2160 Hours. Give or Take.

Today is a mile marker in my sobriety. Today I am 90 days sober.

I’ve been counting down to this for what seems like much more than 90 days. As much as I stick to the adage of one day at a time, I still have to have shiny objects for my mind to seek out and 90 days was one of those. It’s hard to truly put into words why it means so much and also why it was a stepping stone for me. Other than I would not have guessed I would be here if I had asked myself six months ago. This is the longest I’ve been sober in nine years. And I was only sober then because I was growing a person.

I’m happy, and proud and feeling accomplished. Excited to announce it and let people know I’ve done it. It’s only three months. 90 little days. 2,160 hours (or so). But a difficult 90 days that have taught me a great deal including the understanding that I have an intense amount more to learn.

But I’m also stressed, anxious and my depression is sneaking up behind me after a lengthy reprieve from its haunting effects. There are parts of these past 90 days that have been a breeze. No hesitations, integral revelations and appreciation for the route I’ve chosen. Others have been rife with hurdles and land mines. Some requiring moments of seeking out a life raft or reassuring words.  

Last night, as my anxiety and panic overwhelmed me over something that would perceivably be innocuous to others I had a moment of alcoholic longing. It was wine that came to mind. The velvet feel of it on my tongue. The warmth as it spread through my chest. The gentle buzzing that would fill my head space, crowding out the nagging thoughts and ringing cry of my unease over all the things my anxiety was showing me. 

Because sometimes my anxiety is like show and tell in a class of kindergartners who have been eating sugar all morning and also got no sleep the night before. Belligerently holding up their favorite toys, screaming at you to look and throwing tantrums when someone else gets more attention. It’s chaotic and demanding, which exhausts me.

Overall, while I have this significant moment to applaud and feel pride over, I’m weighed down by a clamoring of thoughts. Of dissatisfaction with certain areas of my life, that aren’t immediately reparable and some I just haven’t come to understand yet. The mom guilt on the days I question my parenting, which are most of them. Usually for simplistic reasons that are truly unjustified self persecution. Sullenness and frustration over constantly having to worry about finances, with very little room to breath and no reserve should anything drastic happen. Mental flogging for not pursuing my writing further, knowing it’s something I enjoy and I would like to see flourish. Even fretting about my exercise regimen and where the hell my discipline has gone to.

It should be a much more exuberant day and perhaps it’s winter doldrums as well, but I’m just struggling on my 90th day, and it’s unfortunate. Maybe part of it is that while I have learned how not to run from what burdens me, now I’m sitting with all of it. There has to be an in between that exists so as not to consistently be in the thick of challenges, feelings and lack of peace. I’ve seen it. Glimpsed it from time to time lately. I’m still determining what makes up the ideal of happiness so that I may claim my own particular definition of it.

Through all of this, I have not caved to the whispers of temporary freedom from these smothering thoughts in the form of a drink. I have stayed true to my drive to succeed at finding a better way. It’s definitely a challenge right now. While I’m excited to hit triple digits, I know that by the time I get there, I could be fatigued and begrudging my inability to moderate. There are times I get a little indignant about being in this position. Watching tv shows where characters drink with freedom, knowing I don’t have that luxury if I want to stay sane (and healthy). Attending my first social outing where I typically would have been plastered by the end of the night. I watched those around me take shots that I usually would have been the one to encourage partaking in and for a moment, I felt a little lost. Without tequila, who am I? Without the raucous laughter following the slamming of shot glasses, where do I fit?

But the moment passed and I embraced the opportunity to actually figure out who I am without inebriation. To know that the next morning wouldn’t be haunted by half-hearted texts about how awful I felt and attempts at piecing together missing pieces of the night. Because I’m not that girl who would have stopped at one. Or five. I never will be.

So here I am, at 90 days. Pieces of me reclaimed. Large parts of me uncertain. Anxiety ridden, at least for the time being. Understanding that even sometimes a day at a time will be too much and that’s okay. The next 90 will be worth it.

Today’s Forecast

Today was unseasonably warm and sunny for January. The sun was glinting off my floors and warming every room and the temperature hinted at spring far too early. A tease of a thought that it would be nice to open a couple windows. The air smelled like earth and not like snow and salt.

As nice as it was, it turns out a sunny weekend is a hidden drinking trigger. Something about the sun shining, the warm air and bright cheery rooms makes me crave the temptation to which I would so often cave. My mind makes promises and my addiction claims nothing would improve a nice day like a drink, or five. If I chose to turn up the volume on those whispers and follow them to the liquor store, it would eventually become too late for me to realize that drinking hadn’t delivered any of those alluring moments.

