I am reflecting this morning on feeling grateful for my alcohol addiction. Wait, what??? That seems crazy, right? Why would I be grateful for something that caused me so much pain and misery? Why would I honor something that stole years of my life through hangovers, regret, and shame? But I am. Because without going through those years, I wouldn’t have had to develop all of the skills I now have to cope with life.
My partner is going through a rough time. The overwhelm of a stressful career, old trauma, and a high-conflict co-parenting situation has caught up to him. As we were talking last night, I kept coming back to the thought, “Thank God I quit drinking so I was forced to learn how to overcome these emotions.” He is not a drinker, but he numbs himself in other ways: through his phone, binge-watching television, eating too many snacks, sleeping, or just pushing the emotions way down where he can’t access them. None of those are healthy, but neither are any so life-altering that a person gets to a point of saying, “I MUST STOP!” – at least not usually.
Trying to be a good partner, I continue to offer support and love. I have shared what has helped me manage difficult emotions (therapy, journaling, support groups – thanks, BOOM!), but he is a man and he is old fashioned, and he believes that strength of mind can overpower anything. Without a toxic habit that is overtaking his life, I wonder if he will hear an invitation to try a new path loudly enough to take it. For me, that invitation started as a whisper, but as my drinking continued to get worse and worse, it became a constant scream that I couldn’t ignore any longer.
This all led me to a paradoxical feeling this morning of, “I am so glad I drank to deal with all of this. Because once I knew I couldn’t do that anymore, I was forced to learn a new way.”
In our early days of being AF(alcohol-free), one of our biggest goals is to fill the time that drinking used to occupy. And while some of us may choose our phones or televisions, or food, or bed — a lot of us find that those don’t help heal the hurt that was the true cause of why we turned to alcohol. So we try counseling or we pick up a new hobby or we join BOOM or we start working out or myriad other things that lead us to discovery and healing.
Laura McKowen’s book We Are the Luckiest is my favorite quit-lit book of all (and I have read dozens). And, in a sense, her book is what first planted this thought in my head. But it wasn’t until I had this conversation at home that it locked into meaning for me. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. Here is a quick summary: “What could possibly be “lucky” about addiction? Absolutely nothing, thought Laura McKowen when drinking brought her to her knees. As she puts it, she ‘kicked and screamed . . . wishing for something — anything — else’ to be her issue. The people who got to drink normally, she thought, were so damn lucky.
But in the midst of early sobriety, when no longer able to anesthetize her pain and anxiety, she realized that she was actually the lucky one. Lucky to feel her feelings, live honestly, really be with her daughter, change her legacy. She recognized that ‘those of us who answer the invitation to wake up, whatever our invitation, are really the luckiest of all.’”
So, I am sitting here watching the sunrise on this beautiful winter morning. I am hangover-free. I am 1,172 days without a drink. And each one of those days is better than all of the days I spent drinking. But, I am still grateful for those days I drank, because they got me here. They were my invitation to be here. If you are still drinking, if you are newly AF, or if you are a sober warrior, I would like to invite you to be AF with me today. Will you join me?
More by this author:
Life is too Short to Waste it Wasted
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