That photo is of the last coin I flipped to decided if I should have another drink. The coin came up no. I said yes anyway and forgot the rest of the night. So it went, then. I forgot half my nights. I slid into an uneasy balance between tipsy and lost until I woke up some time later trying to work out how I got home.
It doesn't go that way anymore, because today is the one year anniversary of my sobriety.
When I start to wax nostalgic about the terrible good old days, I have a handful of photos that I look at to remind me of how isolating it was to sit drunk and hollowed out at a table most evenings with people to whom, for the most part, I felt no spiritual connection. It's amazing what we'll do for ten years to keep a hold of the safe sensation of the clack and thrum of moving along, moving along, moving along. I was my own cow, prodding myself along.
To be honest, it is only approximately the one year anniversary of my sobriety. When I quit drinking, I had to fool myself into it. I didn't tell anyone what I was doing. I barely told myself.
I remember the last thing I remember from the last night that I drank. I got up from the table on the patio I had been sitting at all summer and walked in the wrong direction. I didn't walk in the usual direction. I turned right instead of left. I have found that a good way to make a decision stick in your head is to make your body go over unfamiliar, unhabitual territory. It puts a mark in your brain that will make your needle skip when you hit it. It tells you to go this way and not that. It reminds you of what's important.
I walked away.
Making the turn I never made stuck in my brain, but the rest of the night disappeared down a hole like most before it, and I woke up unable to recall how it was I had made it home. I went through my usual post-drunk night motions for the last time: I checked my wallet to see that I hadn't been robbed, I looked at pictures on my phone to jog my memory, I checked my legs to see if I had more bruises that would tell the Palinode how drunk I'd been again, and then I cried with shame in the shower.
It was the last time. I didn't really believe that it was the last time, but it was the last time.
I didn't know at the time, though, that I would survive. I quit because I knew that I was going to kill myself, that the alcohol was fuelling the second nature suicidal desire I've had with me since first conscious light. I could see that unnecessarily herding myself over the precipice because I couldn't stop putting a particular liquid in a glass and then putting that liquid into my body, that allowing emotions to dictate the downfall of my entire existence like a child wound into a perpetual, unreasonable tantrum, was ridiculous.
I was going to lead myself to suicide over little more than a feigned helplessness about making the choice to turn right instead of left. It was ridiculous to choose that, so I got up from my table and walked the other way.
If you find yourself inside one of those moments where you wake up and feel like you're really breathing, and you are hit with a sudden clarity that pulls you out of the sad weight of subjective desire, grab on and follow it with everything you've got. That is life's invitation to hitch yourself to a new horse. You've been tapped on the shoulder by the universe. This is your time.
I'm sitting at my kitchen table this morning, and I don't know what to say about it all. I am floored that this is where I find myself. I have an entire year of sobriety under my belt now.
This work I'm doing is far from over. This sobriety baby is really only just now getting its legs, but rather than feel defeated by the fact that, a year in, it is still this hard sometimes, I am excited. All of the hours I put into drinking and wallowing and not believing and not doing never fed my heart and mind so much as doing the work to embrace my sobriety.
I've discovered an ability to realize my creativity that I didn't have faith in before. Confidence and self-esteem are like candy after years of self-defeat. Like flock to like, and I'm finding my soul brethren. Food tastes better. My full range of emotions is back, and I've discovered the delicious fierceness of real anger again. I am a kid with myself now that I no longer numb out every high and low with alcohol. I am actually alive and actually breathing after 21 years of carefully maintaining my drinking calendar.
And, for this, I need to thank you.
I came here to this place on the internet 365 days ago and laid it out. To love myself, I had to come clean everywhere, and I came here not knowing how you would be with me. I had to be willing to lose you, to lose this place, but you were gentle with me. You were kind. You took me at my word and held me up. You wrote me comments and e-mails to let me know that I was not alone. You told me that putting it out there made you less alone. You bouyed me up when I had to walk away from almost everyone that populated my daily life. When I wasn't sure who I was or why I was doing this, I came here, and because you were here, I stuck to the work of making it work.
People who say that friends on the internet aren't real don't know you.
This is the first anniversary of my sobriety, and, for the first time, I feel like I'm walking into my life. My life. I own this one.