At 60 days sober I attended my first wedding. 60 days seemed like a lifetime. I had been attempting sobriety for awhile and had achieved long stretches without drinking in the past but something always seemed to draw me back in. It’s funny how the brain works. Time makes it forget just how bad it was and suddenly you’ll think, oh, wouldn’t a glass of wine tonight be nice. But this time was different. I had accepted that moderation was just not possible for me. I never just wanted one glass of wine. I was mentally prepared for this wedding. I had learned tools. I was ready for anything.
And then I was there. At the wedding, seltzer and cranberry in hand. Feeling awkward as hell. It was as if I had left my body and was just a witness to the events taking place. I didn’t dance. I don’t remember having many conversations. But I remember leaving and feeling like I had just won an olympic gold medal. The energy I felt throughout my body was palpable.
It was at this wedding that I learned WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. Sometimes, just going through the motions is enough. That night new neural pathways were created. The misguided belief that I needed alcohol to attend a wedding, or any social event, was forever changed. For years I had been on a self-perpetuated shame cycle. It would look something like this: decide to stop drinking; stop drinking; some event/holiday/celebration would happen and I would drink; wake up the next day feeling horrible and vow to never drink again. This same cycle would repeat itself over and over and over. I couldn’t understand why, when I had so much disipline in other areas of my life, I couldn’t do this one thing.
And now I do. You cannot manage an addictive behavior with sheer willpower or discipline. I may have the discipline to stop drinking but it took uncovering and dealing with the reasons behind why I was drinking to make it sustainable. I had to start experiencing life without a substance numbing it in order to realize that it’s ok to feel emotions and set boundaries and say no sometimes.
Two weeks ago I attended another wedding. It was my daughter’s. And this time I was both physically and emotionally present. I danced. I laughed. I had conversations that I will remember. And at the end of the night, as I drove them away, I felt like I had just won an olympic gold medal.