Tomorrow marks 7 months of sobriety. The me of 7 months ago was a completely different person than the me of today. However, it’s easy to lose sight of how much has changed when you live the daily evolution. My therapist has encouraged me to document the differences in who I am today versus who I was just 7 months ago. I am a work in progress and have a long road ahead of me, but for tonight, I’m going to reflect on the road behind me.
7 months ago I was completely isolated. I had no friends to speak of and I only interacted with family when I had to. I wouldn’t make plans with anyone because I didn’t like to leave my house. That, and the anxiety that lived within me as soon as I made plans with someone was overwhelming. Most times, I cancelled any plans that I did make.
A friend from college got married this summer and she had a Stag ‘n’ Doe early in the year. There were 5 of us that stuck together during college, so the other 4 of us secretly planned to surprise her at the Stag ‘n’ Doe. It would have been the first time we were all together since graduating more than 10 years ago. We planned for weeks via Facebook messages, but at the last minute I sent a group message saying I regretfully had to back out. I knew all along I would. That type of social get-together was not something I could handle. Not even the idea of it.
Fast forward to this summer and I had a similar opportunity with a different group of friends to plan a reunion that involved a concert. I was still drinking when I proposed the idea to 5 old friends, but was several months sober by the time the show came around. I did not cancel on them. I went and it was an amazing experience. That night, we planned to regroup 2 months later for another concert. I went to that one too, without hesitation and without anxiety.
Last Sunday I met a sponsee of my sponsor. Our sponsor encouraged us to exchange phone numbers and to keep in contact while she’s out of province for the week. 7 months ago, I was not someone who called anyone. No one. Especially not someone I had just met. The next day was a rough work day and I decided to go to a meeting that night. I texted this woman I had just met the day before to see if she wanted to go with me. I only hesitated for a moment before I hit “send” and I had no regret or anxiety afterwards. 7 months ago, I would not have even considered texting her. 7 months ago, I wouldn’t have considered going to a meeting on a night I don’t normally attend. But I did both with little hesitation.
7 months ago, I sat in my therapist’s office for my first session. I had been sober for 3 days. When she asked if I’d considered AA, I told her it wasn’t an option. “It’s religious and I’m not.” AA had been suggested to me a few times over the past decade and I always replied the same way: no. No discussion. I wasn’t going to be one of “those people” who traded one addiction for another. I wasn’t entering the cult of AA.
Today, I’m a member of an AA group, I have a sponsor and I’m working the steps. My therapist says that she didn’t think, 7 months ago, that I’d ever step foot into a meeting, let alone stay. There was a lot of anxiety along the way and a lot of meetings that I raced out of as soon as they ended. Something shifted for me when I finally got the courage to ask for a sponsor. I’d had tremendous anxiety for over a month leading up to asking her. Now that I’m dissecting the recent past, I realize that my overall anxiety levels have all but disappeared since starting with my sponsor.
I had to sit back for a moment just now. This week I noticed that I’m not experiencing anxiety in situations that I normally would. I can pinpoint that shift to when I connected with my sponsor. It’s tremendously comforting to know you have an ally who shares a common life experience.
AA and my sponsor have opened my mind to the possibility of spirituality. I don’t need to believe in a Christian God to fit in. I don’t need to believe in anything, but I’m starting to open up to the possibilities. 7 months ago, I would not have entertained the thought of a “higher power” in any form. Today, I’m open to discovery.
The past 3 weeks at work have been tense and stressful. On Monday, I began to realize that my job is in jeopardy. I had the thought to buy vodka on my lunch hour to take a break from the stress. The thought didn’t last long and I decided to attend an AA meeting that night instead of festering at home. The rest of the work week continued with a tense and stressful environment, but on Friday I stepped back and realized: had I experienced this week 7 months ago, the entire week would have been different. I would have certainly drank throughout the day, every day, and likely would have called in sick at least once. However, I showed up to work every day with the best attitude I could muster, given the situation, and I tackled the problems at hand. I still don’t know if my job is secure, but I don’t have the anxiety about it that I would have had 7 months ago.
7 months ago I would have been acutely paranoid and would have allowed the paranoia to spin out of control in my head. What’s changed? Beyond the obvious, that I don’t have alcohol coursing through my veins, certain concepts from AA, my sponsor and my therapist have begun to land. The Serenity Prayer, for one, has just recently connected for me and it suddenly makes perfect sense. Accepting the things I cannot change allows me to release the paranoia and anxiety that would normally take over. I cannot control whether or not my boss fires me. What I can control is how I perform as an employee and how I react to the work environment. What a weight off my shoulders once that concept clicked!
I have a tendency to minimize feelings: “Everything’s fine!” Therefore, I’m likely to say that the changes these past 7 months have been easy to make. No big deal. But it hasn’t been easy and it is a big deal. I need to allow myself to feel pride for what I’ve done. It’s not easy, but I am going to try to enjoy these accomplishments without beating myself up over what still needs improvement. That will be my 7 month reward to myself.