10 years, 9 months, 9 days, and some change.
That’s how long it's been since I have had a drink.
I am sober.
Not abstained. Not on hiatus. Not ‘maybe one day’.
I am sober.
This isn't something I have spoken much about on a open or public level. It's not so much that I'm ashamed or uncomfortable with it, but more that it's taken me awhile to find the words that truly honor this journey. As time has passed, I feel a deeper sense of clarity about how and why I came to this decision. And how this decision has turned out to be the best one that I have ever made.
Ten plus years ago, my husband and I were at a beautiful wedding on the North Shore of Oahu. It was a perfect and magical kind of night. We were with friends who felt more like family. We were young and in love. We were in paradise. That night I drank the way that I liked to drink, wildly and with reckless abandon. I finished my beer and made my way back to the bar overlooking the ocean - the ocean that I never even got to fully appreciate. I heard the bartender mention to someone that there were only few beers left.
I proceeded to order three beers. I then walked back to my table and put on the charade that I was bringing these extras for the people I was sitting with. I had zero intention of sharing them. As I hoarded these beers close to me (but not too close, because I couldn't give the impression they were all for me) this quiet thought swept through my consciousness:
This is not normal, Corri.
So I did what I usually did when this thought had made its way in before. I kept drinking and did my best to lock it up in a vault. Except this time, the vault had a crack. As I drank more throughout the night, the alcohol acted as a sort of truth serum and I confessed to my husband that I thought I had a drinking problem.
I’ve heard the defining moment I experienced that night referred to as a ‘moment of clarity’ or a ‘spiritual awakening’. What I believe happened for me is that God spoke, and this time I agreed to listen.
Prior to that night, the idea that I had a problem only ever existed in brief and fleeting thoughts. It was something I had kept hidden, even from my innermost self. I would push it away the moment it drifted into my consciousness. I didn't want to have to be accountable to it and I didn't want to consider the thought of moderating or quitting all together. There were so many weddings, and New Year's plans, and vacations to consider. Giving up alcohol simply wasn't an option.
When I initially decided to quit drinking it was not uncommon to hear things like, "Well if you have a problem, then I guess I do too." Or, "You're crazy." Or, "What's the problem? You have such a good life." Which was true. I did have a good life. I had a wonderful husband who was also my best friend. I was in graduate school and had a great job. I had never had any run-ins with the law (minus one open container violation for carrying a corked bottle of wine to a dinner party). I had never had a DUI. I never drank alone. I didn't neglect my responsibilities. Never had a drink in the morning. I didn't have a secret stash. In truth, I probably only drank every month or two.
But frequency wasn't my problem. The problem was the impact drinking had on my soul. I didn't quite have the conscious awareness of it at the time, but when I drank I felt more and more disconnected from God. Drinking steered me in a direction opposite of where my soul wanted and needed to go. I also had a deep fear of waking up one day and being on the other side of the invisible, yet distinct, line that divides fun and alcoholism. I had seen family members on the other side of this line and it terrified me to imagine myself there.
Other indications that there were problems became much clearer to me after I had quit drinking. They included (but were not limited to) things such as: being extraordinarily aware of what and how much I was drinking; being extraordinarily aware of what and how much you were drinking; creating formulas about how much I could drink of what, and how, and when; regularly saying and doing things while drinking that I later regretted; not being able to recall things; really enjoying the feeling of two drinks but always believing more would be better; experiencing anxiety the day after I drank.
On the outside, you likely wouldn't have known there was a problem. I really just looked like a fun twenty-something having a good time. I mostly blended in. Those closest to me would say I liked to have a good time, but many of them were surprised when I told them I was quitting because my drinking was problematic.
The morning following my confession, I woke up in deep regret. I was horrified that I had been so truthful. And yet, I was deeply relieved. The weight of the secret I had been harboring was lifted. And for the first time in a while, I felt like I fully exhaled. I knew at that point that I was being offered a gift. This decision really wasn't of my own volition. It had God's name written all over it.
Alcoholism and addiction run in my bloodline. In the same way that my olive skin was passed down from my Tahitian grandmother, or the way that breast cancer is traced throughout generations, or the way autism can be passed on through family lineages. Our line just happened to get this one. It runs on both sides of my family, and so the odds were never in my favor to begin with.
I know that some who read this will be left confused. Others may not understand or may disagree that this constitutes a problem. Maybe some of you are shocked to learn this about me. Or maybe you see yourself in everything I’ve described but you don’t have a problem. This is easily one of the most controversial and debated subjects in existence. I don't claim to be any sort of authority on the subject. I can only speak to my own experience and truths.
So here are a few of them:
*I don't operate under the illusion that I will one day be able to drink like a normal person. I believe it’s possible that I may be able to enjoy myself here and there, but that inevitably things would unravel. I used to tell my husband that if I could drink normally like him, I would drink every day. (And therein lies the problem.)
*It is a daily choice not to drink, which has become immensely easier over time. It is a decision I hope to make every day of my life.
*I believe that this issue for me is twofold: One of soul and one of body.
Soul: My soul, like many others', needs regular maintenance through outlets like yoga, meditation, prayer, and spiritual connection. I believe that when I am not maintaining my spiritual well-being I become restless, irritable, and discontent. Being in this state too long can create an illusion (or delusion, rather) that alcohol would be a viable solution to this dis-ease.
Body: When I consume alcohol, I have a physiological reaction that is not normal. It triggers something in me that inevitably craves more: even if I am enjoying myself, even if I already feel good, even if I am already plenty intoxicated. Something in my brain inevitably convinces me that more is better. This is a disease of more.
*When I control my drinking, I don't enjoy it all that much. And when I enjoy it, I'm not much in control.
I am one of so many millions who are impacted by alcohol. Mine is just one story.
My hope is that this disease can be treated with all the love and compassion in the world - whether you are someone is experiencing it yourself or you are impacted by someone close who is suffering. My hope is that we can begin to see that this is not an issue of morality. Some of the most kind, loving, creative, talented people are held hostage to this disease.
If you are suffering, the best advice I can offer is to walk toward the light of Truth. This disease wants to be kept in the dark. It feeds off secrecy. Talk to those close to you. Ask them to listen. Ask for help. Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Dharma Punx, church, yoga, meditation. There is no single monopoly on getting sober and finding the road to recovery.
I charge you with the strength and courage to go forward fearlessly.
One day at a time.