Letters with My Son, Part Two.
His next question: “Has life been easier since you have been sober?”
Think about all I do in a day, think about all you do in a day, then try to imagine doing all of that drunk...
Wait, let that soak in a minute.
Yes, life was so hard. And I couldn’t keep up. Staying out all night, still being drunk in the morning, horrific hangovers, deep depressions, messed up personal relationships, physical limitations...everything was harder when I drank.
There are many great paradoxes in life but none as great as how much easier it is to live a sober life, than a drunk one.
I am sure from your age and vantage point, life might seem easier to escape. Run from the issues, hard stuff, school, parents, work, girls. But that is how I spent my adolescence and I can tell you without a single doubt that all of my running and escaping only made it harder.
I would have to go to school hung over. Drag through the day feeling awful. I couldn’t really engage with anyone because I was so hung over. So my relationships suffered, my grades suffered, I didn’t really learn anything I was supposed to. Just making it until the end of school was hard. Then I would have tennis or diving practice and I frequently wouldn’t go. I just wanted/needed to come home and take a nap. So I am 14 and I can’t really function in my life because of my drinking.
Then add inappropriate behavior on top of my dissipated mental capacity and that made all the high school social stuff even harder. I mean try dating when you are not really all that sure what you said and did the night before! I lacked boundaries, self esteem, class, and any kind of self worth. If a guy really liked me, I dumped him. If someone treated me really awful, then I loved him. I just couldn’t let anyone close to me that treated me well. And that created a whole bunch of craziness on top of all the other stuff going on in my life.
Many people will tell you that getting sober is hard. And it is. Staying sober even harder. In fact, getting and staying sober may in fact be the second hardest thing I have ever done. The first being living the drunk life, walking around dying inside every day and pretending like it didn’t hurt and that I was managing my life just fine. I wasn’t. And I was lying to everyone including myself.
Getting sober is not an easy task. You have to confront yourself at every turn. You have to deal with your lack, and your obsessive mind tells you repeatedly that you don’t have the problem, that booze isn’t really the issue, you can stop anytime you want to. And what your head tells you is so seductive, so true seeming. So amazingly honest (not really) but that is how it appears. I was so delusional and I didn’t know it. I thought that I was doing actually pretty well. And it wasn’t until I got sober and stayed sober for a bit that I was even capable of seeing how off my thinking was...
This is why no one can tell a drunk or addict that they have a problem, their minds are completely focused on maintaining the lie that they are fine, even to their own death. The mind is that set on being right. There is no room for anything else. Nothing. No one can get in, and you cannot get out. You are lost and being found gets harder by the day.
Twenty seven years ago today I went to my first meeting. I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted the pain to stop. I just wanted to not feel like I was dying inside. I wanted to have a good life, and not act out in all the awful ways I was. I just wanted to stop getting into bar room brawls with men that would and did in fact hit me. I just wanted all the horrific pain in my head to stop.
I had no idea that walking through the doors of that first meeting would change everything for me. I had no idea that working steps and doing what I was told to do would do fundamentally change me that I would become the happiest I have ever known. I didn’t know that putting down the drink and finding a God that I could do business with would give me a life worth living. I didn’t know that I would get all that I wanted in life, a million times over, the life that I sat on barstools talking about but never was capable of taking the action to make it happen.
Tomorrow I will celebrate twenty seven years. I don’t celebrate it today because I was actually still drinking in the early morning hours of March 21st. My first spiritual act, one that I debated for the entire first year of my drinking, was to wait the extra day and not take credit, to delay gratification one more day. And today I know that I did this because even though I didn’t at the time understand what I was doing, I know now, that I actually valued what it was that I had. One day of sobriety. One day that I was not actively burning down my life. One day where I was present and clearer headed. One day where my life began anew.
Starting a new life is never easy. Having to rebuild from the shambles isn’t ever fun or pretty or easy. But my experience is that it is far easier than the way I lived every day before that day. And staying sober far easier than getting sober which is why I only want to do it once. I have watched the countless number of people who come in and get better only to fall prey to the voice in their head that tells them, “maybe it is different now...” I have that same voice, it whispers to me every now and again. And there have been times over the last twenty seven years that it kind of yelled instead of whispered. But here is what I know with 100% certainty, I never wanted different. I didn’t drink because I liked the taste or wanted to be social. I drank for oblivion. And every single time, that voice has gotten loud in my head over the past two and half decades, it was for the same reason, I wanted out of my current mental state. I wanted to exit. And that is not social. That is not different. That is the exact same thing that I always wanted, so I have always been sure that the result would be the same...
Life is hard. Love harder still. But life and love sober is the best I have ever known. I am so grateful today that you have never seen me drink or drunk. I have made many mistakes as a mother but that is not one of them. And because of that, you and your sister have been spared an endless amount of pain and I am forever grateful for that.
Life is never easy honey. Life is hard but sobriety makes all the hard doable. Because I never have to do it alone. I have friends, a community, a sponsor who all show up for me and I for them to walk with me through all the hard shit that life throws at us. And sober friends are true friends. Bar room buddies are never there when you need them. Because alcoholics are selfish and self centered to their core. And in the end what you need will always be sacrificed for their need to have a good time.
Life is easier since I got sober. Every single day is easier. The more time I put between me and that last drink, the easier it gets. Today I endeavor to live a life that is service oriented. To show up and do what I am supposed to do for those about me, sober people and the non-sober ones too. And that has made all the difference to me. I am here living my best life, even when it is hard, painful, gut wrenching, full of grief and misery. It is still easier than having to do any of the above while drinking.
I never knew that alcohol was a hundred pound weight tied to my foot as I tried to swim through life, but I can tell you that since I cut that cord, swimming has gotten way easier. And the view changed completely. I no longer go through life struggling to keep my head above water, now I get to float on my back sometimes and take in the amazing sky, clouds, light and air. Today, is totally completely and blessedly different. Easier being at the very top of the list.