Regular readers of the blog will know that I have a history of being very confessional in this space. Some unfortunate incidents over the past year culminated in my making a very public (and perhaps overly-dramatic) declaration that I was taking time to reconsider how much I share. Ditto on Facebook. I pulled back.
What I now share is the most personal thing I’ve offered since then: today is my one-year alcohol sobriety anniversary.
So, an asterisk before I move forward. I don’t actually know when my “true” sobriety date is, which is actually a really good thing. Two years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and after years of trying I finally found the absolutely perfect therapist. I know projection onto your psychologist is not a good thing, but I love him. He is one of the most significant relationships in my life and I am able to write this today in no small part because of him. He is adamant that I not share his name, so I won’t. In the first 6-9 months, we focused on meds and sorting out the disorder. It then because obvious I had to quit because we spent almost every session talking about drinking because I was bringing it up. My first attempt, I had about four months without drinking when I arrogantly thought that I could just have “one or two.” After a three day bender, I stopped again but refused to start counting the days. By the time I was encouraged to by others, I honestly couldn’t remember. So I picked this date as being the most logical knowing that the only count that ever is matters is that I never, ever have another day one.
I don’t really want to write too much about my drinking. I’ll share this: while it is now abundantly clear to me that an overwhelming reason for my history of substance abuse is my mental illnesses, I certainly lived fully into reckless behavior. I also have amazing memories that heavily feature alcohol; some of my favorite moments in life are with Mimi, in our favorite bars, pumping $30 into the jukebox, and hanging out all day. I miss that, and sometimes it is the hardest part; Mimi would NEVER ask me to break my sobriety. She has been awesome, and I have absolutely no problem being around her or others when they drink. But it is those memories that tug at me. Really, really good times. I sometimes lament that I’ll never have another one.
But that’s the disease talking. Let me be frank, I was a drunk. Again, it is not that I am dishonest about what I did and how I behaved, it is just I’m not at the point where I can joke about it. I can’t say I’m thrilled about many of the things I did when I was drinking, and I’m working on that stuff in therapy. I just can’t share it. It would be too much to have out there given the fact I pretty regularly have people who simply go off on me online; my darkest secrets will be shown light in other ways. However, I’ll say that I needed to quit drinking, and I know there are more than a few people in my life who are genuinely glad to see me one year without alcohol. I was always a lover when I got drunk, not a fighter. Except to myself. A depressive with a drinking problem is a depressive looking to die. At least, that how it was for me. My uncle committed suicide. So did my brother. I was just doing it more slowly.
I don’t go to AA. I don’t offer to be a mentor for anyone in their sobriety. At the encouragement of a few friends on Facebook, I wrote this just in case there is some reading who is looking for their last day one. Or someone who has some days behind them and are wondering if they can do it. Yes, you can. But I didn’t do it alone. I joined an online AA support group and read way more than I posted (actually, today I marked my anniversary, which was my first post since my introductory past nearly a year ago); I saw my therapist and didn’t lie or avoid; I had myself put on a medication that will likely cause seizures if I drink. The med is for my bipolar, but I sought out a specific side effect as a motivator. I told the bartenders at my local to not let anyone buy me drinks; to a key few, I asked them to grill me if I ever asked for a drink. I didn’t want to put it upon them to refuse me; I just wanted to give them permission to look me in the eye and say, “What’s up, Aaron? I know you don’t want to do this, so tell me what’s going on. Can I call Mimi?” I made them accountability partners.
Every morning I wake up and decide that I am not going to drink today. I might drink tomorrow, but not today.
Someone on the FB page gave me the best blessing: “Here’s to a life filled with 24 hours in which you decide not to drink.”