Over and Over—My Sobriety Map.

I am not selling anything that I do not have.

As much as I learn about writing, there is still a lot of pressure to sit down and write—to stay in this seat and collect the 52 ideas in my brain into something like a conversation.

I take a sip of peppermint tea from my white mug that says “Get it Girl” in black lettering. Reaching my arms straight above my head, I inhale deeply and exhale: Vague is vague, and on the other side of the spectrum, even hyperbole is vague. 

I stand up from my chair and head to the bathtub.

Turning on the hot water, I watch the steam rise and crawl up through the pink tiles on the bathroom wall.

This hotel is from the 1970’s but it is still in perfect condition like most old buildings in Japan. It has a built-in radio with pre-programmed songs from that time. We hear everything from jazz, popular orchestral arrangements and instrumental covers of The Carpenters.

I turn off the lights and step into the tub. The radio changes to swinging jazz music.

My legs turn to pins and needles. I let the water burn my skin knowing that when I walk out of this tub I will be bright pink and wrinkled.

Breathing in for six counts, I lay my head back in the water.

I turn 30 in less than two weeks. The jazz music sways as I drift along back into the water. Now, I ask myself, how did I get here?

IMG_2036I was a giant, talking wound.

Alcohol consumed all of my brain space.

Will you have just one more?  I always, always said yes.

I still do not understand why it is cute or funny for people to advertise a lifestyle of binge-drinking. If you really want to broadcast your insatiable love for wine, let me give you some insight; there is nothing attractive about standing behind a bathroom stall chugging 8oz bottles of cabernet. There is nothing glamorous about vomiting at baby showers. There is nothing desirable about being wasted so often that you are the least dependable person you can think of.

This was hard; but this was my life. And I lived this way for many years.

The first time I got sober, I was 23 years old. It was January 19, 2012. I went to an AA meeting with one of my poetry friendshe had about four months sober.

The meeting was at a church in Flowery Branch, GA. I picked up a white chip. I did not touch a drop of booze again for almost two years.

I loved going to meetings, picking up chips and doing service work. My sponsor was like an older sister who encouraged me to chair meetings and share my story. AA was healthy for a while. But I never stopped craving alcohol. I fought the urge to drink constantly. 

One summer, the underbelly of the program revealed itself to me. I thought AA was bulletproof—it is not—nothing is bullet proof. But I was really young. And I didn’t know that at the time.

It was awkward for my loved ones to watch me pretend like drinking was just normal again after spending so much time in AA.

It really does take what it takes—for me, it took a lot.

I put together four months of sobriety here and two months there when I was living in West Midtown, Atlanta.

Going back to the program was hard. I didn’t feel safe. It felt like I broke something that had worked so well before. Like I said, I was really young. And I did not love myself enough to do something as meaningful as sobriety.

When we are at our lowest, it is easier to see the light than we think. The hardest part is believing that we deserve it.

On last week’s episode of The Unruffled Podcast, Diana Unlu talked about preparing herself for sobriety before she was actually sober.

We can gently carry ourselves out of our lowest points while still drinking. It is not always this dramatic step from drinking to sober.

My darkest days of drinking followed a traumatic life situation that forced me to give up all of my teaching and choreography jobs in Atlanta. I had no outlet and no place to live, so I moved back in with my mom for the first time in ten years.

Grief is strange to those who have never experienced it.

I lived in the upstairs loft of her Kennesaw apartment. My mom put black out curtains up to give me privacy.

The commute from Kennesaw to Midtown to work at a café was hard. But keeping the job kept me alive. I believe this with all of my being.

It gave me enough money to get to work and home—sometimes paying for gas in quarters. And whatever money I had left went to wine.

My mom, my brother and his husband were constantly worried about me. It is hard to watch someone that you love carry themselves around like that.

I ended up getting a promotion at the café to coordinate events for their Midtown location. This lifted me up somehow. It helped me start nesting and gently preparing for my departure from drinking— even if I did not know that this is what I was doing. I was getting ready for something else.

Just at the right time, the circus came through town.

I went on the road with Cirque Du Soleil and married my husband Michael. He encouraged me to open up those sides to myself that I was still so afraid of. I was starting to shape a different reality that involved caring for myself in a way that I had not imagined possible.

There will always be irony in finding my truth while running away with the circus.

photo-1532459190037-b2b87f669453
Image via Unsplash.

After a year of touring, we moved through Boston, Washington D.C., Manhattan, Miami, and Dallas.

I was still drinking boxes and boxes of wine at this time.

I didn’t think I needed to quit drinking; I did not think that I was capable of sobriety. And things seemed to be level enough…

One afternoon in our Dallas apartment, I was folding laundry and watching the show “Love” with Gillian Jacobs on Netflix. The main character makes her journey back through AA meetings after relapsing with alcohol.

Seeing this character go through sobriety jarred something in me that said, Sobriety is something that you used to love. Somehow there was not any wine left in the apartment, so I went with it.

I remembered my time in AA while finishing the laundry. I did not drink that day. I did not drink for five whole excruciating days. Then we moved to Houston.

I told Michael that I had tested out sobriety again and since I made it for five days, I was fine to have some wine at dinner.

Drinking for five more days with wine by the pool, I just sat within myself and cried behind my sunglasses. I felt gross about the whole idea of me going through hell to quit drinking for five days only to get back off the wagon.

Why is this so impossible for me?

After a hot shower, I put on clean pajamas and typed “sobriety” into Pinterest. Some of Holly Whitaker‘s Hip Sobriety blogs came up. They grabbed me where I needed to be grabbed. They took me by the hand and helped me realize that I could get sober without AA.

I was five days sober again when I walked to Target from our Houston Apartment.

Down the wine isle I went. It called, so I listened.

Quickly, as if the wine police might get me, I grabbed two four packs of Sutter-home wine into my cart. I paid for the items and put them in my backpack.

The rush of something dangerous hit me for a moment as I snuck the bottles out of my bag. Placing one of the bottles on the kitchen counter, we stared at each other for a while.

It is interesting how wine can persuade us with sweet nothings; I am really nothing. Open me. Drink me. 

I listened. I opened the bottle and poured it into a wine glass.

Again, we stared at each other for about thirty seconds. Finally, I bolted from the kitchen and started doing laundry. I went down stairs for a cigarette three separate times. I hid from the full wine glass on the kitchen counter as if it might set me on fire.

Finally, it called me back to it. This time I picked up the glass and held it in my hand for about a minute. I thought about the new path that was being paved for me with this online community of sober people. I exhaled and poured it out down the drain. I poured out all eight glasses of wine down the drain.

I’ve been sober ever since.

The jazz music continues to swing as I raise my head from the water. I sit up and reach for my towel. Sobriety really is magic. We have a deep pool of knowledge to draw from if we give ourselves time to heal and grow.

Once I think I have run out of ways to communicate my journey to others, I have more to say.

Sobriety is possible. If you are thinking about getting sober, there is a good chance that a better life is just around the corner. Any curiosity can be a key to something greater than you could ever imagine. If you find one moment of “maybe this is for me”, follow it and just see where it takes you.

This is my sobriety map. It is hardly a straight line. But this time, I’ve been sober for 497 days. I feel solid. I make the same choice over and over again every single day.


For more on the sobriety journey, follow The OAM on Instagram @the_oam, and check out The OAM facebook page (click here). 

P.S.

Since getting sober in Houston, we have lived in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Portland, Vancouver, and Tokyo. We currently live in Osaka, Japan.

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