Thirty nine years on earth and I’m still not dead!
Surviving to 39 is really nothing compared to the incredible feat of being born in the first place. A one in a trillion chance – but I did it! Reaching my first birthday was quite the achievement too, having been born premature and spent the first few days of my life stuffed with tubes. But 39? Pah! All I did was turn 38 and then avoid being hit by a bus for 365 days.
I feel much the same way about another looming milestone: 10 years of sobriety. Ten years! The kind of milestone for which AA would probably give me a poker chip* – but also strangely unremarkable.
One week sober? Now that was fucking remarkable. A month? Ludicrous. They said it could never happen. I’ll grudgingly accept that after my first full year of sobriety I felt worthy of the hugs and backslapping and “I’m proud of yous” from friends and strangers alike. After all, that first year is when I suffered all the cliched withdrawal symptoms, all the cravings, all the “maybe I could just have one” self-bargaining.
After that, staying sober got slowly but steadily easier. With each passing week and month I learned more about myself; more about the impulses and character flaws which caused me to self-medicate with alcohol. In doing so, I became healthier – physically and mentally – and thus better equipped to resist the siren call of booze. The result: Ten years sober feels a lot like nine years, plus one.
I should issue an important disclaimer here (and please consider this disclaimer valid for all future newsletters): My experience is just my experience. I’m sure there are others for whom the longer they’re sober, the harder it gets. Just as there are folksfor whom AA meetings are the only way to stay sober. For more on that viewpoint, I encourage you to subscribe to their newsletters.
I’m also not pretending the siren call of the bottle is ever truly silenced. Talk to any recovering alcoholic – even those with 30 or 40 years sober – and even they’ll admit to nights when a glass or wine, or a pint of vodka, still seems like the only answer. But the difference is that – 10, or 30, or 60 years on – they have armed themselves with the tools they need to resist the call. More on those tools next week.
* Do members of gambler’s anonymous get an engraved shot glass?