Booze enthusiast. Raging lush. Happy hour mom. Functional alcoholic.Regardless of the labels I adhere to the me of years past, I’m ready to show you the “after” picture.
It’s not so much the sobriety itself that’s been miraculous, but the stuff I’ve accomplished as a result of it. For so long, I held on desperately to the fact that I didn’t fit the “mold” for a drunk. What I’ve discovered in my 15 months of sobriety is that diagnostics don’t matter. I was worn down by my nightly wine-fests and something had to change.
The impact of the drinking reached far beyond numbed evenings and hazy mornings. At some point, I’d exited the driver’s seat in my own life and handed the wheel over to a really shitty passenger.
My first few months back at the controls were challenging to say the least. Both physical and emotional labor was required and I had to rally in ways I’d never rallied before. But as a result of the necessary tune-ups (er-overhaul), 2015 has been totally boss. And I’m here to tell you why:
- I’ve Raised Four Chickens — We’re banking on the first eggs any day now. But these chickens represent far more than a future of yard-to-table breakfasts. They represent me waking up at 5:30 every morning and slipping on my bad-ass urban homesteader rubber boots. They represent me feeling capable of caring for four more living creatures. They represent my commitment to teaching my son about where his food comes from. Old me wouldn’t have made it to the chicken permitting seminar. It was at 7 pm and after 5:00 — I was booked solid.
- I’ve Gotten Paid to Write — Passions slide to the back burner when your free time involves cork popping and staining your teeth a variety of reds. Without fail, I’ve written every single day of 2015. And at some point, it occurred to me that the only thing standing between me and a freelance gig was my lack of clients. One day of pitches later and I was a paid writer. I get monthly checks in the mail for doing what I love. Holy shit.
- I’ve Found My Look — You know those insanely satisfying makeover shows with the jaw-dropping before and afters? Yeah-well-I’m not sure that the new me merits mouth-breathing, but as my skin and weight and sparkle bounced back, I found the look to match it. Until 2015, I always felt like something was “off”. Perhaps it was my lack of attention to self-care or my fluctuating pant size or -oh-i dunno the fact that I didn’t like myself. Regardless, I now know how to dress me and I’ve got the pixie cut and peter pan collars to prove it.
- I’ve Nailed a Mindfulness Routine — Jen of days yore was dismissive of “new-agey” lifestyles. Jen of days yore was also a dumbass. Embedding meditation, daily journaling, long-walks and solitary adventures into my everyday routine has been life-changing. At some point, my entire outlook shifted from one of anxiety and skepticism to one of presence, authenticity, and hope. Yes-that last sentence would make old me gag.
- I’ve Made Real Adult Friends — Living more authentically allowed me to approach friendships in a completely different way. My history of “sizing people up” with a first-impression was so limiting. And by experimenting with reaching out more wholly, really listening, and seeing friendships as an opportunity to learn rather than to grasp for validation — I’ve made some genuine connections. Not the “oh-my-god-you-look-so-skinny-in-that-dress-bitch” connections. Real ones.
6. I’ve Gone Grocery Shopping at Night — What the hell?!? The grocery store is basically empty at 8 pm. And it’s glorious. But like the chickens, this is about way more than free-reign in the egg section. It’s about being able to hop in the car at times when I was formerly anchored to my couch. My days of social partying had long-since devolved into reality tv zone outs. Being able to accomplish real stuff at night is so freaking awesome.
7. I’ve Become the Mom I Want to Be — Transitioning from knowing what I wanted for my son to living a life that embodied my moral, spiritual, and physical principles has proven priceless. Apparently, the whole do as I say but not as I do thing didn’t gel with my psyche because it led to perpetual guilt. When you like who you are — when you feel like you’re present-and-accounted-for in your own life — negative self-talk vanishes. Stripping my lifestyle of the hypocrisy and white lies has felt like the end of a really long prison sentence.
8. I’ve Listened to My Body —While I’m not signing up for marathons or nomming on kale chips, I’m no longer neglecting myself. My former wine money has been applied to the likes of monthly massages, facial products that trump splashes of tap water, and a physical therapist for the chronic back pain I’d previously numbed. Hangover fueled grease-fests are no more. I eat clean(er) and actually look forward to my evening tea and dark chocolate squares. My bedtime teeth-grinding is now blocked by a super sexy mouth guard, and I have a person who cuts my hair for me.
9. I’ve Started Dating Again — Who are these lucky suitors, you ask? Well, there’s just one and he’s my very own husband of 8 years. I’ve rediscovered the excitement of hidden love notes, off-the-wall date nights, and “just because” hand-holding. Our courting sank to the bottom of my wine glass and required some overdue attention. Evenings of robotic channel-surfing and staying up too late have been replaced by real conversations beside our fire-pit, a reliable babysitter, and a commitment to navigating the new “us” we’ve become.
10. I’m More Equipped to Help Others— Have I mentioned that I’m a licensed therapist? Like the matchmaker who couldn’t find love, I was the therapist who couldn’t ask for help. While I’m hesitant to discredit the years of hard work I put into my clients, what it boils down to is this — the past sixteen months has armed me with tools that I was previously lacking. I believe that lives can be reclaimed and that balance is achievable not only because of what I learned in grad school, but because of who I’ve become.
I’m standing on a stage behind the giant backdrop, waiting for my big reveal. The audience is holding it’s breath as a series of “before” pictures project onto the screen. I turn towards a mirror as the entourage tousles my hair and brushes the final coat of powder onto my face. I look into my own eyes and for the first time in years, I really see me. She stares back to size me up and I wait. It isn’t long before her mouth spreads into a smile —
and her eyes tell me that all is forgiven.
*Originally published at Medium.com in the Better Humans collection