This post was originally published on March 18, 2015.
1,000 days ago, I made a decision to try a new way of living and checked into a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism. And for the past 1,000 days (and what at times has seemed like a million nights), I’ve been living this new sober lifestyle: the good, the bad, and the weird and awkward in between.
I went to rehab to stop drinking. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know anything about what happens in rehab—what that looked like. I just knew that’s what people did who couldn’t stop drinking on their own—they went away to treatment. I’d seen the movie 28 Days where Sandra Bullock’s character goes to rehab. It didn’t seem so bad. Plus, she met some hot professional baseball player while in treatment. Didn’t seem like the worst place to be.
So, I searched the Internet; found a place; called; answered their pre-qualification questions, and they agreed. They too thought rehab was a good idea for me. I had finally reached a point that my drinking scared me. I hadn’t had control over my drinking for a long time but it had progressed quickly in a short span. Sometimes I would black out after a couple of beers and other times I could drink a magnum of wine and not feel drunk. It was completely unpredictable. I didn’t trust myself or my behavior. I knew that being in rehab would keep me safe and sober for at least 28 days and I could figure out the rest later. So, that’s what I did.
I had no idea that getting sober was about a lot more than just not drinking—it involves a lot of work to dig deep and weed out the wreckage of your past. For most of my adult life I was full of fear, anxiety, insecurity, anger, and resentments. A lot of people didn’t see that on the outside, but I damn sure felt it on the inside. I didn’t let anyone get too close to me. I treated feelings like the flu and would use alcohol to self-medicate and make them go away. My motives were self-seeking. I was selfish and self-centered and I was running on complete reliance of my own will. In other words, I was miserable and my life was a mess.
One day at a time, I started learning how to live without alcohol through the 12 steps, and oh what a journey it’s been over the 1,000 days. I am not sure what my expectations for life in sobriety were. I had never given that a thought until I found myself in rehab, and well, sober. I quickly thought up all the reasons why staying sober was going to be impossible for me. I worried about not being able to drink on New Year’s Eve or bachelorette parties or weddings or concerts or holiday parties or on a plane or a boat or the beach or family vacations. I can say that I have successfully done all of those things sober and had a blast doing them. How would I ever walk through Trader Joe’s and not buy wine? How could I possibly go into a bar and not order a drink? Oddly enough, the things I was fearful of ended up not being so scary.
On the other hand, the things I never thought about proved to be a little more difficult for me. I didn’t imagine how awkward sober dating would be. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable it would be to sit through something like the Dixie Stampede at six months sober and not be drunk. I never thought that TV shows like Cougar Town or Today with Kathy Lee & Hoda would be triggers for me in early sobriety and I would have to change the channel. It never crossed my mind that I would be a little bummed out when a new vodka flavor hit the shelf knowing that I would never be able to taste it.
I quickly learned that worrying was pointless and that life was going to throw me some curve balls and really all I have is today. So, I focused on that. I started living one day at a time. I stopped projecting into the future (to the best of my ability). I started developing this way of living that brought me a lot of peace and contentment (two things I never knew in active addiction). And before I knew it, drinking was the last thing on my mind.
I heard someone say that you have two lives; you start living the second one when you realize you only have one. And that’s what I’ve been doing the past 1,000 days. Life is for living and I can’t do that if I am not present for it and I can’t be present for it if I’m not sober.
I live in the same house that I lived in 1,000 days ago. I drive the same car. I have the same family. I have the same bills. I go to the same grocery store. I still grieve my brother’s death. I still remain single. I still have problems. Nothing is different, yet everything has changed.
I’ve also heard people say that their worst day in sobriety is better than their best day drunk. Well, people, I disagree. I had some pretty awesome times drinking. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have tried like hell to regain control of my drinking for as long as I did. But I get what they mean. I wouldn’t trade my life in sobriety for my old life drinking any day. Not once in the past 1,000 days have I regretted my decision to get sober. Today, the grass is greener. The sun is brighter. The air is fresher. I mean, not really. It’s just that I have a new outlook—a new perspective on life. I’ve replaced fear with faith, insecurity with confidence, anger with love, and resentments with forgiveness and acceptance. Of course I don’t do this perfectly. I mess up. I make mistakes. But over the past 1,000 days, I have come to know a new way of living and it’s pretty darn amazing.
Sure, there are some downers, if that’s what you want to call them: I won’t ever go wine tasting in Napa again. I’ll never know what Oola Rosemary flavored vodka tastes like. I’ll continue to sit through awkward first dates knowing it would be less awkward if wine were involved. But what I have gained the past 1,000 days is so much more. I can go anywhere and do anything while being true to myself and not have to drink. 1,001 days ago I was drinking not because I wanted to but because I had to. Today I have a choice and today I choose sobriety.