I’m sitting here in the darkest hours of early morning, truly appreciating the quiet in the house. Snowstorms and house renovations see to it that most hours of the day finds my home to be an active one.
That same snowstorm has given us a delayed start to school, which of course they feel compelled to let us know at 4 am. I could go on for a bit about this; why waste the quiet expelling my energy this way?
Because it’s a special day, and ultimately, I’m glad to be starting it in the comforting quiet of darkness; too often the day gets going and is gone before I’ve had time to reflect on much of anything.
Today’s reflection centers around the idea of the trade-offs we make in our lives. To my way of thinking, most everything we do involves a trade-off. I can choose not to exercise, and allow myself the luxury of extra time in bed, or additional television to watch, but when I get out of said bed I will be extra creaky in my muscles and joints due to the inactivity. Or I can do the reverse and feel great with my extra energy, and find the trade-off to be an injury.
Some things are no-brainers in terms of the pay-off. I am, God willing, soon to be approaching a change in lifestyle: heading back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home Mom for many years. I envision the interview and the explanation of why my resume has the gap that it does.
And I feel no worry about it. For me, the pay-off between career trajectory and raising my children was decided, for all intents and purposes, before I even had children.
When I was in active addiction, the trade-off in giving up alcohol was inconceivable. I literally could not imagine a life without alcohol. What would I do while others were drinking? How could I possibly enjoy anything festive ever again? How would I toast the bride and groom at a wedding? Mourn at a funeral? De-stress after a rough day?
Sobriety was a journey I started on less of my own accord and more to satisfy the demands of those around me. In those days the pay-off was a simple one: sobriety vs. virtually every meaningful relationship. But had you asked Early Sobriety Me if this is a lifetime gig, I imagine the honest answer would have been “no.” Choosing to never drink alcohol again for the rest of my life? I would have said short-term, yes; long-term, I’m back to the inconceivable again.
Because the only way to convince this alcoholic that long-term sobriety is worth it is to experience long-term sobriety. I needed to get comfortable attending alcohol-fueled family functions, I needed to celebrate at weddings, mourn at funerals, get a root canal minus the pain reliever, before I could truly imagine this to be a lifetime commitment.
Yesterday, as fate would have it, I needed to create a gift basket for my daughter’s basketball team. The theme is “His and Hers Date Night,” and includes both beer and a bottle of wine. Where I live you still need to go into a liquor store to purchase wine (it’s winding around to being available in grocery stores, but slowly). So yesterday marked the first time in 4 years that I’ve been in a liquor store and selected a bottle of wine.
It was a strange thing. I held no particular affinity for this liquor store, so thankfully no bad memories resurfaced. But as I scanned the labels… that brought back some memories, memories that I suppose will always be bittersweet. Getting ready for a party, anticipating the night ahead, anxiously awaiting that first chilled sip, and the feeling that would soon follow.
Memories of fun times in the past, when everyone was enjoying the alcohol… hilarity, raucous behavior, impromptu karaoke and dancing. In sobriety, I won’t have a night quite like that again.
There’s always a trade-off.
So what do I get in exchange for the sacrifice of the warmth and joviality a night of drinking provides?
I should probably start with what sobriety forces me to surrender: hangovers, lapses in memory, fear of what that lapsed memory contains, shame in my lack of control, condemnation from loved ones, guilt in the behavior I am modelling for my children, paranoia that the world is turning against me, which turns into defensiveness over my right to drink because I am a grown-ass adult, the scheming that go into drinking the way I want to drink, the intricate machinations that go into covering up the way I drank.
And what I get out of sobriety? I’ve spent the last 4 years writing about that, but let me highlight a few. I get, first and foremost, peace of mind. Those words seems so much smaller than their meaning. A deep down feeling that things are really and truly okay.
I have my friends, my family, deep and meaningful relationships.
I have all the same celebrations and life events as I did before. The only thing that’s changed in the liquid in my glass, and my ability to remember it afterwards.
I have a whole new network of people, like-minded and soul-inspiring.
I have a faith not previously experienced in my life: faith in myself, faith in a power greater than me, faith in the people in my life.
Uninterrupted, peaceful sleep. This gift cannot be understated.
I have a touchstone: if I can get and stay sober, I can do anything.
It’s beginning to get light, almost time to get the day started!
After acknowledging to myself that I wouldn’t be falling back to sleep, I got out of bed and on my knees to pray, same as I’ve done every morning for the past 4 years. Today, it being what felt like the dead of night, was almost identical to the time and conditions of that first night of sincere prayer 4 years ago. What a gift it is to see how far I’ve come!