It is coming up on two years when I made the tough decision to quit drinking. It has been an amazing journey that has forced me to confront many things about myself that I didn’t like. I’ve learned that everybody drinks for a reason, and the people who drink the most, probably have the most reasons. If you don’t understand why you drink than you may be in for a painful journey down the road.
The memories of my previous lifestyle are still to this day very fresh in my mind. Almost everything around me still reminds me of that time and in some ways, I will never be able to forget the feeling and realities that ultimately forced me to make the decision to quit. The memory of what I went through and who I used to be are still enough of a motivating factor to prevent me from going down that road again. I don’t think alcohol is inherently bad or that people are bad for drinking. I have plenty of friends who are able to drink and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
Outside of getting married and having two beautiful children, quitting drinking was by far the best decision I have made in my life. I don’t want anybody to get the impression that it was an easy change; it was not. But I would encourage those that feel like alcohol is starting to play too much of a role in their lives to give it a try.
As I look back on the last two years, recovery for me is all about figuring out how to live life on life’s terms. It is learning how to find coping skills that didn’t include drinking, lying, or just checking out. Without booze, I had to learn how to sit with emotions instead of drowning them out. I had to learn to face consequences of my past actions without trying to lie my way out of them. I had to learn to share the things I was feeling and not stuff them (Which I am still working on). I had to learn how to forgive even when I hadn’t received an apology. I had to learn to allow myself to grieve with patience and self-care. I had to learn to be mindful and grateful and to have faith. I was very much like my toddler, learning how to maneuver in a world that still felt big and unfamiliar.
In the beginning I thought that the answer to all of my problems was to stop drinking. Looking back, that seems pretty stupid, like I expected some magical, you’ve quit drinking fairy to appear and my life would be perfect. Seriously though, all of the reasons, feelings, situations that caused me to drink, didn’t go away when I stopped. They were still there, bright and shiny, waiting to see what I was going to do, basically calling me a sissy and waiting for me to react. I learned that recovery, like everything else, has ups and downs. There are days that I feel very grounded in my recovery, I know what I need to do and I do it, and then there are days that I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And you know what? That’s ok. I don’t get down on myself when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I talk about it or write about and I know everything will be ok.
When I was drinking and first sober, I lived in a lot of fear. I was afraid of being sober, and I was afraid of continuing to drink. I was afraid of letting people see the real me, because then they would reject me. I was afraid of people finding out that I was an alcoholic, and I was afraid that people would think that I was crazy, a loser, or a failure. I was afraid that people would find out all of the horrible things that I had done. I could go on and on about what I was afraid of but in the end, it was truly a life lived in fear. It turns out that by writing these blogs, sharing my story with others, and by being open and honest, I have been able to express all of the things that I thought I had to hide. And while there have been a few times that I have paused before clicking post, I am no longer afraid to be me when others can see me. The amazing thing in doing that is I realized that those I lost were never really there for me to begin with, and that many, many people in my life love and support me.
I’m never going to get recovery 100% right and no matter how long I stay sober, there are still things that I have to work on (ask my wife). There isn’t a magic switch that flips when you’ve been sober for X number of years. It’s an ongoing process. It’s a daily reprieve that we all get when we choose to stay sober another day. I need to remember that my recovery is not to be taken for granted, and that I have to thank God for every sober day. I have to be reminded that I am not alone, that there are so many others that have felt what I feel, done what I do, said what I say.
My sober journey has allowed me to help others, which is a huge part of the process for me. I work at a job that I love, with people who I love and that care about me. I have a huge support group in my family, my church and the hockey community. But the most meaningful things to me are the times that I am able to share the message with someone who wants to hear it. I know that it can be scary to admit that you may have a problem but when people are able to let their guard down and open up to me, I fucking love it! I am no wizard and do not have all of answers but what I do have is a past that tells a story of a young man with a drinking problem. I have been through shit that nobody would wish upon their worst enemy and with that comes some knowledge about the consequences of abusing alcohol.
So basically my sobriety has been awesome, and wonderful, and easy. And it’s also been sad, and trying, and really fucking hard. I’ve become pretty good at accepting all of those things, and anything else that is thrown my way. Thankfully, I no longer feel the desire to drink, that went away a long time ago. I have, however, picked up the desire to live peacefully, gratefully, and joyfully. I can’t wait to see what year three brings.