It’s been one year since I’ve had a drink. Who knew that was even possible? Day 1 happened because I was hitting a new low every day. This is a progressive disease and after 20 years of alcohol abuse, I was at a point where my life had to significantly change or it was going to turn very badly, very quickly.
During my drinking career, I dodged a lot of bullets. I took a few flesh wounds, the kind you can recover from (job loss, bankruptcy), but I missed the really big ones. I am lucky to have retired from alcoholism without a criminal record. The possibility of a DUI and injuring someone was always right around the corner. Alcoholism lead me to take some very foolish risks on a daily basis.
I’ve had dozens of Day 1’s over the years and I’m still not sure which stars aligned one year ago to make that Day 1 different. I didn’t feel all that different that day. I knew that I had an appointment with a new therapist scheduled for Day 3, and I knew I shouldn’t drink until (at least) after that appointment.
So I made it to Day 3, met with my new therapist and cried the entire drive home. I had to pull over because I got lost driving through the tears. I was very guarded during the appointment, yet still I shared more during that hour than I’d ever shared before. It was hard and it was painful to pay mind to thoughts and feelings I’d previously worked so hard to drown. But I knew that I had to give therapy an honest chance. I was miserable and I knew that alcohol was going to kill me one way or another.
That got me through Day 4 and a few more. Through therapy, I summoned the courage to walk into AA. Again, I’m not sure which stars aligned to have that happen, but it’s become one of the unlikely pieces of my sober foundation. I am still amazed today that I ever walked into a meeting.
My sober foundation is strong today. I’m cautious, however, knowing my own history of self-sabotage: “I can handle a few drinks. Now that I know how bad it can get, I’ll just moderate myself.” That thought has been the starter’s pistol for many relapses over the years.
Today, one year in, I am a new version of myself. I have an idea of the me that I want to be, and there’s still some work to be done. But that doesn’t get me down because I know that I am capable of changing my reality. I’ve done it every day for the past year.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, which is laid out in black and white on this blog (usually more black than white). I’m grateful to have record of those days that were rough, to serve as a reality check when life feels great and I think “aw, what could it hurt?”.
Reaching the one year milestone is tremendous, but it’s not the end. I’m not magically fixed today and tomorrow will be no different than today when it comes to the day-to-day struggle that is alcoholism. No, it’s not the end, but it’s a thrilling and proud summit to reach.