lifestyle. I’m no longer puffy or carrying around a spare squishy tire filled with cheap vodka around my waist. I am in the best shape of my life, which is not to say I resemble J. Lo, but I’m proud of the way I look, given what I’ve been through. In the interest of total candor, I will also share with you that I also no longer shit my pants. See? I’m willing to bet not a lot of folks mention that little perk of sobriety, but now it’s out there forever and right now my Mother is reading this and thanking the blessed winking baby Jesus that my Grandma passed away 5 years ago. Seriously though, when your diet is 85% vodka and 15% jalapeños, this is what happens. I couldn’t politely cough for ripping a skidmark by the end of things, and no matter the amount of shit in your pants, IT IS TOO DAMN MUCH, I ASSURE YOU. I have almost as much shit-my-pants stories as waking-up-outside-next-to-a-dumpster-covered-up-with-a-filthy-carpet-remnant stories, and that is saying something. I’m also somewhat nervous and terrified (and almost sure) that some may even crop up in the comments, knowing my ‘friends”. Maybe one day I’ll publish an anthology – upon my own Mother’s death, naturally. But for now I certainly won’t underestimate the awesomeness of keeping control of one’s rectum.
OH MOSES SMELL THE ROSES
I stunk, y’all. Not always or every day but there were MANY embarrassing occasions in which I was informed of smelling like a brewery, or like I’d drank a bottle of aftershave, or even from literally sweating vodka from my pores, always combined with a little garlic, so I’ve heard. I don’t even want to think of my stench for the years that I smoked cigarettes as well. I bet I smelled like a really bad daytime hooker. Now I still stink, but it’s usually just honest to goodness sweat from
an anxiety attack my yoga practice, and I imagine that’s a vast improvement compared to walking around reeking like formaldehyde.
YOU’RE MY OBSESSION
Call it what you want; a fixation, a fetish, or a preoccupation. For me it was an obsession and it was utterly exhausting. When you have a serious drinking problem, you are constantly on HIGH alert and obsessing over when you can drink, where you can drink, if you have ENOUGH to drink and can you drink like you really want to or are people watching?!? You know every liquor store and their hours within a twenty mile radius. You have to mix it up a little because there’s just too much shame in going back EVERY OTHER DAY for yet another handle bottle of
Three Olives booze. I would obsess over getting buzzed enough to “deal” with whatever the event was that I was attending. I would carry airplane bottles or a flask, just in case. As my friend Ledbetter was famous for pontificating, “I’d rather be looking AT it than looking FOR it”. Now, I live my life in freedom from that constant and crippling panic and restlessness. Now I focus on more important and lofty matters like, does Stevie Nicks sing the lyrics but yet feel differently about “Landslide” now that she really IS older, and just how the hell celebrity dancer Derek Hough got past my radar because he is totally the cutie on duty and I would’ve climbed him like a cat pole, back in the day.
Or, really, now. . . who am I kidding?!
WRAP IT UP I’LL TAKE IT
So, those are just a few highlights for you and I’d say they give you some insight to just how glamorous things really were in the years leading up to the shit show and subsequent implosion that was my life. Now I’m living a life I couldn’t have imagined even before I started drinking. That’s a bold statement, but it’s one hundred percent correct, and I can’t eloquently describe to you, gentle readers, the pricelessness of just that; I’m living a life.
I’m so delighted to have your company on this journey – thanks for reading. For any of you out there that know me and want to share your memories in the comments below, please do so, as I probably owe you an apology, anyway. If you have some “pros” of sobriety of your own you’d like to add, I would love to hear them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go call my Mother.