Some days are easy to continue on with this choice I’ve made and the reasons why I’ve made it. They go by quickly and with excitement at clarity and unhindered emotional processing. It almost seems natural. Like this choice isn’t hard work at all. Yet there are some, like today, where the draw of a drink jumps around the corner like someone playing a prank where they’re trying to scare you. The feeling is the same. Suddenly, there you are, caught off guard and scrambling to adjust with the moment. Unsure of what just happened.

 I literally and wistfully imagined the feel of a beer bottle in my hands. That warmth that a shot of whiskey spreads through my chest as it hits. The natural feel of a wine glass in my hand, like armor against the world. The sunny day felt like a puzzle nearing completion and my reliance on alcohol told me the last few pieces weren’t lost, they were in a bottle. I knew if I drank, I’d regret it. I knew I’d feel awful and tired and would not be the mom I would like to be if I gave in.

I realize that some of my draw to drink is the restlessness I feel on weekends. I’m a high strung creature of habit and required stimulation. All this free time that’s supposed to be when I decompress and I mostly end up unsure of what to do with myself. Drinking was always what I did to find a purpose or meet an undefined requirement. It literally let me feel like I had given the day a reason to exist. As entirely messed up as that sounds, that’s the truth of my reliance on it.

Because of my clear mind, I was able to identify that some of my cravings were because I have anxiety about going into the coming week. Some of which is just simply that it’s going to be a regular week after all the holiday time. It leaves me discombobulated; my mind in a panic that I won’t be good enough. At anything. At life, at my job, with friends, as though this derailment of schedule has left me only a portion of a person. It makes me want to hide under a blanket of security that drinking used to seem like it was giving me. But sobriety has made me realize that blanket was itchy and full of holes.

As I battled these thoughts today, as I thought about what it would feel like to have just one, I knew that it wouldn’t go that way. One would lead to two, which would lead to more and suddenly I’d realize I was chasing it all away again. The cycle would begin and the next day would be full of guilt I would be prone to eliminate by muddying my thoughts with another ethanol high.

I get frustrated that I have this permanent struggle to endure. Again, I fear friends seeing me as delicate or unable to accept that some people can drink without issue. A funny drinking gif in a text conversation makes them second guess whether it’s insensitive to me. Which, it’s not. At least not for me. For some in recovery it might be, and I’m lucky to have friends who ask to make sure. But this battle is mine and while it might be similar to some it’s still unique to me. I’m self aware enough to know that my propensity for unhealthy drinking doesn’t mean my friend’s beer is a problem. My functional alcoholism doesn’t translate to any other drinker having the same unhealthy relationship with a shot glass.

The anxiety I felt today was like that feeling you get after you find a bug crawling on you. You remove it, but you can’t stop feeling those little legs. Your hair brushing your neck has you jumping out of your seat. I wanted to numb it out of existence. On this warm, sunny day I had to do what I had been far too cocky about not needing to do a few days prior. I had to reach out. I had to tell someone I was struggling. I chose a sober friend because I still reside in the mindset that too much leaning on those who don’t share the battle will make me a burden. I know better. But I also knew I needed that similar mindset to walk me out of the tunnel I was heading toward.

I had to process my anxiety and face it and determine the true origin of it. What I needed to do to break it into smaller pieces so it wasn’t quite so smothering. While I may not have embraced the day and the sun as fully as I would have liked due to the battle raging in my head, I stayed sober. I appreciated the sun without feeling out of control. I didn’t need a nap because I had drank too much, too fast. I didn’t over eat because I was riddled with alcohol fueled cravings and blind appetite. I won’t wake up tomorrow full of regret, or bloated or wondering what that last text said.

I’m going to have to do this for the rest of my life and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was frustrated about that. I get overwhelmed and angry that it seems like it’s always something holding me back or weighing on me or making me blatantly dislike myself. While that’s daunting, it’s giving me the ability to finally figure out what I’ve always been running from. As I get through this next uphill climb, I realize that drinking has always been at the core of my poorly chosen coping mechanisms and the fuel to my other struggles. But I made it normal. I made it acceptable for myself. I made it a joke, while really it was helping to fan the fire of everything else negative or unhealthy.

From my early understanding, my acceptance of that will transition to further physiological healing. My obsession with drinking will diminish and I may find a new normal where sunny days aren’t quite so daunting and are simply just beautiful days. Where I don’t need the feel of a bottle to feel normal.

So for me, this is my last battle towards claiming myself. For making myself whole solely through my own work and dedication.

For finding the ability to simply just be, no matter the weather.