The calendar where I keep count of my sober days clicks (not unexpectedly but still it’s startling) into triple digits and I feel a deep tug in my stomach. I am not sure exactly how to describe the feeling, perhaps because I have never felt it before – this particularly odd sensation of dread, detachment, and . . . reverence? awe? . . . . all braided together like a giant knot right at the dead center of my core.
Loss. It might be the perplexing feeling of loss. Which may sound weird and admittedly it is weird for me, too. People like to tell you to ‘celebrate each day’ and that ‘each day of sobriety is a gift’ and all that jazz. All cool. All true. But there is a vast difference between the casual spouting of a cliche and living each and every day out in real time with real feelings and real people and no where to hide. Actually no – correction – no desire to hide.
That may be it. You want to reveal everything. You don’t want any more secrets because to get to one hundred plus days sober means along that way you revealed some massively heavy shit at the very least to yourself and found it incredibly freeing.
And the sense of loss is this realization that those double digit days are never coming back. Not the euphoria of the first few weeks of new sobriety. Not the brutality of the acute fixations, the cravings that gnawed through the lining of your sick stomach or exhausted, hollowed-out brain. And what is rather surprising is that you miss all of that. Not in the kind of way where you want to do it over again (fuck knows) or want it back but rather in the sense that you have now managed to string together a solid backstory of your first steps toward fixing your own life.
It’s like being really proud of your kid for learning to ride a bike but also realizing she will never learn it again for the first time. There’s a melancholy to it.
To find out you can miss something without clinging to it. That you can cherish something and not suffocate it or try desperately to recreate it or pick yourself apart for the ways you didn’t do every bit of it ‘right’ – this is one of the most profound and astounding revelations you are blessed inexplicably to receive when you are free of the substance which abused you for so goddamn long. You can experience loss in all of its bizarre facets, you can withstand the passing of time as it slides through your now-steady fingers, without needing it to be anything other than what it is.
Which is to say you do not need to numb yourself out of it. It is not unbearable. It is not unthinkable to feel the longing which you have felt your whole entire life, the one you kept sinking yourself to the bottom of the beautiful bottle to try to kill off, and pour the coffee. And write about it. Look at it. Sit inside of it and watch its light and its shadows make strange shapes on the walls of your newly pristine mind.
On the morning of my hundredth day, a very loud bird sang its very brazen song directly outside my window and I was up stupid early as I am now all the time. I wrote for two hours. Then I poured two very large mugs of hot fresh coffee and brought them into the very large California king bed. I handed one mug to my husband. He with the lovely tan skin and wild blonde hair. And we talked about some very, very hard shit that I had been feeling for a very long time. Stuff I knew I had to say because sobriety means not faking and not faking means not hiding. Anything.
The contents of that tricky, imperfect, human, honest, tender, scary, eye-heart-soul-mind-opening conversation that I was – we were – actually able to bear are for another post entirely. But for right now, I remember what I lost as we talked and cried and hugged and unfurled. As I let out the toxic shit that was tugging at me in the aching swallow of my throat at one hundred days, I lost a very old pattern which kept me locked in a kind of self-destruction I hope I now mercifully have the strength and conviction to continue to outgrow. The pattern where I hold my pain in. That part. The part where I try not to hurt others by hurting myself instead.
At one hundred and one days, the double digit days are over and not coming back. But each one stacked upon the others taught me more than I was aware of until yesterday. If you can find it in yourself to share your pain, the pain becomes a possibility. If you can share your pain with someone who is willing to do the messy work of honest and flawed love with you, the pain becomes hope.
The triple digit days will go on for quite some time now. Years and years, the Universe willing. I think I will still count them. What the hell. We’ve come pretty damn far. Still plenty far to go. And that’s actually a more comforting thought than you might imagine.