Today marks 2000 days of sobriety for me. Over the past five and a half years I have had 2000 opportunities to choose to live a sober day. A couple (few) (several) (hundreds) of those choices were harder than others. There were days when I thought I just might break the streak. I told myself that maybe one drink, one day, one weekend, wouldn’t make a difference.
Shortly after I decided to stay sober indefinitely, I had a conversation with a drinking buddy of mine. They asked me how I was feeling. I said ‘It feels like reality, reality, reality, reality. Every second of every day.’
There has been an awful lot of reality to deal with over the past several years…
I gave up drinking more than a year before my cancer diagnosis, but having cancer reinforced the idea in me that our time here is precious and limited, and should be lived purposefully, intentionally, mindfully, with a clear head, and eyes wide open. Then Covid slammed that idea home again, as I watched the global suffering on the news every day. And again and again, as I suddenly lost family members and friends, to the virus, and to the mental health side effects of the pandemic.
We have all been starkly reminded that our time here is limited. And every day we have the opportunity to choose how we will spend that time. Every day we have the opportunity to make better personal choices, and to change our own reactions and behaviors.
Some of the behaviors that we have been conditioned and socialized to believe are acceptable forms of relaxation or self-regulation are actually forms of self-harm. Smoking, drinking, illegal drug use, disordered eating, maintaining toxic relationships, overusing prescription drugs, just to name a few.
If we live our lives mindfully and intentionally, over time our eyes will begin to open to our own personal truths, and we will begin to question if some of our behaviors might actually be unhealthy. It won’t necessarily be a light bulb moment. It’s more like the flicker of a candle. And it is very easily extinguished by the slightest draft.
We will go back to the conditioned reactions and behaviors time and time again. Over and over. We know that it’s not good for us, but we keep doing it anyway. This is cognitive dissonance; knowing one thing deep down but doing another. We all do it. We rationalize our behaviors away. We make excuses for them. We fall back on the old belief that this is just the way we are, or we just don’t have the willpower…
But eventually, perhaps someday, the light will burn brighter and shine right on the heart of the matter.
I deserve to treat myself well. I may not be able to extend the limited time that I have here, but I want all of that time to be clear-eyed, aware, sober, real. I want to be present for all of it. I want to feel it all. I want to live it all. I want to take each moment as I want take each breath, as fully and deeply and gratefully as I can.
For a limited time.