With husband away golfing with the guys I was happy to hear from my brother and his family letting that they were coming up for a weekend visit. If I am rigorously honest though, there were some pangs of anxiety as I wondered whether they would be drinking lots when they arrived. My brother and his wife had six years of recovery and then began drinking again just over a year ago. Last Thanksgiving was the last time they came to our home to visit and my sister-in-law and I drank far too much wine. Surprise, surprise: It did not end well. Things were said that should not have been and the result was damage that needed repairing in the days and weeks following. I still shudder with remorse as I remember that weekend. And I know she does too.
They arrived Friday and we were off to watch my daughter play soccer. We came home and enjoyed a lovely dinner and passed the time sipping tea and catching up with each other. Slowly people tucked into bed until it was just me and my *little* brother (not so little actually – over six feet tall) talking into the wee hours. I savoured those moments. The next day was beautiful and sunny and we found ourselves lounging poolside when my sister-in-law came out with a beer in hand. Immediately my tummy reacted with fear and anxiety. I REALLY did not want to deal with any alcohol related drama. She had a couple of pulls off of her beer and then said, “I should have asked first – are you okay with me having a beer around you – I spotted some in the fridge so I assumed it was all good…” On previous attempts I would have replied with an automatic, “No problem at all…” but this time was different. I said, ” A beer or two is fine but I am not able to be around people who are hammered or getting silly on booze… I do recognize how hypocritical that sounds but it is where I am at right now…” Who is this woman who does not play the martyr or superhero anymore but says what she needs and sets clear, firm boundaries to protect her sobriety????!!! Where did she come from. I think I really like her! We went on to have another lovely day and evening. Later on my daughter who had gone out to a University event with friends ended up unexpectedly needing a ride home at 1:30 in the morning. Words cannot express how proud, grateful, and relieved I was to be able to text her immediately “…on my way” – last year I would not have heard my phone go off let alone been able to get in my car and drive… I woke up tired but with profound sense of peace and quiet joy in my heart at who I am becoming day by day.
This weekend I ENJOYED my sober self fully and completely. That is the difference this time. I am loving my sober life. I am embracing my sobriety. I have a deep sense of gratitude for this journey I am on. This is contrasted with the white knuckling, miserable endurance exercises of sobriety in the past. I am making sober friends, attending recovery meetings, and being honest about my needs and boundaries this time and as a result I am experiencing a stronger, more sustainable sober life than I have ever had previously. There are still moments or even days where things can get difficult but that is life and I have supports in place to help me through those times – human supports. People I can call, talk to, or lean on. That too is different this time. In past attempts at sobriety I never developed a support network like what I have now. Developing support like that takes work. More importantly it takes the courage to be seen – even the stuff I am embarrassed about like my little old wine problem. Previously, my main goal was to present myself as being “just like everyone else…” because my pride and ego would not let me be vulnerable or admit that maybe I don’t have it all together like I am desperately trying to portray. Pretending to be “just fine” and “having it all together” never worked for the long haul because it was a lie. People could sense something was amiss. This different, more honest way feels better. Feels sustainable. There is excitement when I consider my life sans alcohol. My world has become so much bigger. Anything is possible. And for this, I am so grateful.