“Mama. What were you doing right now 20 years ago?” That is the question my 8 year old babies asked me this morning after they saw my XX year anniversary coin and we were talking about what it used to be like.
“Well, I was likely checking into a hospital.”
“Why a hospital?”
“Because when you are as sick as I was, you need medical help to stop drinking all the time and I was lucky that grammy and grampy got me help. Alcohol made mama very sick and it caused me to make terrible decisions and hurt people.
But then after a while, I wasn’t drinking every day and I wasn’t as sick anymore and I got to go live somewhere where I could work with feelings doctors and go to meetings to help me feel better inside and outside. SO then every day I would wake up and try really hard to not drink and to do the next right things and help other people and that all helped me stay sober each day.
And then after several years and not the right timing or true loves in my life, I finally met dada again and THEN after trying and waiting so long to meet exactly you two precious angels, I got to feel you in my tummy (thanks to devil science hope and love!) and then you came out and it’s been the best most important most wonderful part of my life and my story. But you know I wouldn’t have any of you to love – your dad or you two or any of our cats – if I didn’t stay sober each day, right?”
“I’m proud of you, mama.”
“That’s why my middle name is Hope – because you hoped for me so much. And I’m proud of you too, mama.”
I quit drinking and I got all the things. I let go, and boy did I receive. Even on the really shitty days, those damn promises are still coming true.
If there is a way to describe what it feels like to have accrued 20 years of continuous sobriety, I don’t know what that is. I guess it feels comfortable. Normal. Status quo. But in a time when nothing feels normal and what we used to feel about being safe doesn’t really apply, I will admit it feels vulnerable. It feels valuable. It feels precious.
Is it more precious now than 5 years ago? 10? 20 years feels like it should just be who I am now, considering I’ve been sober far longer than my actual drinking career. But the work. The work behind the reasons WHY I drank, that is what continues.
Perhaps now is the time I see it more clearly than ever before. Because people are so angry and so hurt and so tired and so desperate. Because there is no hiding anything anymore. What people believe is in our faces whether we want it to be or not, and it is destroying countries, states, communities, families. I still contend when we meet each other face to face, one on one, that is where the real work gets done. Slowly and honestly and calmly. When we listen to one another and get to the vulnerability underneath all the bullshit. THAT is what I’m here for and what I’ll continue to be here for – not all the noise.
I am angry and I am sad but what I am most of all is grateful. When I reel it back in and look at my life and why I have the luxury of being sad and angry, I just get grateful. A thing like that.
I cried on the phone with my mama this morning as we remembered what it was like 20 years ago. She remembers the marks on my wrists from handcuffs and I remember sitting in the psych ward watching spiders climb the walls in swarms as I detoxed. There were no spiders. I was hallucinating.
Both my parents told me today that I’ve more than made it all up to them. One of my main goals in life is to continue to make them proud. Being in the middle of the sandwich generation, my hope is that neither my parents nor my kids ever have to see me drunk.
My family helped get me started but I’ve done the work. And I will continue to do the work. My parents went through SO DAMN MUCH back then for me and when I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I surrendered. My parents advocated for me. I hope I do as well advocating for my babies.
I am surrounded by people in my life of my choosing that love me for who I am no matter how maddening I can still be – perhaps even more so now because the ROAR and unfuckablewithness of a perimenopausal sober twin mama is unmatched – but I am the luckiest.
I went to bed last night and hoped I’d wake up today to see my 20 year anniversary. Well here I sit in my dining room, alone, but knowing that I have people today who love me and are sending in well wishes from every corner of my life. I am so so touched and grateful.
20 years is huge but it’s the same as 24 hours really. I go to bed each night being thankful and letting that day go and wake to find hope in starting a new day. Sober. That’s all I can do. I am grateful and of service. That is how this works, even after all these years.
I know you love an alcoholic. I know you love an addict. I do too. I know you want to give up hope but you don’t. Even if in some deepest corner of your heart with all your boundaries drawn and all your chances exhausted, you still have hope. Please keep on. You can love and hope without giving in. You can. And I love you.
And for you the struggling with this obsession of the mind and spirit. I know you aren’t ready yet and you may never be, but I will always see you and know that you don’t want this. You don’t want to behave this way. Maybe you have used up all your hope and all your chances and even so, you have one more in you. Keep trying. I’m holding space for you always for when you are ready. And I love you.
To those of you who have been here for years and those of you newer friends, I thank you. I may not be anywhere near the same or as present here as I used to be, but I am present where I need to be and will continue to be here. Because we need each other. Just, thank you. I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.
When I got sober at 28 years old, there weren’t many women out here talking about being a woman and being sober. Now there are quite a few more of us. We still have much further to go in letting go of the stigma. We aren’t bad, we are sick. And it runs so much deeper than what we choose to self medicate with. We all love someone like me. Or we are someone like me. Let’s keep talking about it and walking each other through it. Connection and gratitude are the keys. To just about everything.
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Here are all the damn soberthday posts I’ve written since I started this here blog – I’ve written my gd heart out and you should read these: