I courted sobriety. I had been flirting with sobriety for a while. I would invite her into my life on one of my yearly cleanses, for four months one year as I prepared for an ayhuaascaa ceremony followed by ten days of silence, meditation and yoga and again to lose weight on an anti-inflammation diet. But she was elusive, always reminding me of the thing I wanted but couldn’t have and I would find myself back in a routine of having cocktails or wine (mostly wine) 3-5 nights a week. Not a raging alcoholic by any means. Highly functional. Deceptively so. So much so, that it wasn’t until I stopped drinking altogether that I applied that word “alcoholic” to myself. The problem with that word is that it conjures an evil monster, someone whose lack of control of themselves is as visible and easy to spot on the outside as an empty bottle and a puddle of piss. It’s not. The lack of control is on the inside and it can be subtle as a whisper. It’s been a long day. You need a drink. Not to mention the shame in the word. I don’t think everyone who drinks occasionally has a problem. I do think the majority of people who drink often and don’t think they have a problem, do fall somewhere on the spectrum of addictive dysfunction. I find saying it this way a bit more palatable. And accurate. At that point I was aware that something was going on that was beyond my strength, capacity and control.
So I prayed. Frequently. For about six months before I actually stopped. I enlisted the support of my loved ones on the other side, my ancestors, spirit guides, guru and angels. (If that doesn’t work for you, I highly recommend finding something that does; Source, The Universe, Your Highest Self, Divine Love.) And then one night about a month before I decided to go sober I broke down completely. I sobbed and in the grace of full surrender, gave up my problem, my addiction and everything that was out of my power around it to God. I let go. Now this all happened without me knowing that this is Step 1 in the famous 12 step method. I was not into the 12 step method. That shit sounded culty and final and it scared me. I wanted to do it my own way.
I had a purpose. What I had begun to realize during my courtship with sobriety was that there were places I wanted to go in my work, in my life, in the evolution of my soul where alcohol couldn’t come. There was no place for it. At least not in the way I was using it. It’s never about the thing, is it? It’s our relationship to the thing that matters. Truth be told, I wanted the bigger high. The one that came from clarity in mind, body and soul. I think it’s what we all want and why we seek it often obsessively from wherever we can – cigarettes, cocktails, pain pills, 5 mile runs, food, lovers – these fleeting experiences give us a taste perfectly tailored to our own wounds and flavor of addictive dysfunction. They give us a taste of freedom. A sense of our limitless being. Our God-ness. We get high on them. For me and where I was at on the spectrum, it was a trap. I got fooled by the smoke and mirrors of it. I got distracted from what I was really seeking. And when I got very honest with myself, with my purpose, with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go and how I wanted to show up for my life, the path became clear.
I set small goals. I started with a month. I had done that before. That would be easy. Before the month was up I set a new goal, another month. Ok let’s see how that feels. Before that month was up, I thought if I could go through the holidays and my January birthday sober, that would be something— so that became my new goal. I’m just going to get through the holidays. And then the unthinkable happened. My mom died. Two and a half months into my sobriety. The day of her service was one of the only days that I really, really wanted to drink. It was a day where it would have been easy to do so and no one would have faulted me for it. I didn’t.
I googled instead. Seriously, google. In my devastated, exhausted state after pouring wine for guests and my father and without a sober ally in sight, I googled “what to do when you really want to drink.” I read the first 2 answers that came up and they worked. The first one said wait 10-15 minutes. And as I did that I thought about the second answer in the form of the question, “Think about how you will feel. Is it worth it?” No it wasn’t worth it. And it wouldn’t change anything. And it wouldn’t make me feel better. It would make me feel worse. Deciding to stay sober that day and through the subsequent grief I experienced over such a vast loss was a gift. I got to be present and clear for every precious drop of suffering and pain I experienced. And I let the clarity and intensity of my emotions burn through me all the way. They’re still burning in fact. Lighting all the shadows that keep calling me back into old wounds, triggers and habits as well as lighting the way forward. And I’m grateful that being sober through this process has allowed me to feel all of it and taken me to new levels of awareness, growth and self-acceptance that I would have never been able to access otherwise.
I took back my energy. Fromthe alcohol demons. For reals. It’s a real thing. In my experience anyway. Alcohol is one substance that can open you up to negative or demonic energy. Ever blackout? Alcohol demon taking your body for a ride. Ever do anything you wouldn’t have done if you were sober? Alcohol demon. They’re fun. They’re seductive. They’re taking your energy. And once you get sober, you start taking it back. Meditation, energy work, acupuncture, yoga, qigong, drinking a lot of water all is helpful in this regard too. Essential in my opinion. Whatever your version of centering and grounding, clearing and protecting your energy looks like is great. A word of caution; they are persistent. They hang out for a while. Waiting. Long after you’ve told them to get lost. Don’t feed them. Don’t fall for it. They don’t deserve you. You do.
