Sunday, October 5, 2014

Three Years

Today is three years after my last binge and my last drink. I'm still sober. I haven't updated in a long time (almost a year, in fact), but I'm glad I remembered my account info and password, because this blog helped me get through the first year, and because even though I'm relatively open about my alcoholic status, I can say things here that don't quite feel appropriate anywhere else.

So, my last year has seen some changes, all of them good. I'm a certified personal trainer now. I lift weights for fun and I help other people improve their health and be more comfortable in the gym. There's a lot of sales stuff in the job, which is a constant struggle because I am not a sales guy, but I do well enough to keep a full schedule, so that's nice.

Still with my adorable long-suffering partner. We've been together for 6 years and change now. I am convinced that if I had kept drinking we would not be together today. There's this scene in an early Simpsons episode where Maggie is briefly adopted by the Flanderses, and at the climax she has the choice between the Flanders family, standing in a field with rainbows and butterflies, and the Simpson family, standing in a feotid swamp with grey skies and reptiles lurking about. I feel like if I look at my life with and without booze, there's the same divide.

Obviously the foetid swamp option is the one with drinking.

This year I finally felt strong enough as a sober guy to try my hand at rugby again, with mixed results. The summer brought me into contact with some of my old teammates, all of whom drink like fish. It was strange and uncomfortable...there are people from that time that I can still hang out with and there are people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. At one point, I gave offence by refusing the round of drinks someone had bought. I mentioned I was not drinking and he said "Oh, I do that from time to time, it really helps make the buzz better when you start drinking again." I mentioned that I wouldn't ever drink again, and he said "Oh, well, you're young." So, I won't be calling that fella up any time soon.

So, those sort of moments come and go. The most common thing I notice about the guys who are still drinking is how much even just 2 or 3 years has aged them. Gonna brag a bit here, and it's mostly genetics I'm sure (my own parents look great), but I'm 37 and people often - like daily - say they think I'm ten years younger. If I were still binge drinking 4-5 nights a week, I know that wouldn't be the case. This whole paragraph is irritatingly smug, but I won't erase it. So there, Internet. I'm smug about being 3 years sober and I'm not ashamed to say it.

Somewhere out there on the web is an article that says it takes about 3 years of sobriety for an alcoholic's brain to return to completely normal functioning, and that's where I am now. I have a normal functioning brain. That makes me laugh, because there's precious little that's normal and functioning about me.

I still get insane cravings for booze. All summer I would almost be able to taste an ice cold beer on a hot day. I vividly remember the acid-dryness of red wine. When I gargle with mouthwash I'm reminded of the vodka burn. I wish I could say I knew I will always be strong enough to say no, but there is no certainty. And the fact that I'm not certain is exactly the reason why I have to always stay sober. There is exactly one drink standing between me and ALL THE DRINKS. So long as I can see that one drink for what it is, I should be in good shape.

Being sober is the best thing I've ever done. I wish it were different. I wish my major life accomplishment were better than "somehow I eventually learned how to avoid making all the worst possible choices,"'s also a damned hard thing to do, too.

Something I say to myself and my clients a lot: it's what we do on our worst days that gives us what we enjoy on our best days. I say this to remind people that going to the gym when you feel terrible is the only way to make sure you go to the gym all the time. Being sober on the terrible days is how I will stay sober on the good ones.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and finding joy where you can. If you're trying to get or stay sober, I wish you all the best. It's hard but it is worth it. For some of us, it is the only way to live.

Take care,