When I got sober in 2006, I was extremely apprehensive… more like terrified. It was hard not to notice that I had been piling one tiny little bad decision on top of another, and it was clear to me that something In my life needed to change. Probably me. I knew I couldn’t continue to feel the way I had been feeling. As much as I tried to look the other way, I couldn’t help but suspect that my wine days were numbered. It was time for me to stop drinking. Shaking with fear in my Christian Louboutins, ok they were UGGs, I made a decision to get sober.
What happened? It was hard at first, but it was incredibly worth it. Sobriety turned out to be fantastic. Who knew? I want to share with you some of the things that surprised me when I got sober.
I was happier. I had no idea how much happier I would feel after I quit drinking. I felt more alive. Each day that I didn’t drink, there were little flickers of hope inside of me that got stronger and stronger. Activities which I already loved doing and had been doing for years felt new to me.
Throwing the ball with my 6-year-old son in our front yard. Seeing his gorgeous smile every time he caught the ball in his glove. Hearing his little voice while he told me about his day at school. Smelling the grass which had just been cut. Feeling the evening air.
Reading Bunny and Me to my one-year-old son ten times in one sitting. Hearing his sweet little laugh. Smelling the baby soap from his just-washed hair. Holding his tiny hands while he sat in my lap.
A huge sense of overwhelming happiness would just rise up inside of me while I did these things because I was present. Hope and happiness became frequent feelings.
There is actually a biochemical reason that I was able to feel happier when I quit drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the body’s responses and can actually lessen a person’s ability to feel really happy. I am sure I had already heard this, but I actually experienced it for myself.
I didn’t lose my friends. When the time came for me to quit drinking, I was really afraid of losing my friends. My job as a friend was to drink wine with you until the middle of the night, and I prided myself on being a Really. Good. Friend. I was terrified that my friends would not want anything to do with me once I quit. A funny thing about this, I had a bigger chance of losing my friends had I kept drinking. Do my friendships look different now? Yes. I am not the girl who can hang out until the middle of the night anymore. There is only so far a Diet Coke can take me. While I may not be a friend who comes over every weekend, I am a friend they can call if they need to confide in someone.
For people who are worried about losing their friends after getting sober, my advice to them would be to give their friends a chance to get used to the idea that they no longer drink. See if they can be supportive. Remember, anytime someone makes a big change in their life, no matter what it is, there is a bit of renegotiation that goes on in all of their relationships. If there is a friend who is adamantly against someone quitting, then there is the question of whether or not a friend like this actually belongs in their life. Generally speaking, most people do not care if someone else drinks or not as long as they can continue doing what they want to do.
I had MORE freedom. When I quit drinking, I thought I was giving up my freedom. I was happily surprised to realize I was actually gaining freedom. I could drive 30 minutes away to dinner, have a great time and then drive home without a worry. I could drive to concerts and back. I was able to drive anywhere I wanted at anytime. If my kids forgot something and I needed to pick it up at the store before it closed, no problem! Want to go to a late movie? Let’s do it. I always encourage people who are new to sobriety to take advantage of their new super power, legal night driving. Take the kids to get ice cream at 10:00 at night on the weekend. Go places and do things that you were not able to do before without an Uber. More possibilities mean more freedom.
I developed a tangible relationship with God. When I went to a mutual support group to learn how to quit, they told me I needed to ask God to help me. To be honest, hearing this deflated me. You see, I grew up knowing God. He and I knew each other deeply. I knew that if He were going to help me with this, He already would have. Then I was told to put aside any ideas I had about God. What He expects…. what I have to do… and just start from scratch, as if we were just meeting. No other rules. No one else’s opinion. Just Him and me. Me asking Him for help. What did I discover? He actually showed up. A giant hand did not come out of the sky and cover my mouth to keep me from drinking. I was kind of expecting it to. Instead little by little, day by day, He helped me. I did not have to drink. Over the years, I have seen God help so many other people, just like He helped me, that I know Him to be substantially real and reliable. That, to me, is worth everything.