I found sober friends. Or rather, a sober friend. They can be hard to come by but they’re out there. In my case it was already one of my best friends who was starting a 90 day cleanse the same time I went sober. While she drinks now here and there, we spend a lot of time together enjoying each other’s company without alcohol. With the combination of grieving and staying sober I stayed pretty deep in a cocoon through the winter. I am not a super social person by nature and prefer quality one on one time. So, it was incredibly healing and helpful to have someone by my side that was not only supportive of my grief but of my sobriety as well.
I went to therapy. It’s really important to have professional support. We can not rely on friends or family members to fill this role in our lives. I started therapy a while back to support me as my mom’s condition with Alzheimer’s disease progressed and became more and more difficult to cope with. So I was already seeing a therapist who I love, trust and admire once a week before I decided to ditch alcohol. I’m sure that the awareness that came out of these sessions contributed greatly to my ability to choose a different path for myself. And it has supported me through the most challenging time of my life and continues to be a source of light, space and safety.
I allowed relationships to change. This is a hard one. I’m still grieving the loss of friendships that have either changed or faded or disappeared completely. There are people I needed to draw boundaries with. There are moments that brought out my shadows and scared people away. There are people who just stopped calling. There are people I stopped calling. When you go through painful times, it’s true that you get to see who your true friends are, who are the ones who will sit by you quietly and let you sob, the ones who will walk with you into your shadow spaces and back out. Cherish those relationships. The ones that stay. They are rare and precious. And breathe into and enjoy all the space that is created from the ones that end. And know that even though it hurts, you’re fine, you’ll be fine and it is all perfect.
I set bigger goals. After I got through the unbearable pain of losing my mother, holidays and my first sober birthday in I’d guess 20 years?, I decided to commit to a year without drinking. When I set goals, I try not to think beyond the time frame I set and I don’t worry about what will happen after or if I’ll be sober forever. If I do I start to have anxiety about not being able to enjoy life etc. etc. so I don’t think about it. I think about what feels good now. Honoring my body in this way felt good. Committing to a year felt good. So I did.
I reflected. One of death’s gifts is the reflecting on your life that naturally happens. Not only for the one passing, if that mental capability is intact. Having experienced death so closely led me slowly over the next few months of quiet gentle solitude to reflect on my own life, remember my first dreams and goals, the wounds that shape and guide my unconscious actions and the conscious actions I can take that make me feel truly alive. All of this for me was tangled up in one thing.
I danced. Anyone that knows me knows that dancing is my heart and soul. In my life review I also acknowledged that it holds a huge wound for me. It was the first thing I wanted to devote my life to. But I was told that I couldn’t. I found dance again later in life and have been consistently dancing for many years. But after the trauma of my mom’s death and my grief, I left my body. So naturally I didn’t feel like moving it much. My body wanted only small and slow and gentle so I listened and gave her that. She woke up in the spring after that intense and honest life review where I heard again my soul’s greatest wish and dream and purpose. Five months after losing my mom, I danced again.And reconnecting to my body, to rhythm, to movement and through that another level of my consciousness has saved me time and time again from the small stories I tell to and about myself. The stories that make excuses for poisoning my body in the name of relaxation, fun and reward. I danced for my old self, for my forgotten hopes and dreams. And I danced for my soul and its place in the world now. In a body. Feet on the earth. Celebrating. Living.
I let myself feel good. The longer I went without alcohol, the better I felt. This happens naturally because alcohol is poison for your body. So after a while of not drinking poison on a regular basis, you’re gonna start to feel better. You’re gonna feel good. The key for me was allowing myself to indulge in these moments of crystal clarity. Long deep breaths that went all the way in. Mornings full of vitality and energy and… wait, what is that? Oh…happiness! Duh. Alcohol is a depressant. And remember, I went all in for the bigger high. When I started to feel good, I allowed myself to, I indulged in it, I basked in it. I let myself feel good without the usual guilt or shame that came along for the ride. And damn did that feel good.
I saw the big picture. All of it. What had led me to make poor decisions in the past. What was driving me to get clear. The timing of it. The righteousness. The hypocrisy. My willpower. My successes. The power of choice. The power in deciding not to be a slave to a thing or to a small part of myself. And I accepted it. All of it. I accepted myself. All of myself. Where I had been, where I am and where I want to go. And now I just trust. I trust that I’ll know what to do next, when the time comes. I trust that I’ll make decisions that honor my life, in this body, on this earth. Choices that give my soul an opportunity to dance once again unencumbered and untethered by addiction. I trust that I will show up fully for myself, my relationships and my life. I trust in moving towards what feels good in the deepest way without guilt or shame. I trust in the divine timing of my own evolution and healing. I trust in my spiritual team to guide me in each moment. I trust in each moment. In each breath. I didn’t quit anything. But gained the wholeness of my being. And that has made all the difference.