This Is What Gratitude Feels Like

I am 25 days sober, and I feel amazing.

For a full 3 weeks, I felt¬†almost debilitated. I was depressed, lethargic, and miserable. I had nausea, night sweats, and diarrhea. Some days I literally had to talk myself through putting pants on, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going.

Are you asking yourself what I mean by “talking myself through putting pants on?” Here’s an example of how I shuffled through my days:

What’s the next right thing?

Putting on pants. I have to get some pants and put them on.

My pants are on. What’s the next right thing?

I need to get my purse. Okay, I have my purse.

What’s the next right thing? I need to find my kids.

Where are my kids?

Shit.

***

That’s what happens when a person suddenly stops drinking after her body becomes accustomed to metabolizing a bottle of wine per day; the body goes into some sort of shock, and trust me, my detox process went a lot better than most. My emotions literally rocketed between intense depression and elation every 5 minutes. I’d go from feeling like sobbing from joy, to wanting to rip our neighbor’s shrubbery out of the ground with my bare hands because I WAS JUST THAT MAD. Mad at myself, mad at the world, and most of all, mad that I will never be able to drink alcohol again without an ugly relapse and even uglier recovery.

Change is scary and it’s hard, but now that I’m starting to feel better, I’m excited to get my life in order. Prior to this, getting my life in order meant going to Office Depot and finding color-coded sticky notes and file folders to keep our paperwork organized. Then I would get drunk and throw a bunch of important papers away because, well, I was drunk, and that’s just how I like to organize sometimes. Throwing everything away means that the mess is permanently filed and I won’t ever see it again.

That’s just how my mind works.

It’s ridiculous that at 37 years old, I’m going to have to re-learn how to cope with the difficulties of life — grief and pain and abandonment and loss and the everyday stress that accompanies motherhood. Maybe I never knew how to handle those things in the first place, and that’s what landed me in a 12-step program. The hows and why don’t matter. I just want to get better.

There are people in my life who don’t believe I’m an alcoholic. There are people who think I’m making it up for attention (please note: this is not the kind of attention you want). Let me share something with you guys: not one of us lives a pain-free, perfectly happy life. Not one. People often assume that because I smile a lot, I’m either stupid or don’t have anything bad going on. The truth is, no one knows anything about me that I don’t want them to know. As much as I freely share in person and online, there are many layers to my story and my days that I keep private. I think most people are like that. We only share what we feel safe sharing, and we may take the rest to our grave.

***

This morning I had coffee outside with two of my favorite people, and I noticed that 25 days into my new life as a sober person, the air feels different. Breathing feels different. It’s like I’ve been living in a musty, dark basement for years, and someone patiently helped me climb the stairs up and out of a situation that I didn’t even know was bad until I saw the sun and felt the warmth of it on my face.

That is what gratitude feels like.

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I told Robbie that if someone had to pick which of us looked like they are in a 12-step program, it would not be me. AND YET.

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Lies and Truths.

I lied to my best friend.

We hadn’t seen each other in a year –¬†a year! – when we finally met for coffee the day after Thanksgiving. Her baby daughter is 9 months old and adorable, and even though I was meeting her for the first time, I felt like I’d known her forever. She’s just an extension of my friend. I scooped her up and marveled at her features while she played with my hair.

My friend was adorable, too. She had claimed previously that she was a mess, her house was a mess, her car was a mess. To me, it all looked normal. She looked exactly the same — gorgeous and willowy thin, like always (bitch). Her house and car look like they have a kid in the family, and for a mom like me with three of them at home, it didn’t seem messy. It seemed normal.

After 20 years of friendship, we have watched each other date boys, break up with boys, marry men, move to different states, land jobs, leave jobs, and move again. Having babies is just another one of those major life changes.

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As we tried to discuss a year’s worth of topics within the span of a few hours, she said “I just feel like I can’t remember ANYTHING anymore. I am so scatterbrained.”

And that is when I told the lie.

I nodded in understanding and said, “It’ll be okay.”

I blamed her lack of mental focus on lack of sleep and waved it away, like it was nothing to worry about. The truth is, IT WON’T BE OKAY. AT ALL. It’s not going to go away and it won’t get better. From my experience, the scatterbrained-ness seems to mushroom with each kid and eventually you just sort of learn to live with it. You just adapt to being stupid.

Tonight I lost a pod of dishwashing detergent. One minute I had it in my hand, and the next minute I didn’t. Where the hell did it go?! Did I set it down somewhere? Throw it away? Put it back in the bag? I honestly have no idea. Robbie helped me look for it, and confirmed it was not sitting somewhere in plain sight. Not that I’ve ever completely overlooked something and nearly cried with frustration only to have him pick it up out of whatever obvious place it was located and hand it to me condescendingly. Nope. That has never happened.

Anyway, at this point I will just have to hope that one of the kids don’t find the pod first … wherever it is. I have forgotten more tampons, appointments, and essential pieces of information in the past year than I have in my entire adult life. And yet, we’re all still here, functioning at what appears to be an acceptable level.

So maybe what I said wasn’t a total lie.

Maybe it was actually the truth.