I’ve always identified as Irish because my parents told me I was a European Mut, but mostly Irish (even though ancestry claims I’m Scottish instead of Irish now 😂). Oh boy did I exploit the idea that being Irish meant I had a drinking gene. Drink for good, bad, boredom, etc etc … St Patrick’s day used to be one of my favorite drinking days.
Before I stopped drinking, staying sober on St Patrick’s day would have felt like the ultimate punishment. This day was a culmination of so many things: spring break, college basketball, warmer weather, and drinking – lots and lots of socially acceptable heavy daytime drinking. I loved it. Until I didn’t any longer.
St. Patrick’s Day regrets? I have many. My worst St. Patrick’s Day memory is the most miserably momentous day in my past. The one where I got arrested, had my picture on the front page of the paper, had to give up my career, and started a downward spiral which took another year and a half to get out of.
But I’m tired of telling that story.
That story is not about me any more.
I would rather reflect on the story of the momentous moments my sobriety has allowed me to appreciate. The everyday things I have experienced that alone might not amount to much, but taken together, they create a story of the beauty of leaving behind alcohol and accepting life for what it is: a series of moments in time.
Alcohol prevented me from recognizing the joy in the simple; the growth that comes from struggle; the power of stillness.
During my first year sober, every day was momentous:
Day One – I can’t believe I am doing this…
Day Three – I can’t believe I am ACTUALLY doing this…
Day 30 – a month without a drink?
Day 90 – gathering stride and momentum
Day 180 – experiencing new seasons and overcoming challenges
Day 365 – A YEAR!!! I made it!!!
And then it got quiet. My next milestone wasn’t for several months (500 days), and then what? I got disillusioned pretty quickly and felt trapped in my very own dream come true. I knew I wasn’t going to go back to drinking, but how could I capture and hold that joy that came with the passing of each new day?
So I began to study mindfulness and have been working hard to increase my presence in my own life. I would like to share some of the mundanely momentous moments I have experienced now that I am settling into an alcohol-free life.
- Sending birthday cards. I wrote all of my siblings’, nieces’, and nephews’ birthdays on the calendar and have been mailing birthday cards to them. It’s a small way to show up for the people in my life. Alcohol made me selfish and disorganized. As I spent nearly all of my free time drinking, I couldn’t plan for things in advance. And running to the post office or to get a stamp were impossible feats.
- Visiting the library. Browsing books while drunk wasn’t appealing, so I didn’t do it. Then, with the lock-downs, I couldn’t. Now, as things are opening up, I am taking time to go and explore my local library.
- Using my senses. Everything revolved around drinking, so staring at the sunset, hearing the robins’ songs, smelling my coffee, tasting my dessert, and feeling a hug were distractions. Things I did, my mind was elsewhere.
- Letting it go. Alcohol made me aggressive and reactive. Now I can walk away from a sassy retort from my middle-schooler. I can understand that a thoughtless comment from my partner was unintentional. I don’t have to confront a colleague with whom I disagree.
- Taking space from social media. Facebook and other sites were great time killers as I sat on the couch and drank. Sobriety allows me to get off my phone and experience the world around me.
I would never imply that my life is all peace and tranquility. I still have stress. I still experience anger and frustration. I still feel lonely and sad. But I am able to be grateful each day. Grateful for my new life and the opportunity to make the most of every moment. I do not know what my life would look like if I had kept drinking. At best, it would be the same – and that’s all my drinking life ever was: the same. Same people, same bars, same emotions, same fights, same regrets. And a life free of alcohol gave me something different: an inner strength where I do know, that, even in my toughest moments, that it will get better; that I will overcome; that I have the power within myself – free of alcohol – to live a life in which the moments do not pass me by.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day – My sobriety, quitting alcohol, helped me stop seeking the pot of gold and allowed me to look up and see the rainbow right above me. (And, keep in mind that alcohol and St. Patrick’s Day is a construct created by Budweiser in the 1970s. I will still wear green. I will wish the “Luck o’ the Irish” upon you. But I will toast with my sparkling water with lime or green smoothie and be happy that I am here and present.)
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