I’ve always been a slow learner – slow to pick things up, slow to put them where they belong. When I was a kid and convinced of my intrinsic worthlessness, I didn’t know that about myself – I thought that, unlike all the other kids I grew up around, for whom so many things seemed to come so easily, I was basically just not capable of very much. Ever stubborn, however, I beat my head up against the brick wall of my inadequacies in almost any way I could find for the longest time.
This was never more true than in the area of sports, for which I lacked an abundance of natural gifts, and my inability to participate in them with even a hint of the brilliance displayed by all the other girls on my grade school T-ball, softball, and basketball teams was the bane of my existence. After a while, I learned to cut my losses not only with sports but with everything else worth doing, too, and quit early – and often.
Alcohol wasn’t like that for me. Drinking was something I was going to learn to do, dammit, even if it killed me. I decided this when I was 12 years old, drunk on a Saturday night and barfing my guts out on some cheap wine a few friends and I had lifted from a Safeway, but even back then, it simply seemed a matter of prudent dedication, and time. I thought, “Everyone drinks and they don’t barf their guts out, they have fun. How hard can it be?”
Over and over and over again I pounded my head on that one, and ugh, it was a doozy. Prior to getting sober, I’d tried to simply stop drinking, but the main reason why that never worked is nothing else had changed, and I didn’t do change.
When I finally figured out I that getting sober was going to take at least as much effort, energy and devotion as drinking did, I poured myself into it with single-minded gusto. I discovered another part of me that I’d also failed to acknowledge as a kid: When I finally do get something, I get it as well as if not better than anybody.
You learn pretty quickly that a couple of things that worked well on Days 1, 2 and 3 will continue working just as well on Day 29: Don’t take the first drink. Take it one second, minute, hour and day at a time. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and you keep your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Reach out and engage with your support group, listen to what the successful folks have to tell you about what worked for them instead of what the little monster in your brain is telling you, etc. etc. etc., so on and so forth.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
And, to my everlasting surprise – bordering on shock – and amazement, my efforts seemed to be paying off, and all the signs began to point to “This Way: Keep going!” I was really doing this thing. I, me, Bobbi. I couldn’t believe it! And for the first time I could remember, I felt good about something I was doing. I went to bed every night unable to wait for the next day to come, and sprang out of bed every morning, ready to greet it. Not bad for someone who, every morning for years prior, simply wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay there – and often did, much to my detriment.
It was the hardest, and best, thing I’ve ever done. I learned more about life and myself in the first year of sobriety than I had in the previous 25 years combined, and it was all nothing short of miraculous to me. I began to open myself up to the possibility that I could do other things, too, so I went from being someone who wasn’t interested in trying anything new at all to being someone who was willing to not only try something new but willing to get out of my “comfort zone” in which to do so, too. As a result, I was often scared to death – but I’d been scared to death when I got sober, too, and look how that turned out?
One of the other things I learned is that life doesn’t stop just because you’ve stopped drinking, and after years of self-imposed apathy and inertia, my life underwent an enormous amount of change, seeming one thing after another after another, in a very short period of time. I made wonderful new friends through my support groups, the best friendships I’ve ever had. I did things I never thought to nor considered I’d ever do: I took public speaking courses. I joined a writing group. I had to change my diet drastically when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I met a wonderful guy and fell in love. I learned to swim, and then to snorkel, and then to scuba dive. I visited places I never thought I’d see in this lifetime, and then some. I quit a job I’d worked at for more than a decade and thought I’d work at until I was 95. I left everyone and everything I ever knew and moved to a giant metropolitan area to live and be with my wonderful guy (who also became my husband) after living in the same place my entire life.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, my beloved mother (whom I affectionately called “The Mimsy”), the person to whom I’d been the closest in my life until my husband, became ill with lung cancer, and I spent the next year working my guts out trying to take care of her while she was dying. Then I spent the year after her death working my guts out to settle her estate, which included cleaning out and selling her home, the place where I’d grown up and never conceived I’d ever have to leave. I sent our beloved dog and cat to move in with my brother, who would be better able to take care of them – and has – than I would have.
In short, in between getting sober and everything that happened afterward, I was completely and utterly exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally, and so after all this…motion, I needed a break. So, I took one. Boy, did I…