6 ways sobriety has changed my life

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See this smile? It’s the smile of a sober mom who know she came thisclose to losing it all.

Yesterday I celebrated my 6th year of sobriety by doing something I was incapable of doing when I used to drink: spending quality time with my family.

My oldest son was 4 and my youngest was 2 when I finally dumped my wine bottles down the drain for the very last time, and I feel so blessed that they will most likely never remember the way mommy used to slur her words every other afternoon as she chugged her way through the Oprah show.

Sometimes those days feel like a million miles away.

Sometimes they feel just like yesterday.

I make a point not to dwell on all of the mistakes I made when I consistently chose alcohol over my loved ones, except to remind myself once in a while just how close I came to losing it all. To remind myself how blessed I am to have been given another chance, how insanely in love I am with my life — my sober life.

To sit and focus on the what if’s and the could’ve been’s would be to take me away from living in the now and the today. It’s not a perfect life, because there’s no such thing — but it’s a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. A life filled with love and joy and integrity.

One of the main things I worried about when I stopped drinking was how I was ever going to have fun again. When you’re in the midst of the insanity that is alcoholism, you actually think that drinking is still fun, even when everyone around you has long ago realized that fun is that last thing you are when you’re under the influence.

It’s not until the gentle breeze of sobriety slowly clears your mind that you realize what a mess you really were, and how NOT fun life has truly been.

So in honor of my 6th sober birthday, I’ve compiled a list of the six ways my life has changed for the better since I stopped drinking:

1. Instead of early morning phone calls from friends about what a jerk I was the night before, now I get late night phone calls to come pick them up.

2. When I wake up confused and disoriented, cramped up on a twin bed with Cheez-Its stuck to my forehead, it’s thanks to my kids, not because I downed a case of Coors Light.

3. My laundry hampers are filled with laundry instead of wine bottles and Listerine. OK, that’s not necessarily “better” in the normal sense of the word, but I think you get what I mean.

4. I have conversations I remember where I no longer claim to be the long lost sister of the Duke of Earl or a finalist on American Idol.

5. I go to someone’s house, and I get invited back. A lot. And not by accident. People actually want me around. (I’m still getting used to that one).

6. I’ve discovered I’m an amazing conga line leader. For reals. It’s not a wedding until I’ve started a conga line. Trust me.

I’m supposed to take my life one day at a time. I’ll be honest, some days I have to break it down into minutes. It’s not because I crave booze, which thank the lucky heavens I don’t — not even a little bit — it’s more to do with savoring the fact that by the grace of God (and my unwavering and supportive husband, family and friends), I am blessed and fulfilled today.

People often ask me how I can possibly be so candid about my past drinking in my work. I’ll tell you: it’s because I no longer have anything to feel ashamed about. My shame ended the same day I put the bottle down six years ago.

And if I can help one more person who thinks they’re the only one who does what they do and feels how they feel, just one more person who may be embroiled in a tug-of-war with addiction, then well, there’s no shame in that, is there?

So happy 6th birthday to me.

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