It’s been exactly three years to the day since I last had an alcoholic drink. Unbelievable? Extremely. Happy? Mostly.
I wouldn’t say I was entirely jubilant today, mainly because of the several close shaves that I have gone through in recent weeks. I’m fairly convinced that those close shaves were in anticipation of this anniversary – it’s felt like a long time coming. I keep thinking of the summer party at work last week, where I had a sip of what tasted like whiskey. I didn’t mean to drink it, I was just thirsty and Kat handed me this drink which she hadn’t said was alcoholic. She didn’t say it wasn’t alcoholic, either, so I can’t be as sure as I’d like to be that I am three years sober today. To everyone I’ve announced it as my anniversary, so I have to be pretty sure. I didn’t want to get drunk last Friday – I never wanted to lose the sobriety date, it’s always just felt like the right date for me. Of course I’m the type to over-exert myself worrying about these things, and it doesn’t help having heard people in AA talk of losing their sobriety when they semi-willingly drank mouthwash.
I’m going to act as if I am three years today – I’ll go mad otherwise. What a three years! When I was in my early days and someone announced their own third anniversary, I’ll never forget the look of utter relief on their face, and the disbelief it made me feel. You just don’t believe that three years are possible in the beginning.
My life has changes beyond recognition since then. I don’t need to explain how – it’s all been documented here. The biggest change of course is the job, which still seems to be going amazingly well. Soon I’ll have been there nine months, without a single day missed due to sickness. I couldn’t believe that possible in the early days, either.
I guess as the years go on the anniversaries will become more of a time to reflect on the progress that I’ve made in various areas of my life. This year I’m thinking of romance and finance, the two devil children that have had me by the neck for many years. Finance is much better today than it was three years ago, I can say that with scientific confidence. Romance – well, it’s still tricky. I haven’t had what could be constituted as a ‘slip’ in my sexual recovery program for nearly three weeks. I haven’t thought much about acting out in that time, to be honest, which must be a good thing. After a year of fighting to get some sobriety there, however, it doesn’t feel brilliant knowing that I’m no closer to a normal sexual relationship than I was ten years ago.
The rock bottom that I experienced three weeks ago was profound, there’s no doubt about it, and I’m sure I’ll need more than three weeks of celibacy just to recover from it. But I only have to compare my progress in sex with my progress in work, and the difference seems startling. I’ve always linked sexual relationships and work together in my mind because until this year, I had nothing to show for either. I could never hold down a job and I could never hold down a man, thanks to the deep rooted fear of both things that must have settled in my gut when I was a very young child. Now I’m making leaps and bounds in my job, yet the search for happiness in love leaves me depressingly unfulfilled.
Maybe three years isn’t long enough to truly get to know yourself and what you want; maybe the journey to professional accomplishment isn’t over yet, and until it is I’m not ready to find love and all the challenges that’s guaranteed to bring.
I don’t know. Whether I had an alcoholic slip last week or not, I would still have to consider the 15th July 2007 my sobriety date, because that’s exactly where I stopped living the old life. It’s where the denial finally ended and since then I’ve been climbing a mountain, forever moving up through all the challenges and pitfalls. There isn’t one straight way to the top of the mountain, and I don’t believe anyone ever really gets there until they die. It’s about the journey; sometimes, around anniversaries, I’m stopping to take a breath and I look behind me, down on the entire distance that I’ve come so far, marvelling at how far it is. Sometimes I’m looking up at the peak, unable to fully comprehend how high up it is. Sometimes I’m crawling on my knees, through dark caverns and precariously hanging rock paths that threaten to crumble away at any moment. Not everyone knows they’re on such a journey, but I’m pretty sure that everyone is. I can easily see how far I’ve come in three years, and I know that I can never go back.