Meet My Sobriety Belly. Her Name Is Esther.

When I began my first year of sobriety ever in my adult life eleven months ago, I told myself that I would not spend this first year dropping everything that I use to soothe my furrowed brow. Dropping alcohol and pot are one thing, but my ice cream, my cookies, my tortilla chips with salsa, my chocolate-dipped donuts filled with Boston cream? Those were staying, and in greater numbers. I was going to get sober, not self-flagellate for bad behaviour. The rest of my better health could come later when I had shored up greater internal resources.

Well, the first year is nearly up, and the results are in. In short, I'm still sober, and I'm decidedly fatter.

a tart at Tangerine

I haven't gone so far as to fully outgrow my pants, but I have gone far enough that my double-chin shows up every time I move my head.

I'm not feeling the double chin part so much what with all these actresses and models with nothing but shadows beneath their jawlines, as though their necks are stuck into their heads like candied apples on sticks.

Mmmmm, caaandiieed aaapples.

Uncharacteristically for me, though, I am barely fazed by my newfound puffiness. In fact, I kind of like it for now.

lunch at Tangerine 2

Eleven months into my sobriety, I am still possessed of the powerful urge to suckle at three bottles of wine in a row, and I am a regular old lush in my dream life. In my dreams, I get sloppy, falling-off-my-chair drunk and have sloppy drunk sex and eat sloppy drunk food. My dreams insist on sticking to realistic scripts, though, and so I also get to experience sloppy drunk hangovers before I wake up. Jerks.

I won't lie that I often hate saying no. After I got over the hump of an early buzz when everyone still irritated the hell out of me and fell into the warm river of inebriation, I felt brilliant. I wasn't brilliant, but I felt brilliant. It felt good to feel brilliant, that particular flavour of brilliant that came with my favourite hoppy beverage and a crew of fellow pub dogs you could set your watch by.

The rest of the time I felt like absolute, unadulterated shit, though. I felt like physical, spiritual, and psychological feculence. I didn't love myself, and I certainly didn't trust myself. What I dragged around with me when I wasn't drinking was leftovers.

butter and sugar coma

I sat down on the edge of my bed in my underwear the other day, and I noticed that my belly was sitting on my thighs. Not a whole lot of it, but just enough that I would really notice, was flopped there, and I started going down that familiar path on which I chastise myself for being weak and probably ugly, and then I laughed at myself, because this was what I had to worry about? A little belly fat?

As far as I'm concerned, that handful of belly (or two generous handfuls, because who am I kidding here) is a sign of what saved me through this last winter while I learned how to live it sober for the first time in my adult life. Seriously. My comfort foods brought me through some very low moments since last August, and on more than a few occasions they were what kept me from running out to a local dive and sucking back some liquor where no one I knew could see me do it.

If chocolate ice cream saved me from being the middle-aged lady perched on a sticky stool staring down a neon Molson's sign, then I'm thankful.

lunch at Tangerine 4

When I quit getting drunk and stoned, I gave myself a free pass for a year to self-medicate with food, to take this thing in stages so that I would be less likely to have a knee-jerk response involving a sad plunge into several pint glasses of cloyingly yeasty, cheap draft. My year is almost up, and I'm ready for the next phase of my life, one in which I eat more greens and maybe even do some of that *gasp* yoga that you've all been going on about for years.

Still, though, despite the fact that I am going to work to lose her, she feels like a badge of honour. Esther is bearing the first year of my sobriety.

That's right. Her name is Esther. She feels like that little, old, grandmotherly type who insists that you need cookies. Were she not merely an anthropomorphized pocket of stored fat, she would say things like How are you ever going to find a man without a little meat on your bones? while dishing extra potatoes onto my plate.

mah belly
Please note the treasure trail and surgery-scarred belly button: this belly's been around, and she likes it.

Right now, Esther is saying YOU'VE COME THIS FAR.

I'm going to miss my little Esther when she's gone. Plus, who's going to talk me into eating greens? My pinky finger? My elbow? Greens got nothing on Esther's sweet pudding.
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