I’ve been sober since August 21, 2020. Yes, I stopped drinking in the height of the pandemic. In a time when many addicts and non-addicts alike were running to alcohol to self-soothe anxieties around the state of the world, I ran in the other direction: back to Alcoholics Anonymous and back to myself. I had been flirting with sobriety for several years, and I was ready to make it official.
I have experienced several major milestones since then: finishing wedding planning, getting married, going on a honeymoon, switching careers, and becoming a mom. And among those milestones have been many birthdays, celebrations, and holidays.
The winter holidays, in particular, can be stressful for anyone, but there is something especially difficult about them for us sober folks. Navigating political conversations with extended family on Thanksgiving without a vice is not for the faint of heart. Completing Christmas or Hanukkah shopping on time and within budget (while also making sure you don’t forget anyone) is always stressful, but doing so without your “liquid reward” at the end of the day is a feat.
Then there’s the high-level issues and triggers that arise during the holidays: estrangements, loneliness, financial stress, family gatherings, travel.
This will be my third holiday season completely sober. My third Thanksgiving without my huge bottle of white wine. My third Christmas without spiked eggnog and porters. My third New Year’s Eve without champagne.
My third holiday season navigating the emotional highs and lows without a crutch. At the risk of sounding conceited, I am truly proud of myself for the work I’ve done to heal and take accountability for my life. Admitting that I was an addict and that I was destroying my health and quality of life was a humbling and heart wrenching experience. I tend to reflect on this quite a bit during the holiday season as I am so thankful to be in a better place.
This Christmas season has me also reflecting on the years I spent as a Christian and the concept of grace.
No matter which flavor of Christianity I was sampling at the time, I heard the term grace used quite a bit, usually in the phrase, “By the grace of God.”
But what is grace?
Theologians will tell you that grace is something to the effect of “unmerited favor of God toward man”. A divine helping hand. Assistance from on high.
On August 21, 2020, I decided that I did not want to drink anymore. I felt out of control. I had tried to get sober several times before and relapsed each time. I had tried AA before, but would always end up with a bottle in my hand.
That morning I poured three very expensive craft porters down the drain. Even as I watched that chocolatey liquid disappear I was worried I would be back in the liquor store that day.
That evening I got in the car and drove to an AA meeting. As I was ashamed of my addiction, I drove to a meeting far away from my house lest I run into someone I knew. I sat in the car, and whispered to myself the tiniest prayer: “God, please help me.”
I went into the meeting and sat quietly in the back. I did not speak at all as I felt I had nothing to share being so newly sober.
At the end of the meeting, I got up to leave and this woman ran across the room to talk to me. She looked me in the eye and with intensity exclaimed:
“You WANT this. You want this.”
I was so taken aback that all I could mutter out was, “Thank you”, and I left.
But she was right, I did want this. And I’ve been sober ever since.
To me, that is grace.
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