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17 Years Sober

17-years-sober17 years…..

It’s been 17 years since I made the decision that changed my life.

The decision to quit drinking and smoking, at the same time.

I had tried before and had some success, but then something would happen and I’d fall off the wagon. It never lasted a very long time.

How my alcoholism began:

I remember as a kid getting sips off my parents’ drinks; it always was just a part of my life. I never really liked the drinks they had, but there were the sips here and there anyway. And, of course, drinking was just something you did as a grown up.

The first time I ever really felt a buzz; I was 11 years old and it was one of my aunt’s wedding reception. I was in charge of filling up people’s cups from the keg. And I took plenty of sips as I brought their cups to them.

After that, drinking became more and more frequent. Sometimes sneaking the nasty whiskey my mother had. Other times, she would buy me beer or wine coolers, “Because you will just drink anyway; I’d rather you do it at home”. Yep, that’s how it was. Even at 13 years old.

How drinking began to impact my life and those around me:

I made lots and lots of stupid mistakes when I was drinking. Somehow by the grace of God, nothing too serious ever happened. I never had any drunk drivings or accidents. There were some minor falls’ that I have the scars still to this day. But nothing more serious than that.

When I knew I was pregnant with each of my sons, I did stop drinking. But it wasn’t too long after both of them were born that I started back up with drinking.

The turning point:

Then there was that night, the night when Todd was supposed to come home after he got his hair cut. But he didn’t come home; he got into an accident and was taken to jail for drunk driving.

This was a few days before my 30th birthday.

That wasn’t enough to make us quit; we continued to drink. We would buy a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes on a Friday night, and at least the case of beer typically didn’t last the night.

He had to do some alcohol treatment, and it was this weekend 17 years ago that he decided that he needed to quit to save his life. I quit to support him but based on my previous attempts to quit drinking, I didn’t think it would last long.

Challenges along the way:

We made it through the holidays (somehow) and the days turned into weeks and then into months. I’ve wanted to drink but stayed the course.

Then, my best friend died from cancer, and that was the first real test of my commitment to my new sober life. I really, really wanted to get drunk, but somehow, someway, I succeeded in not drinking.

Some of the emotions and feelings from my childhood and other things that happened in my life began to bubble up and I had to work on actually feeling those feelings and dealing with them, instead of numbing them with alcohol. Not an easy task, in the least.

And just as I thought I had a handle on those feelings, something new would bubble up. Funny how we can bury things deep down inside and not fully realize how those feelings are impacting our lives and the choices we make.

Things I’ve learned from becoming sober:

There have been many times where I wished that I could have “just one”, but I know that will not work for me. I was (am) the kind of alcoholic that can go days or more without a drink, but having just one would result in more and more until I would throw up or black out or just pass out. Like a switch gets flipped that can’t be turned off. I joke, but it’s true, that the same thing happens with kettle chips or cookies or cupcakes, and I need to get much better at not having those things either!

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last 17 years, and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not decided to quit and stay that way. I know that my boys wouldn’t be the men they are today if they hadn’t had a sober mom and dad for most of their lives. Jake may not remember much of me drinking, and Josh was just a baby when I quit, so he never had to experience what it’s like to see his mom drunk.

And, I’m quite certain that Todd and I wouldn’t still be married if we continued to drink.

Turning tragedies into blessings:

It’s amazing how something as bad as a drunk driving can turn into an incredible blessing in a person’s life and the lives of all those that are around them. Had that not happened to Todd, I don’t know if either of us would have ever consciously made the decision to stop drinking, and that would have impacted more than just our lives in a negative way.

Instead, we lived through it and now 17 years later, it’s hard to believe that I was ever someone who thought that alcohol had to be a part of my life. I’m living proof that it, in fact, does not.