day 90

Walking to baggage claim in O’Hare, you can be whisked away on horizontal escalators, rushing you through the never-ending airport terminals. As I stepped onto the first moving platform after landing in Chicago the world sped past as my feet glided over the sliding floor. Then a wave of apprehension hit me. It took a few seconds to realize the familiar feeling. It was like being drunk. My sense of time, gravity and space were all accelerated for a moment, with a sense of brevity and relief that I didn’t have to try as hard to get this done.

When the first moving walkway ended I stepped to the side and avoided the next two. It was so unsettling that I couldn’t bear to do it again. I didn’t need to be reminded how good it felt. In spite of getting farther away from my last drink, things aren’t getting easier.

Even on a day that should be cause for celebration, I’m afraid. A tour of Chicago and everything Christmas in it we can find is in the works. But no bars, no drinking, save for the hot cocoa. Every event has booze to go with it, advertised on every banner, there’s just no way to escape it during the holidays. And I get that, and accept it, I’m not judging anyone. It just can’t be a part of my own celebration, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was jealous…and thirsty.

I’m afraid that 90 days is a milestone that will give me a reason to say “I’m strong enough to drink again”. A marker that, if I can not drink for ninety days, I don’t have a problem. That if I start again I’ll remember all the good parts about sobriety enough to stop after one drink. Okay, maybe two. Or three.

And these are the things millions of alcoholics have said before. And millions will say after. And they’re almost always wrong (who am I kidding, they probably are always wrong). And I know that, but I’ve been imagining how good a vodka would be over the last week more than I have the months before. It’s on my doorstep, knocking incessantly, luring me in by saying that nobody would even have to know. That it’s Christmas, it’s 90 days, it’s Chicago, it’s New Years, it’s bound to happen soon anyways, it’s easy.

People do lists. So I’ll do a list. An exercise in why I’m not celebrating with a drink. 90 good things for 90 dry days. It reminds me that at the end of every day I’m glad I stayed strong. That it really is one day at a time. That I really am taking steps to become the person I’m aspiring to be.

  1. 30lbs down and dropping each week
  2. Three months ago I ran a block and wheezed home. Last week I ran two miles before working out.
  3. From struggling to do 5 pushups to cranking out 30 a day
  4. Yoga. Is. Amazing.
  5. From forced 10 minute guided meditations every day to silent 30 minute meditations because I want to
  6. Sleeping for more than 30 minutes at a time (fuck you, acid reflux and sleep apnea, i won’t miss you at all)
  7. Sleeping 8 full hours every now and then
  8. Knowing the feeling of being well rested
  9. Not getting sick (okay I got sick once, but it only lasted three days because I didn’t drink through it like normal)
  10. Clear eyes
  11. Better skin (not so puffy skin)
  12. Don’t stink anymore
  13. No more sweat stains on bed sheets
  14. No more vomit stains on pillow cases
  15. No more sleeping in the puddle where the drink spilled when I fell asleep with it in my hand
  16. No more throwing up in the morning
  17. Breakfast. Oh breakfast.
  18. Not having hangovers should really be 18-30.
  19. I’m serious. Morning hangovers, Day hangovers, Night hangovers.
  20. Looking forward to exercising in the morning because I’m…you got it…not hungover.
  21. Waking up at 5 or 6 am and being happy about it (most of the time)
  22. Driving. I missed this so much.
  23. Being sober enough to do things after 5pm when I’d usually already called it a night after pouring my first (second, third) drink.
  24. Not being up at midnight drunk-eating (and gaining so much weight)
  25. Not having diarrhea most mornings
  26. Not physically shaking through half the day
  27. Not watching the clock to see if it’s okay to start drinking
  28. Not canceling plans because I feel terrible
  29. Not canceling plans because I’d rather drink
  30. Actually making plans
  31. Listening to people
  32. Remembering what people say
  33. Genuinely missing people and being excited to see them again
  34. Love. Real love. Allowing “Our Most Vulnerable And Powerful Selves To Be Deeply Seen And Known”
  35. Crying at everything beautiful
  36. Being able to see beauty in everything (i.e. I cry all the time now)
  37. Identifying all the shitty things alcohol let fester:
  38. -Anxiety
  39. -Doubt
  40. -Shame
  41. -Anger
  42. -Paranoia
  43. And knowing they are full of shit
  44. Learning that fear and courage go hand in hand
  45. Letting go of pride and building confidence instead
  46. Learning that it’s okay to be calm, and wanting to be calm
  47. Patience. Discipline. Creativity.
  48. Being alone with just my thoughts, and being okay with it
  49. Noticing the details
  50. Reading. Every day. So many books in three months.
  51. Identifying loneliness and isolation, and flexing solitude
  52. Texting. Texting first. And responding.
  53. Picking up the phone when it rings.
  54. Calling people to talk instead
  55. Talking to my father a couple times a week
  56. Telling my father I love him for the first time in 20 years
  57. Hugging. It’s amazing. Hug me next time you see me.
  58. Laughing at everything
  59. Not lying
  60. Not constantly worrying about what lies you told
  61. Long emails. I write a few long emails (i.e. letters) to friends each week now and it’s beautiful getting them in return.
  62. Wanting to take pictures to remind me of things
  63. Wanting to be in pictures
  64. Not hating the person I see in them
  65. All my clothes fit again, but are beginning not to fit again (I recently ran out of notches on my belt)
  66. Getting haircuts regularly. Shaving regularly. Trimming my beard regularly. I look good now, damnit.
  67. Not breaking a sweat or being out of breath putting on my clothes in the morning
  68. Tea. Dear god the amount of tea. And different types. Tea is life.
  69. Lemons and limes.
  70. Waiters and bartenders who understand when I order a “soda water with lime in an old fashioned glass”. When they acknowledge it, taking away the drink menu, and not asking me about alcohol the rest of the night
  71. Not being afraid of getting a DUI after leaving a restaurant
  72. Not being afraid of throwing up in an Uber
  73. Not needing to have a few drinks before being able to eat
  74. Saving hundreds, if not a thousand, dollars a month
  75. Remembering the night before
  76. Not being ashamed of the night before
  77. Learning that hope is learned. Learning hope. Being embraced by the comfort of hope.
  78. Asking for help. This is far more fulfilling than I could’ve ever imagined.
  79. Not throwing myself into a ton of different interests and quitting once they get hard or boring
  80. Being bored or challenged with the single new interest I’ve picked
  81. Making decisions for myself instead of others (still hard, but getting better)
  82. Boundaries. Even though they’re new to me and the hardest new skill, they will pay off and lead to less resentment.
  83. Discovering who I am, but striving to…
  84. …grow into a better me (through constant work, evaluation, and constructive criticism)
  85. Watching my toolbox fill up and being able to cope with stress and cravings using those tools
  86. Listening to podcasts every day of people who have gone through the same things
  87. Finding sober people around every corner
  88. Finding old friends are still there
  89. Making new friends, and the feeling I get adding new numbers to my Contacts each time
  90. Finally, my therapist. The biggest thing of all. The reason I’m here today. She is my lifeline, my anchor and my sails. She is the moving force behind the other 89 things.

I’m sincerely looking forward to six months and the terrible metaphor of doing a 180 (groan). I’m hoping to have six big accomplishments under my belt by then, the most important of which is just getting there. A much shorter entry than 180 things.