Closing the loop

When I started this blog, I thought I'd have so much to write about. So many feelings to explore, new experiences to reflect on. Perhaps inner conflicts or profound realizations. And yet, at nine and a half months in, I don't feel a huge need to reflect here. There's no inner conflict, no threads of nuance to pull apart. I'm not drinking, and, other than marvel at how markedly my life has improved, I really don't think too much about it.

In my sixth-month update, I mentioned that I'd started going to AA. I'd gone to four meetings (the same Friday night meeting) and then... I never went back. That fourth meeting had been weird - there was a new guy in charge who set a negative tone, and then the bused-in-from-rehab crowd was unusually disruptive. I didn't want to stop going because of one bad experience, but I started to reconsider why I was going at all. 

I had mainly gone for two reasons: 1.) I thought I was supposed to, that quitting drinking was essentially admitting my alcoholism, and alcoholics went to AA; and 2.) I wanted to make sober friends. Let's pull apart the first one for a minute:

If you had asked me, when I was drinking, if I considered myself an alcoholic, I probably would have answered yes. I drank what I considered to be alcoholically: habitually, 4-5 nights per week, most weeks, alone the majority of the time. I sought alcohol-filled activities, and even when I had a drink in my hand, my brain would be thinking about where and when or whether I'd get the next one.

But when I quit - and especially by the time I started going to AA, at four months in - I didn't feel like an alcoholic. I'd stopped easily, with no major cravings or desire to start again. For all the times I might have accepted the label while I was drinking, it just didn't feel true now. I refrained from saying "...and I'm an alcoholic" at meetings, but that left me pretty disconnected from the rhetoric that dominated the room.

I was willing to overlook that disconnect for the sake of meeting other sober people (take what works and leave the rest), but, again, when I really thought about it, I realized that I had a pretty robust sober life already. My favorite activities - tennis and hiking - kept me social and feeling fulfilled most weekends. I was getting my recovery needs satisfied by listening to Home podcasts, reading addiction memoirs and sobriety blogs, attending my weekly therapy appointments, and connecting more deeply with people in my current circle. I'd stopped going to bars and party nights a long time ago, so I didn't have a huge hole in my calendar I was seeking to fill. If anything, I was grateful for downtime, so did I even have space in my life to build new relationships?

And then something magical happened. 

Just after the fourth of July, my ex-boyfriend got in touch with me. The one who wasn't a big drinker, the one I'd gone on a 10-day trip with and broken up with on New Years Eve. That series of events was what got me back in therapy, and activated my quitting drinking in January. We reconnected on my six-month sobriety date, which seemed meaningful. Shortly after that, we got back together. And I can't help but feel that this has all unfolded perfectly. 

We'd broken up, in part, due to an emotional distance that we just couldn't bridge. I came to realize that all of my adult relationships have lacked a truly deep connection, a pattern that I now attribute to operating from a state of fear and arrested development for my entire adult existence. 

By the time we reconnected, I had six months of sobriety and therapy under my belt, and grown what felt like a few years of emotional maturity. Of course, I am still the same person I was in December, but, in many ways, I'm not. Losing my fall-back coping tool that so crippled me for 20+ years has changed me significantly. Without drinking, I find I have so much more space and clarity, eliminating fear-driven decisions. The anxiety that used to plague me has subsided, and I connect more deeply and authentically. I'm present. I've been vulnerable. And it's made all the difference. 

None of this would have been possible if I hadn't gotten sober. And I doubt I would have gotten sober if we hadn't broken up last year.

When I met him, nearly two years ago now, it felt divine. I felt something call me towards him, literally like a lasso pulling me across the room. My best "me", on sabbatical for years, suddenly clicked on like a beaming light. As I spent time that first weekend telling him how I had this one friend who I felt had been put on my path to change my life, I had the sense that this man, in that moment, might be changing it again. I didn't have any idea how or why, but he did.   

I told him that when we met up in July; that he'd been the catalyst for me to start therapy and quit drinking. And he told me what I knew but couldn't appreciate last year - that he rarely ever drank, and when we did together, it was always at my behest. So, it turns out I did build a new relationship with someone who isn't into alcohol. It just didn't come from AA.

The Universe works in mysterious ways. And I'm so grateful to be sober to see them.