I started dating my now husband of 17 years just 12 days before Valentine’s Day. Twenty-three years ago. I can’t recall how long we’d been together before he told me he didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. “There shouldn’t be special day to celebrate your love for someone,” he said. “You should celebrate it every day.” The man had a point.
A few days ago, our daughter whose half birthday is the same day as my soberthday asked what we were planning to do to mark my upcoming three-year anniversary. Given her sweet tooth, it might have been far more about her than me. I’m not positive.
“Honestly, baby girl,” I said. “I’m just happy we don’t have to go back to Boston to play that awful hockey team with the kid who leveled your brother three weeks ago.”
“Besides,” added my husband. “We’re happy about mommy not drinking every day. We don’t need a special day to celebrate.”
Wait … what? I let it go. Not worth an argument. Except, that really stung. A lot.
So, here I sit, in the middle of the afternoon on my third soberthday, drinking grapefruit sparkling water out of my favorite wine glass trying to write while my daughter shouts out a play-by-play of her “for no reason” cupcake baking from the kitchen and my son mumbles angrily from the basement, insisting I didn’t renew the Xbox Live subscription. My husband left for his second job at 5:45 a.m. and won’t be home for another hour or so. And, I have been doing ALL the things ALL day – taking my son to the rink to referee a hockey game, meeting with a client, grocery shopping, disinfecting bathrooms after a week of sick kiddos, load after load of laundry, vacuuming, dusting, and grumbling (possibly even screaming at the top of my lungs as I chiseled dried toothpaste out of the kids’ bathroom sink and off the tiled walls).
Grumbling. Because no one has said a single word about what today is. No one.
While I am thrilled my husband and kids are grateful every day for my sobriety, a little “Hey, Mom, you rock” would be really nice today. Maybe some hugs. A pat on the back. A fist bump. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
At the same time, I sort of love the fact we’re not making a big deal out of this. While getting sober was the most difficult thing I have ever done, staying sober has become easier and easier with every passing day. And, being sober is no longer my “new normal.” It’s just who I am and how I live my life.
That’s not to say there aren’t triggers from time to time or occasions when, for just a moment, I truly wish I could have a drink. There are. They come out of nowhere. And, it sucks. But, one of my favorite things about sobriety is all the lessons – having the clarity every day to be able to identify and understand why things show up, allowing myself to learn and grow, and harnessing fresh bursts of power just when I need them most.
In my third year of sobriety, there was a big lesson I learned hard, so darn hard: sobriety is not recovery.
For those who just went, “Duh,” I know. I know, I know, I know. I’ve always been a late bloomer and have been known to wear a dunce cap from time to time. Sometimes I need a good whack upside the head.
It took hitting rock bottom with my eating – specifically, my sugar addiction – for me to realize simply abstaining from alcohol was not and was never going to be enough. I wanted to wave my sobriety like a magic wand and cast spells on all the pieces of my life that made me angry, sad, frustrated, terrified, and, well, everything that didn’t fit my vision of ideal, of who I dreamed I could be but didn’t know how to become, of the life I imagined but didn’t know how to live. I thought sobriety would simply deliver it all. And, when it didn’t, all the old feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness resurfaced. It didn’t matter what combination of magic words and wand waves I attempted over all the tough stuff, nothing worked.
Although I was no longer consuming alcohol, I was still using a substance of sorts to cope with my emotions. Sugar became my booze, and in a huge way. Self-sabotage became the norm once again.
Why? Because I hadn’t focused on my recovery. On loving myself enough to not do harmful things. I wasn’t working to heal and thrive. I still wanted something that would numb all the pain, challenges, drama, toxicity – all the not so nice stuff life is full of and everyone has to deal with. I didn’t realize that by eating all the sugar I was achieving the complete opposite of self-love. All I was doing was empowering the things I feared and weakening my ability to deal with everything.
After a lot of work to get into the right headspace, I can honestly say I am beginning my fourth year of sobriety as a woman in recovery. It’s taken much more than self-care and a box full of tools for the rough times. I’ve had to double-down on self-respect and self-love. Because sobriety does not equal recovery. Sobriety is a super power for sure, but it is not a magic wand.
My husband walked in from work about an hour ago. “Hey,” he said. “Happy Soberthday.” He never wishes me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I love that guy. So much.