My good friend (my unofficial sponsor who’s been sober 8 years) gently told me as I entered my second year of sobriety that his was tough. Like, really tough. He wasn’t trying to scare me but rather prepare me.
My first year of sobriety was pretty much just about not picking up a drink. Day by day battling the wine witch. Each day choosing not to drink. Clocking up another day on my sobriety counter, checking in on Daybreak to claim that I made it to 3 days, then a week, a month, 90 days, and finally the magic 100 days. I received amazing kudos and encouragement to stay the course from such an incredible community.
It was my bloody-minded stubbornness to stay the cause and to not drink at all costs.
I ate what I wanted to, I slept when I wanted to, I sulked, I raged, I got angry, I cried and I whined but I didn’t drink. Not drinking was my one job. It was pretty much a full-time job and it was all consuming.
And month by month, day by day, hour by hour it got easier.
Then a miracle. On the 21st August 2022, I celebrated a milestone I never dreamed capable of reaching. The magical number – 365 days of sobriety. Something I’d witnessed others on Daybreak achieve, something I never thought I would or could. The pride was enormous. My otherwise fragile and depleted sense of self-worth was somewhat restored. I did it! I actually did it!! I celebrated with much fanfare at a high tea with friends and family. Everyone wrote me letters of encouragement for when the going would inevitably get tough, but oh what a special day my one year anniversary was.
Then I entered my second year of sobriety.
You spend the first year just so focused on not picking up a drink, .and as my friend gently warned me this second year for me has felt like a reckoning. All that crap you drink to forget ends up resurfacing and it’s like being laid bare on the side of the road. There’s no drinking to bury your emotions, or keep you in a perpetual childlike state of never addressing any of your past trauma or issues. It’s so confronting. If I’m honest I’ve cried the tears of a lifetime in the last year.
It was at these points I understood completely why people decide to pick up drinking again. Because man, facing these emotions sober is hard.
To cope I’ve surrounded myself with a circle of support. A medical professional, my husband, my sisters, my family, my friends. I’ve had to be brave enough to ask for help when I’ve needed it. I’ve had to be strong enough to brush off the devil on my back when it’s snuck up on me and said “just have one drink.” And I’ve had to face challenges like dinners, and weddings and birthday parties, sober.
The no drinking bit has been easier. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol free wines now which were so helpful for me in that first year. I’ve stopped posting about being a sober person as I don’t want that to be my soul identity anymore. I’ve stopped lamenting about no longer being the champagne drinking life of the party. My old drinking life and identity is well and truly behind me.
But in this second year I’ve had to really rediscover who I am without booze. What do I do with all this spare time? How do I socialise if there are no wine dinners, or champagne club events or weekends away to the Barossa or Clare? What do I do with my Saturday and Sunday mornings if it is not spent in bed hungover?!
And what the heck do I do with all these emotions. and tears? I’ve had to face my demons alone. Without the support of my old friend, alcohol. And my goodness it’s been confronting and hard but am I better for it? Yes. I am. Infinitely so.
So my friend was right in some ways. Year two was hard for me because I had to face my emotions and triggers. But it has been oh so worth it. I never ever get sick of waking up without a hangover. I never get sick of fretting about who I’ve offended, what stupid stuff I said to someone, what embarrassing behaviour have I engaged in. I don’t miss that unadulterated feeling of shame, self-loathing and guilt that you get after a bender.
And I want to say this. I’m not special or clever or unique… I’m just a girl who was sad and used alcohol as a crutch to self-medicate and forget. This was until I realised it wasn’t serving me anymore, and it was seriously compromising my mental and physical health.
To everyone who’s trying, every day you choose not to drink you choose yourself. Some days it’s an easy choice to make, some days it feels like climbing Everest.
But… every 3 days matter, every 10 days count, every month is an achievement, 90 days is a milestone and 100 days is sometimes when the magic begins. Getting sober isn’t a straight line. It took my five years of attempts to get here. And here I am. Two years on. If I can do it, so can you. And I promise you it’s worth it.
Lean on others. Lean on the Daybreak community.. It is made up of spectacular individuals who are supportive, kind and funny. Ex drinkers can still be fun! And you know what? We are even funnier because our minds are sharp and sober!
Two years on and I look like a different person. At first that was all I cared about, but now it’s not about that at all. I feel like a different person. The self-loathing has left the building. I’m calmer, more content and starting to discover the real me.
So here’s to year three!