It was my 1st anniversary of being sober. The date I entered into authentic living.
And by authentic, I mean no holds barred, cranky, weepy, outburst-y, humbled and amazing. For all it had been and was to be, it was my new way of living in my truest self without the aiding and abetting of alcohol. Hallelujah!
I had survived Labor Day weekend in VT, my birthday, Halloween, (HALLOWEEN -- people!!), Thanksgiving at the in-laws, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's (alone), birthday parties... It was thrilling actually. Each holiday, or with each shift of the season, I moved forward without falter back; without focusing my efforts on doing everything I could to get myself a drink. Nope -- I persevered, and saw each holiday and day without the blurry memories, drunken guffaws or hasty statements or the constant concern that my glass of wine was empty. To say it was awesome would be an overstatement, but to have each of those days put to bed honestly (and on my own terms) was pretty freaking impressive.
When July 13th rolled around (dare I say, ticked over the finish line?) I woke with an expectation of some blinding grace that would accompany me throughout the day. As if bluebirds would greet me at the bedside with my silk robe in their beaks and little bonny bunnies would hop along as we made our way to bathroom. Are you shocked when I inform you that that wasn't the case? Well, I was.
Even my husband didn't show up to the party. I got a "Congratulations" and a seasoned smile, but honestly at that point, even if he had shown up with a 12 piece band to serenade me, I probably would've been a bitch.
I felt duped.
Especially when I realized that moving into the 2nd year I would need to get even more skillful at coping my way through social events (aka stressful experiences) that would typically have compelled me to reach for a drink. The rose colored glasses of promise of that 1st anniversary were now cast aside, and switched out for a pair that served up a heavy dose of hardcore reality; I would need to get out publicly in places where people were, alcohol was, and people with alcohol were together. Bummer. How anxiety provoking.
It is now early January 2016, and I have a 2nd sober holiday season under my belt. I am thrilled to report that time has in fact been effective in healing. The desires to drink are weaker and increasingly rare, while my resolve to spend all my newly found spare (and brilliant minded!) time doing far more amazing things steadily increases. My meditation and sadhana practice continue to grow, my conscious dance experiences increase, and I am cultivating relationships that involve deep connection over fascination of similar interests, as satsang tends to do.
The other night I had an old friend over who I hadn't seen in 2 years (having young kids does that, as you may well know). Our relationship had typically revolved around lots of misbehaving, and to be honest, I had distanced myself from her because of that. She came over to my house after the kids were asleep, and I put on a kettle and we sat. And talked. And talked. And laughed. And talked. Then moved into another room. Drank some more tea. And talked and talked and talked. And I felt like she SAW ME for the first time in years. I felt like I hadn't BEEN SEEN in years, nor had I been SEEING HER for years.
It was such a rich, juicy, rewarding interaction full of honest connection that I can't remember the last time that I had felt so present and loved. And I was there for it. Completely.
I used to rely heavily on a "warm up" drink to be able to feel comfortable in my skin and allow me to converse in social settings. I've always been highly self-critical and would become anxious meeting new people. Engaging in small talk, or even having intense conversations with those I am close with would often project me into mental comparisons between myself and my partner, who I would build up to be smarter, sassier, wiser and more grounded. The mind can be such a bastardly opponent, right?? We can become so damn skillful at creating mental novellas that surely cast us into a pit of self-degradation and loathing. I've spent many years circuit training that skill set, that to have this loving interaction with my dear friend was groundbreaking, eye opening and dare I say -- heart opening?
It was a huge step for me, to have this very honest and intense conversation with a great friend without shielding myself with a substance. And yet it felt totally and completely raw, honest, and wonderful. I was open to feel all the support, and love that we shared despite our time apart and our differences. Imagine, to make a point to meet up with a dear friend, SEE and be SEEN, SPEAK and BE HEARD, without a screen or substance separating you. Something spoke to me from within that finally broke through and penetrated my hard shell that proved to me that I am Good, I am Awesome. I am worth rocking out this dear, unique and mortal life experience fully and vulnerably.
It was a huge step for me, to have this very honest and intense conversation with a great friend without shielding myself with a substance.
As I slowly make my way back out and into a world that is constantly humming with distraction and numbing tendencies, I feel unbelievably empowered in this experience. I am using this, and my practices, to fill my cup, and am thus finding it sturdy and full of the best nectar that I have known.
Here's to more anniversaries!
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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