It’s been over eleven months now, and I’ve never felt so close to my true identity. Like the tips of my fingers rest on my pulse, I know exactly who I am. I couldn’t always say that.
I’m a social drinker and considerably responsible, save the time in college when my best friend and I let my black lab slip through our legs, out the front door and into the middle of the moonless night. Instead of going out to a party like we’d planned, we rushed out into the pitch black, tipsy from the pinot noir Mom had left on her visit. Lavishly, we threw Kraft’s shredded cheddar cheese around the neighborhood like Gretel’s breadcrumbs trying to spot Dorey against the night sky. The trick, I knew from a previous escape, was to look for her glowing eyes, two blinking needles in a haystack. When we finally found her (dogs always come for cheese), we had to carry all fifty-five pounds of her inside, because as comedic lore would have it, I forgot to bring the dog leash.
Lest I forget to mention the time I dazzled my grandparents and husband on the golf course with a handstand. I should preface and say, use caution when among Idaho mountain elevation, especially when you’re several beers to the wind. At that time, I was learning how to do a handstand against a wall in yoga. And there, on the course, I fearlessly planned to flip up against a tree the size of a Redwood. I flipped upside down and the heels of my Nike golf shoes clipped the last prayer of safe landing by a hair; I missed the tree completely and was on my way down in the other direction. I’m certain the handstand fail made ESPN’s highlight reel for, “Things Pathetic Golfers Do When on Hole 16.” In comparison, the whole jaunt would be like whiffing one of those oversized plastic beachballs floating so easily towards your face at a concert stadium.
Fortunately, I didn’t die of anything but incredible laughter that leaves your cheeks wet with tears. And that of course, made my family think I was dying, which was even funnier to me, so I kept crying and they kept thinking I was dying.
Though I have a tipsy arsenal of pee-in-your-pants funny stories that start with, “Remember when…,” (I’ll save biking to the Irish bar with a flat tire for another day), I’ve never been addicted to alcohol. So why did I choose sobriety?
I’ve chosen this path because as anyone struggling with body image issues knows, escaping your body with alcohol or drugs is just another way to run away from insecurity. Alcohol is liquid courage, and I want real courage, impermeable courage. Not courage that flaunters when I’m a glass in.
For the past eleven months, I’ve stood in the middle of my own busy road and played chicken with self-doubt, fear and insecurity; the stuff I’ve been avoiding, probably because it requires work. Addressing the cards I was dealt feels daring, brave, courageous; I feel like the responsible owner of my life.
With time, I’ve been able to reflect on why sobriety has improved my self-confidence, body image and spirituality.
Most importantly, I don’t escape myself when I’m sober; I’m in control. I’m living Invictus. And after so many years of dedicated self-examination by way of stacks high of dog-eared self-help books, committed yoga practice, and counseling, it irks me to no end when I escape my body with alcohol.
And since it seems I’m an endless pit of body image issues, I can’t afford to escape fields that need sowing. I’m too great a farmer to not take the time and diligently plant my seeds of self-confidence so I can reap the rewards. And should I find myself not able to muster up the incredible self-discipline to hold myself accountable for the daily labor of planting, I just take the soft inner of my right palm and masochistically beat my temple with gusto like a ceremonial drum. “Just do the freakin’ work, Emily.”
With a clear mind, I’m able to hold onto important facts and inspiring quotes, stories that dazzle me; like watching large snowflakes float slowly by in a snowstorm, witnessing up close the intricate frozen webbed patterns that land one by one on wool gloves, watching the patterns break as they slowly melt into the thick knit. That kind of dazzle. The kind I can only find when I’m sober, when I completely lose myself in the details; like the way a man brushes by and his Tom Ford aftershave floods me with vague memories from the past that I try and catch, like bubbles through a fishnet.
You see, details are spiritual to me, and if I can’t have that experience, I’m as good as old bread. I have an impossible time accessing this type of soul-filling spirituality when I drink. Choosing to stay close to my consciousness has been one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made; sobriety makes me feel comfortable and confident.
I want to get so deep into knowing myself, acquainting myself with even the bottom few spoonfuls from the jar of Nutella (I like drawing that comparison), not recycling the glass container until it’s completely excavated, until I know the taste of everything. I want to understand myself completely. I want to appreciate the complexity, or simplicity, of life. You see, I’m still trying to understand. And so I’m still sober.
This all sounds so vanilla, so predictable in ways, but I’ve learned sobriety is rich in complexity; it’s allowed me to face the music and handle what needs attention immediately. And in my own way, sobriety is divine, it makes me feel close to God.
I get so far away from my spirituality when I drink and I need that connection to Greatness to feel full. I’m most comfortable knowing God at all times, not playing a game of spiritual hide and seek where I’m following breadcrumbs (or shredded cheese) trying to rediscover my identity again and again.
The beautiful thing about being sober and feeling spiritually connected to myself, to God, is that I don’t have to plow infertile fields to get that feeling of closeness back, of confidence back; it just exists at all times and the pendulum doesn’t swing left to right, getting away from myself, and then becoming obsessed with finding myself again.
I hope in reading this, some of you might find the courage to try thirty days of sobriety. Thirty days to get close to yourself, to reacquaint with your truest self, to put in the work.
Sobriety has been a rewarding self-exploration, and what a tremendous practice of self-love, to feel good enough in just the state that I’m in.
Trying to lose yourself isn’t shameful, it’s human, facing the music can be painful. If you suffer from addiction, please seek medical care and an AA support group in your community.