100 Days

Well, would you look at that. After years and years of struggling to achieve three days of sobriety (“I did two in a row, and then only had a couple of glasses on the third night. I don’t have a problem after all! Where’s the corkscrew?’) I’m at one hundred days. Just over three months. 100 days of not picking up a glass of wine, 100 sober mornings, 100 afternoons enjoyed for themselves and not for the countdown to oblivion that they represent.

My last drink was on a warm evening; the ice cubes in my glass melted as I sipped, I averted my eyes from the way my upper arms looked in a sleeveless dress. Tonight the windows are fogged with condensation from the contrast between the near-zero temperature outside and the heater inside. I have a huge bowl of lentil soup waiting patiently for me to stop writing and eat it. The seasons have changed, and so have I.

Before I say anything else, I do want to make it clear that I am under no illusion that I’ve cracked sobriety. I know there’s a debate out there between the AA mindset that you are always perilously near your next drink, and the mindset that if you count days and stay mired in the alcoholic world, you aren’t truly free. I don’t know enough to have a position on this. All I know is that the idea of having an alcoholic drink is so repugnant to me right now that I will do everything I can, for as long as I can, to avoid having one ever again. So everything else I say should be tempered with the caveat that this is only the beginning of a lifetime journey.

However. This is my valedictory speech, damn it, and I’m delivering it.

You guys. YOU GUYS. I am so happy. It turns out I’m a pretty decent person! I am a nice wife, I am a good friend, I am a (mostly) conscientious employee. I am a fucking fantastic mother.

That last one has blown me away. I mean, I thought I was pretty decent before, but mostly – as I have come to realise, thanks very largely to some awesome commenters, of which more later – because I was compensating madly for my shame and guilt and deceits. Every time I found myself counting down the hours until the first glass of wine, which was every day, I would do a mental check of how well I was doing as a parent, so as to reassure myself that I wasn’t hopelessly failing my children. Had they had more than their allotted half hour of television? Had we been to the park or at least outside that day? Was their dinner home cooked from scratch, using wholesome ingredients, or was it more instant? Was it alright that they’d had more television but also a lot of park if I cut corners on dinner? How many stories should I read at bedtime? Did 2T + O/2 + 3B – 1FP = Decent Parent, or not, and if it did, surely I could have that glass of wine before they were in bed?

I no longer make those calculations. Some days I just let them watch TV all afternoon, some days we do three times the writing practise because Big Girl wants to, some days we just all sprawl about in a happy tangle of notcaring and wallow in one another’s company. And it’s all fine, because I love them and I trust myself that that’s enough.

It should be enough. Because the actual love is so, so much more. It bubbles over, it spills out. I have gone from a prickly parent, one who jealously guards her space and pries sticky fingers off her legs, to one whose children swat away with an irritable ‘Not KISS me ‘gain, Mama’. I am astonished by this. It is revelatory; so this is what other people mean when they talk about all encompassing love! I always loved them, I always adored them, but I loved them through a glass darkly. Now we are face to face, and known.

I’m not saying that they don’t irritate me. Or that I don’t long for their bedtime so I can pick up my book in peace. And not all of this change is directly attributable to the lack of alcohol; some of it is them getting older, and a lot of it is a secondary sobriety effect, in that I am much, much better at guarding my space now. But when we’ve recharged and come back together, it is superlative. It is beyond everything, and if this were the only thing that I had gained, it would be enough.

But it is not, of course. It is only one thing of many. I have gained sleep; gorgeous, voluptuous, sleep. Sleep as rich as heavy cream, as sensuous as silk, sleep like the sleep that overwhelms my children, sleep that, it turns out, was never reserved for them. I have gained my looks back; I took a photo the other day, to show somebody my new haircut, and my eyes shine like sapphires against glowing new skin. I have gained confidence, and energy, although I will never be one of you mad 5.30am people. Not with sleep like mine. No contest.

I have gained this blog. This blog has been huge for me. This is the first time since my teens that I have written this consistently, and the first time I have ever had an audience. And it is life-altering. It won’t ever be anything except this, in and of itself, but it has shown me that this is what I want to do, I want to write. And for the first time in forever (oh, goddamnit, now I have that song in my head) (and so do you, I expect. Apologies) I have the confidence that I can write. I can sit down, day after day, and make time to do the thing that makes me happiest in the world, and I won’t sabotage that. Augusten Burroughs says – find something you want to do more than you want to drink. This. This is what I want to do. Forever.

And you guys! Who knew you were all out there? Talking, and listening, and writing, and sharing, and wrapping your sober arms around the troubled world. You all say such amazing things. In the early weeks, I read hours and hours of sober blogs, entire archives, story after story, and there wasn’t one post, ever, that didn’t help. I read and I thought – oh she’s right, I never thought of it that way! Or I thought – oh, thank Christ it’s not just me. Or sometimes, in wry recognition of my own failures, I would feel sympathetic and determined and warier than ever of the traps. And when I complained that my life wasn’t transformed at three weeks sober, you didn’t laugh, or you kept the laughter to yourself, and instead you reassured.

I am not angry that I can’t drink. I am not sad. I am glad that I can’t drink, and that in finding that out, I have found so much more. I have been given gifts beyond my reckoning. Mostly, I guess, I have been given myself. And it turns out, I think I’m pretty fucking amazing.

