Some of my best memories are from some of my biggest drinking moments.
It’s been helpful to think that my drinking was bad, unhealthy and alcohol took me away from myself. And now that I’ve removed alcohol, I am happy, healthy, free, and all is well.
Although this is 100% true, it is not the whole truth.
It is a story that I have been telling myself for years. I had to tell myself this story to get to the place I am at now, which is 5 years sober, happy, and free.
I could only see it in the solid black and white until now. Any kind of nostalgic thinking or romantic longing about alcohol in my past was too risky. If I idealized the past for too long, I might spiral and land upside down with a bottle in my hand and wine on my lips, once again.
I quit drinking so many times before I quit drinking.
With alcohol, decidedly no longer an option for me, I had to march to the drum with a single beat. The rhythm was that drinking and my past were bad. Sober, my present and future are good. In many ways, this is accurate, but it is also a very rigid and limited view. Sticking with this kind of thinking has been my survival for the past few years.
I was struck with a memory this morning that flipped my singular narrative upside down.
I am finally strong enough in my sobriety to see the layers and the multitudes of alcohol’s place in my life. I have a strong enough foundation to explore.
I spent most of my life drinking. I think about it often.
What got me about this particular memory, was the painful fact that I spent most of my children’s childhood as a drinker.
This hits different.
I am extra sensitive to this awareness. I protected myself for a long time by not thinking too hard about it. I kept my eye on the prize. The next sober milestone in front of me. Leaving my past in a trail of dust. This has been a secret to my success. I help my client’s navigate this too. Changed behavior is the best apology. My forever mantra.
When the memories and regret come flooding in during early sobriety, I put them in a box. Then I put the box on a shelf for another day. Things change and we all have new eyes to see in the future when our sober muscles have time to grow. The alcohol mind likes to trick us in the beginning and nothing fast tracks us back to alcohol like pain and regret.
I personally did not need to add more shame to my already shaky, insecure, terrified, newly sober self. I am not sure that is helpful to anyone in their first months trying to build strength in their weak and wobbly baby Bambi-like sober sea legs.
Now, my sober muscles are as strong as ever. Every once in a while I can open that box and pull one thing out to unravel and look at it with clear eyes, a full heart, and a solidly sober mind.
Full sober flex, ready for heavier lifting. No fear of running back to alcohol no matter what feelings arise in me. I know how to take care of myself. I’ve been practicing for 5 years now.
I cannot take back any of my past drinking. I also cannot believe that those moments were all bad, or that I was all bad, because I was drinking.
The friends I was drinking with were not bad (although maybe it made it easier to vilify them) and the place where I did my biggest drinking was not bad (although maybe not returning is best for me). Life was not all bad in my complicated history with alcohol. It’s not that simple.
I was a devoted mother to my kids. It was a top priority for me to create a magical childhood for them and I did. This is really coming to fruition as my first born prepares to leave for college in just a few weeks. I have friends who are starting to wonder if they were there enough, if they gave enough, if they showed up enough. I have no doubt I was there for them. I have no doubt I gave them every possible thing I could. I gave them everything I wanted as a child. Stability. Traditions. Vacations. Undivided attention. Safety. Security. Acceptance. A circle of admirable people to love them alongside me.
The memory that popped up in my mind was of a hot summer night with lifelong, hometown friends and wiggly young kids in sun kissed cheeks, soaking wet life jackets, and pruney fingers and toes after a day of giggles and pool games.
That exact moment was when the sun was sliding down for a full night’s rest. Leaving the sky softly lit with a dreamy glow. The night’s glow in the heat of the summer always brought a peaceful woozy end to a full day's worth of sharing pool toys, spilled drinks, scraped knees, and spoiled watermelon.
The string lights were aglow on the patio. The pool was colorfully lit. The bright striped beach towels were hung perfectly, drying on the fence. Sunscreen duty was finally over for the day and everyone could relax. Dinner had been served. Clean up was complete. Bedtime was within reach but not urgent. The kids can keep playing because there’s nothing to wake up for but another summer pool day while staying with friends. Catching tadpoles. Piling in the hammock and taking turns swinging. Taking independent wagon walks into town. The smell of the grill and the taste of the best burgers in town. Adult conversation and murmurs breaking out into gut laughs on the screened in porch. A circle of lifelong friends with a lifetime of stories between us to share.
I spent so many special summers with my hometown friends and we created beautiful memories that will forever be imprinted in my heart, mind, and soul.
It is short sighted to say all my drunken summer nights were awful. There was beauty and joy even in my darkness. It’s time for me to let go of the version of me that was the villain when I was drinking turned hero in sobriety. I am neither. I am both.
It is time for me to continue being curious. Exploring the box on the shelf. Peeling away another layer, making another amend, forgiving myself again, and allowing some happy nostalgia of the past to soak in without fear.
My sober journey continues to be a journey of self discovery for it and I am really grateful for the opportunity. If you need support on navigating your alcohol free journey set up a complimentary call with me HERE.