You know what’s funny?  That word has such a stigma attached to it.  Sobriety.  Like it’s a facial deformity that gets you turned away from the club.  It’s always present, you’re always aware, and even though it’s not top of mind, it’s an ever-present attachment.

The moment you tell people that you don’t drink anymore – or a bastardization of that theme, but I’ll cover that in a second – they give you this look of, really?  You?  And then they shirk away just a bit, or drop their chin ever so slightly to look at anything but your face, and catch themselves.

“That’s really cool!  Good for you.  What prompted this?   Health reasons?”

I usually agree.  Health Reasons.

___

It’s only been four months since I quit drinking for good.  I’m easing my friends into it.  “That’s all you; I’m not drinking for a really long time, so have at it,” has been my go-to phrase lately.  I know I’m being a bit deceitful because while it’s technically true, it’s not up-front-and-clear, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

I had a really hard time with it in Japan.  Nobody knew, of course, but I did.  From the moment we got on the plane – free beer! – to the moment I stepped onto the jet bridge from the return flight, I was being pulled in ways I didn’t like at all.  Oddly enough, when I bought a couple bottles of sake as gifts – one for a friend, another for a co-worker who saved my ass right before we left – I wasn’t even remotely bothered:  I didn’t have that Constantine moment where I was gonna crack open a bottle and drown in it, which is both unsurprising and a litmus test relative to my mental state and determination.  Those are good things.  But even while I took extra special care to make sure that I wasn’t drinking – the last night in an Izakaya with Bee’s homies comes to mind – it was still present.  More than I expected.

I’ve been plowing through a bunch of positive life changes lately, every single one of them a tough yet uplifting transition.  Ivonne shared with me a few things that I didn’t know – perspectives and viewpoints that were punches to the gut, yes, but things I needed to hear – about my drinking habits, things that will stick with me like the story of the old woman licking the vodka from the tile of her kitchen floor.  I need those things to stick with me.

Because I think I’ve figured out that this process is different this time because it’s permanent.  Every other time I’ve ‘quit drinking’ I knew in my heart that I was going to be back at it, be it months or years later.  I was going to try to control it, control myself with it in me, and I thought that by learning hard lessons, I could catapult those into positive behaviors while being able to keep what I want.  The ultimate selfishness, really.  Sometimes it’s hard not to think that way again.

This time – in this moment, recently – it’s been hard.  Not hard in that I’m-going-to-go-get-the-half-bottle-of-tequila-still-in-my-cabinet hard, but in a very real, this-is-truly-not-part-of-my-life-anymore hard.  Like a legit breakup.

So, I wanted to talk about it here because I’m using this space for positivity, now, and for accountability.  I realized recently that I have so much more to be thankful for than not, and even though I got to this particular party pretty late – after leaving a wake of destruction behind me – I’ve also understood that most people who get to this point have done the same thing.  And as I forgive myself, I’m being given the opportunity to repair and make things stronger.  Not everyone is given that chance.

So anyway.  I’m marking the four month milestone to acknowledge the difficulty and how far I have yet to go, sure, but to appreciate where I am now, ’cause I’ve done some good work with much more to come.

 

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