25 thoughts on “100 Days

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks. Thank you for your inspiration. 100 days!! That’s amazing! And this post has really helped me, as at 51 days sober I’ve been wobbling on the ‘should I continue’ bridge. Your uplifting words persuade me that it’s really worth carrying on. THANK YOU. Annie xxx

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for that! Here I sit, on Day 1 having been gearing up for quite some time (hmmm like 2 years…) to say “enough”! And your celebratory blog post has filled me with excitement about what lays ahead. As a prickly, space-loving parent I really hope that sobriety will allow me to be the best parent I can be. And by best, I mean truly present (even if we aren’t doing improving stuff – just not wishing the time away until I can be alone with My Most Beloved).
    I have read your entire Blog – what triggered finally the decision to quit was an MN friend posting on Facebook last Tuesday your Virginia Woolf inspired post. And that set me down the whole road of reading the amazing Sober blogs out there. Contacting Belle and getting ready to start the 100 Day challenge. I really hope I can do it. But writing like yours will help. So thank you and massive congratulations of reaching 100 Days!
    If this is a relay, I’ve grabbed your baton!

    • Honestly, if I’d read an exhortation to be more present to my children, before, I’d have felt such resentment. Isn’t it enough already, I’d rail. I don’t HAVE any more, not without losing myself, stop telling me to be more, to give more. But … it doesn’t feel like giving, now. It feels like sharing. Or maybe, I’m 50% more parent than I was, but 100% more me, so there is enough to go around. I’m not sure. But I know that parenting is just more fun now, and we want to do more of the things that are fun. I’d love to know how you’re going over the next few weeks, I hope you keep commenting and tell me. BTW, if your MN/Facebook friend is LS, we share a friend; it’s a very odd feeling seeing your own writing popping up all unknowing on your own feed!

  3. Yes – she is indeed! I have actually taken a screen shot of her post to remember the moment (I hope) that changed things for me. I’d been faffing about with moderation (yup that really worked out for me…) and lurking around the two threads on MN. Let’s keep in touch if you wouldn’t mind. I did 5 days last week as a warm up with a very planned farewell on Saturday (you just can’t do day 6 at your thirty year school reunion, you just can’t!). My first sober Friday and Sunday in a very long time. Aiming for 100 days. I know it will be tough – but drinking is bloody tough and I’ve had enough of the self-loathing. I really have.

  4. “And it turns out, I think I’m pretty fucking amazing.”

    Best line written on a sober blog EVER. That’s it, you win, we can all go home now ;)

    Seriously, WELL DONE! You have been a pleasure to watch grow. You are, as you quite rightly suspect, are a brilliant writer. Never stop.

    I raise my sober glass to you my friend x

  5. Beautifully said. The whole being free and counting sober days is all perception. It’s all in the mind, including being free. I’ve been happy, free of drugs and alcohol and I know exactly how many days sober I have. Doing so may not free the next human but for this guy it keeps me grounded. I know what I am up against. You seem to have this figured out. (I say that loosely) You seem to understand how your head wants you dead but will settle for you drunk. Keep it up. Keep that fire in your words and that love for living a genuine life. It was such an amazing thing hear your desire to be a badass mom.

    Dustin

  6. I question whether I have done “enough” for my children every day. Here on day 8, I’m worried that I’ve been letting them watch too much TV because I’ve been exhausted as my liver is being wrung like a dirty dishcloth. I’ve also been skimping on the healthy, home-cooked meals for the same reason. Hopefully as the amount of sober days under my belt creeps up, so will my confidence as a parent. For now I’ll have to take solace in knowing that I’m doing the best I can to make myself a better person. Congratulations on your 100 days! This is a brave thing that you are doing, sharing your experience with all of us. Your words are helping to guide me through this process. Thank you!

    • I treated very early sobriety like being ill. I cut corners, I treated myself, I slept a lot. And I whined a lot about not having turned into a magical overachieving person. It comes with time. Eight days is great, well done!

  7. Congrats on your 100 days!! :) It’s liberating isn’t it? And in a way you just can’t appreciate truly until you put down the drink. I’m beginning to think that sobriety is the world’s best kept secret! xx

  8. You are amazing.

    I love your comments. I feel them too! I no longer an trying to make my life look perfect. I’m enjoying it. Living it. Being in it.

    Choosing not to drink is choosing to live life.

    Keep writing! It’s awesome!

  9. Lovely…and congratulations!

    I hope you keep writing too…here and everywhere.
    Sobriety is that little secret gem, best kept secret..it truly is. who knew?
    I’m so happy you found out!

  10. Congratulations on 100 days! You are a very talented writer and I look forward to reading your posts. I’m not sure what kind of parent I would have been had I stopped drinking when my kids were still at home (they are all grown up now). I’m sure they would have had my full attention at 5 pm each night. Well, I can’t look back. Just so relieved that I finally made the decision to quit like all of you.

    • Oh mine don’t have my full attention! Usually at 5pm they’re watching TV while I cook them dinner, feed the cat, gather up all the laundry that somehow scatters itself around the house and chuck it down to the basement while yelling at them to pick their dirty socks up themselves once in a while…it’s not the Waltons around here!

  11. many many congratulations on your 100 days! and so glad you are here sharing all the joys of sobriety. singing the Hallelujah Chorus round my kitchen in your honour! I read somewhere recently that ‘sobriety delivers everything that alcohol promises’ and ain’t that the sober truth? Xx

  12. I loved the last paragraph the most! Before I read this I thought wow maybe just maybe I am glad this sobriety happened to me. It has made me dig deeper into my life. The blogs have really helped me prepare to go on

  13. Congratulations on 100 days! I have been reading your blog since the beginning and, from the first, your writing blew me away. Even if you want to stop, we might not let you.

  14. Too much in the media these days about the failure rate of recovery. I had my last drink on January 6. I am out to prove them wrong, and so are you! Good vibes out to you, peace.

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