No two words go better together than Happy and Birthday but happy is the last word I would use to describe the feelings I have surrounding my sober birthday every year. Although, I’ve only had three such birthdays and am approaching my fourth on June 11th but they have all been somewhat similar in tone. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. But it’s not a particular happy time for me. I refer to it as my Birthday Funk.
This funk settles on me the week or weeks leading up to my sober birthday. No real reason. I guess the time of the year conjures up memories of my downward spiral. I don’t remember many details of the months leading up to the day I hit rock bottom, but I remember the feelings well. My rock bottom wasn’t anything dramatic. I didn’t go out with some huge bang. No arrest, DUI or big fight. I didn’t wake up in a bar or strangers bed. I wasn’t in any kind of accident. Sure, all of those played a part in me reaching my bottom but they were strung out over years.
You see, I had told myself that I wasn’t going to drink at an event my parents were hosting to celebrate my brother’s life. It would have been his 30th birthday. I say ‘would have been’ because he died from an overdose about six weeks prior to this date. I promised my parents, myself and probably even God that I was not going to drink on that day—I meant it too. I had been drunk pretty much around the clock from the day my brother died until this day. This day was going to be different. Well, we know how that story goes. It’s never different. I was in a blackout by the time the event started that afternoon. I have little recollection of the day, but I didn’t pass out until around six that evening.
I woke up the next morning hating myself more than I ever had. I was mentally and spiritually bankrupt. I was an empty shell of a human being, and if I only had one word to describe how I felt that day it would be shame. I was ashamed of who I had become. I was ashamed of what my alcoholism was doing to my family. I was ashamed that I couldn’t honor my brother’s memory, but instead used it as an excuse to drink like I wanted to.
I woke up that morning to the realization that I had no soul, no passion, no purpose, no energy and no hope. I also woke up to the realization that I had no control over my drinking. I was sure that I had been drinking for years because I wanted to, but how could I not stay sober for this one day—an important day. A day that my entire family was watching me and I failed. I failed miserably because I’m an alcoholic and drinking hadn’t been a choice in a long time. My gig was up. Everyone knew that I had a problem. I was no longer fooling anyone and that was a shitty reality to face.
So, I guess after giving you a little insight to my emotional and mental wellbeing on the day I decided to enter rehab (which is now my sober birthday), maybe you can understand why it isn’t the happiest of days for me. I’m sure some of my mood has to do with the fact my brother’s birthday is the day before my sober birthday and him not being here to celebrate it is an even shittier reality to face. Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe I just find it weird to celebrate the anniversary of one of the most miserable and darkest days of my life. And maybe my attitude will change with time, or maybe it won’t. I try to give myself some grace and just take it one day at a time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being sober and I love celebrating my recovery—I do it daily. I would say that the majority of my days are happy and even when I’m not happy, I’m grateful. June 11th is a birthday. Sobriety has given me a whole new life. I have passion and a purpose. I have energy and a soul full of hope. And I get to wake up every single day without a hangover, which four years later still amazes me.
The crazy part is that I always look forward to my sober birthday. But by the time it comes around I’m in the corner singing “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Listen, I don’t completely understand it either. There’s a lot to figure out being sober and navigating through life without escaping through a bottle, which was how I dealt with any feelings or emotions most of my adult life. So what if I’m not in the mood to celebrate on my sober birthday? I’m sober and that’s really all that matters.
So, while I may not be the happiest or cheeriest of people on my sober birthday, I am grateful. And I can smile because the days after I got sober were some of the most hopeful and happiest days of my life. When you start living your life with the realization that you only have one life to live, that’s something to celebrate!