It has been nearly 5 years since I had a drink. The day before I stopped drinking my life revolved around parties, dinners out and that private stash of wine always rotating through the refrigerator and the empty parade out the the curb on recycling day. And for about the first year of sobriety it felt like my life was over. Okay, who am I kidding, I don’t even remember the first year of not drinking. I pretty much just survived it the way you survive a blackout…you have vague recollections when you wake up and you are glad to hell it’s over and you promise never to do it again. Ever.
Looking back I vaguely remember three things about that year:
- A pot of coffee: I brewed a full pot of coffee every day at 3pm so I could have a drink in my hand all afternoon.
- A 12 step program: I believed I had a chance at a different life…the kind of life I saw those people living so I listened and did what they told me to do.
- The mirror in the bathroom: I could finally look at myself in it again.
My grandmother died one year–to the day– after my last drink. And I had a choice. I had always promised myself that when my grandmother–my absolute favorite person on earth–passed, I would throw the biggest party of my life. The choice I was faced with seemed really important as the funeral approached. I could drink to celebrate her life and lose the inertia of sobriety or I could show up at the ‘after party’ stone-cold sober and face death and life on it’s terms.
So the day of the funeral arrived. And let me just say, you can’t conjure up the kind of stuff that happens to you when you are stone-cold sober. I ended up writing the eulogy the night before and one of my heavy-drinking-buddy-cousins, Brett, who I hadn’t seen in years, read it. At the ‘after-after-party’ (yep, my brothers know how to keep the party going) Brett, sat down next to me and when I asked him what I could bring him to drink, he said he’d given up drinking. I didn’t have the guts to say I had too, but silently I felt supported when I poured myself a glass of lemonade instead of a gin and tonic–my grandmother’s favorite cocktail. What are the chances two recovering drunks made a beautiful contribution at my grandmother’s funeral service?
When my life orbited a bottle of wine, I could not conceive of the life I have now. I never imagined that when I was pouring those cups of coffee and surviving my first year of sobriety, I was amassing character that would pay dividends later. Today, I am doing things I never imagined: taking risks in my career, in my writing, in my relationships. I live with tremendous intention. And it is because I put down the liquid-courage.
Does my husband still have cancer? Does my mother still drive me absolutely crazy? Do I still struggle to get the laundry folded? Do I still loath the school projects that require poster board and glue sticks? Yes on all accounts. Some things in life didn’t change when I quick drinking. But the really, really important thing did. I changed. I have a second shot to live a courageous and beautiful life.
That’s the ‘AFTER-after-after party.’