18 Lessons in 18 Months – Part One

18 Lessons in 18 Months – Part One

I had my last drink on September 2, 2019. Drinks*, actually. It was a wild Labor Day weekend. Too wild, because I woke up that morning looking quite literally like hell warmed over.

That was the day I quit drinking cold turkey.

In the nearly 600 days since my sober journey began, I’ve managed to stay alcohol-free during a pandemic, get accepted into grad school, secure a grant for my awesome library, blog semi-consistently through the month of November 2020, and connect with a sober community that supports Black women and girls.

Now, at eighteen months sober, I was invited by my good friend Renee and her org Midwest Elevation to talk about the lessons I’ve learned (and re-learned) after saying no to the booze:

My double-Air sign (Aqua Sun/Libra Moon) crazy tail self talks often and talks fast, as you’ll note from the video above. So I decided to detail the eighteen gems I garnered so far in my sober journey. Since this is an extensive list, I’ve given you the first 9 lessons below and will followup with the last 9 in my next post:

1) ‘I Deserve’ Statements: If you’ve ever spent longer than a minute engaging anything remotely spiritual, you’re probably familiar with the use of mantras. They never had much of an impact on me when I was drinking; my spiritual practice, at best during that time, was surface. I was just beginning to do the work but alcohol blurred the messages I received. After I quit, I started implementing ‘I deserve’ statements to convince myself that I deserved the new path sobriety introduced to me. Now, it’s second nature for me to stop in the middle of a fearful thought and say, “I deserve hope/grace/wellness/another hour of sleep/a warm bubble bath…”, or whatever I need at any given moment.

2) Sugar, Sugar: I’ve mentioned on the blog how hard the sugar cravings hit in sobriety. The science says that, once alcohol is out of the picture, the body seeks the dopamine release that once was the responsibility of the booze. Enter the sweet stuff and the never-ending hunt for it to do your dopamine’s heavy lifting. I’m still struggling with my need to dive headfirst into a vat of Sour Patch Kids, but it comforts me to keep in mind that nearly every alcoholic in recovery has had to battle this foe. Besides, I’d rather be chocolate wasted than vodka wasted any day of the week.

3) Making Peace with My Creativity: I naively thought that, once I got sober, novels and short stories would start coming out of the woodwork. Boy, was I wrong, but that error proved to be a gateway to my biggest sober lesson so far: allowing my creativity to flow. While I haven’t been much about the book writing lately, my creativity has shown up in many facets of my life. Over the past eighteen months, I’ve produced content for weekly and monthly podcasts at work, been a contributing blogger for several outlets, and was hired to be the Newsletter Editor for Sober Black Girls Club. In order to fully embrace my sober journey, I had to release creative expectations I held during my drinking days. I’m still working on a few literary projects but it makes me feel good to know that my art isn’t monolithic. When I allow my creative juices to flow, I’m truly free to make whatever I desire (and I do!).

4) Trigger Happy: My sober journey hasn’t been without its’ bumps. Candy and cake aren’t the only things I crave from time to time. Whether I drive by my favorite martini bar (which is a fifteen-minute walk from my house OMG) or see a character on TV pouring a yummy cool glass of crisp white wine, I’m prone to get a little wistful for my boozy former life. In fact, there isn’t a day that’s gone by in the past 18 months when I haven’t thought about alcohol. Instead of forcing those cravings down or giving into them, I embrace my triggers. I acknowledge the craving, thank it for making itself known, take a breath, say softly to myself ‘I deserve wellness’, pour myself a Shirley Temple, and move on. Granted, I make it sound hella simple and relapse is a real thing that happens to many of my sober brothers and sisters. Hell, it could happen to me, but I’m grateful that it’s been working for me thus far.

5) The Blessing of Quarantine: Imagine being sober for about six months, reaching the sweet spot, and BAM! A pandemic emerges and the nation shuts down. Gotta admit, the prospect of saying ‘what the hell’ and drowning my quarantine sorrows in a bucket of Pinot Grigio was quite tempting. After all, I was less than a year in and…couldn’t I just start over once this whole deal is over by the summer? Except, it didn’t end in the summer and is still happening as of this blogpost’s date. Surprisingly, so is my sobriety. I often wonder how I managed to remain a teetotaler throughout this whole thing and I honestly don’t have an answer. I prayed, meditated, and stayed the course – but the option of dining out being taken away definitely did its part. So while the pandemic wasn’t the most awesome experience, it proved to be the challenge I needed to stay committed to sober life.

6) I Did It The Artist’s Way: One of the greatest gifts I gave myself in sobriety was the book The Artist’s Way by screenwriter and recovering addict Julia Cameron. A 12-week program pegged as ‘creative rehab’, the artistic guide has become a supplement to my sober journey. As I stated in Lesson #3, navigating my creativity has been challenging. Cameron’s book alleviated most of the fear and anxiety I’d built around my artistic journey. I’m currently in Week Eight of the program and recommend it to anyone needing to add more or get back creativity into their lives. Go read it!

7) Relationship Clarity: From my marriage to my parenting, my sisterfriends to my sober community, sobriety has presented opportunities to strengthen my vital relationships. Our conversations are richer because my thoughts are no longer clouded by booze. Likewise, our disagreements are more insightful because I don’t run to the bottle when tension arises.

8) Breaking The Chains: Alcohol abuse was prevalent on both sides of my family. One side I’ve only heard about second-hand, due to my defunct relationship with my father. The other side, however, was something I experienced first-hand. Quitting drinking was always a decision bigger than my wants and needs. It was a testament to my ancestors who struggled with addiction, knowing that I am a representation of them and everything they envisioned. It makes me prouder to be sober knowing that they have their eyes and love on me.

9) Working Out, Not Worn Out: In my drinking days, I had a casual relationship with fitness. I subscribed to the recommended ’30 minutes 3 times a week’ schedule off and on throughout the first two decades of my adult years. Now, without the booze, maintaining a more challenging workout regimen is easier. Why? No more staying up late drinking and sleeping off hangovers. In fact, during the first month of sobriety – with absolutely no other changes to my diet and activity level – I lost eight pounds. Since then, I’ve reached a number that’s lower than my pre-pregnancy weight. I haven’t been this fit in over fifteen years, and I guarantee you this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten sober.

Tune in for Part Two next week!

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