You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

For the longest time, I thought I wasn’t getting better faster enough. I felt perpetually afraid that someone was going to walk by my desk and tell me that I was doing sobriety all wrong and that I would have to start over. Even as I chugged towards my first 365 days doubled over in pain and still majorly fucking up in most areas of my life something whispered, “You’re alright. You are getting better.”

Part of my problem has always been that nothing has ever worked fast enough for me– orgasms, drugs, liquor, chocolate, school- all took too much time to make me feel better. I wanted results, dammit! I didn’t have time to wait for things or to work towards things. All of that sounded pedestrian and decidedly unsparkly. I blame Bewitched for ruining me on instant gratification. Samantha could wriggle her nose and get herself out of trouble or make things better. Looked like a great solution to me. Only thing is I’m totally not a witch and I never could master that nose thing. Still, that never stopped me from giving up the dream that I could snap or wish or sit on a couch and will things to go my way. So when I finally figured out that drinking everyday for the better part of a decade wasn’t exactly a great way to live, I thought sobriety would be the quick fix I needed too. Alas, it wasn’t. My first year of sobriety was filled with pockets of time where I felt like Julie Andrews spinning on a mountaintop, my heart filled with song! I felt so great and the world needed to know about it. In between those pockets, however, were giant isolated valleys in which I spent most of my time feeling like some mythical beast had ripped my soul and spirit out of my body and I was left to patch myself together with scotch tape. I didn’t know how to live without being loaded. I didn’t know how to deal with problems. or how to talk about what I was going through. Or how to do anyfuckingthing but cry, smoke and eat cookies. After four months of staying sober and still feeling like my life was shittier than ever before, I cried to a friend in sobriety, “Why is this taking so long?!? Why does my life still suck even though I’m not drinking?” To which she replied, “That’s why we call it ‘slow-briety'” And I thought, “I didn’t know we called it that. Had I known perhaps I would have reconsidered.” I finally made it to that first year and guess what? Then my life really got crappy! I was sofa surfing and not in my own apartment. My health was a disaster and staying in school had gotten really difficult. But by staying sober and hanging in there I was unknowingly allowing things to get better. I believed down in my heart that things would change and they did. This is not because I am amazing. It is because I am crazy and I had no other choice than to believe that the Universe/God/Higher Power/Whatever was going to pull me out of the muck I was in. It needed to work and it did.

I feel like I need to tell myself this story today because I’m often ungrateful or negative or still doubting that my life is better and that I’m better. I’m far from perfect and my journey of recovery today is a different one. I need things at 3 years sober I didn’t need at 3 days. It’s evolving. I’m evolving. It’s not over and I don’t have it in the bag or have mastered the secrets of living sober. But today, the day after St. Patrick’s Day as I write with no hangover or shame, I can honestly and proudly say, “Sean Paul Mahoney, you have come a long way, baby!”


9 thoughts on “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

  1. It’s so easy to diminish the achievement of getting this far, or to wonder whether sobriety is even any better at all. 3 years is amazing!
    I keep having to go back and read articles and books that I read *prior* to deciding to quit drinking, so I can recall the problems I was experiencing then. Then I realise, it’s *so* much better. But my frame of reference has shifted so-far that today’s problems get confused with yesterdays (incomparably massive) problems, and I feel like I’ve made no progress.
    I still dive into things I shouldn’t (caffeine and sugar are my two vices now), and I know I do that to get a high of some form, and allow myself to escape. But at least with those vices I can be aware of what I’m doing, and choose to modify/reduce the behaviour.

    You have indeed come a long way 🙂

    • Thanks! And so have you! It’s all about perception right? If we’re aiming for perfection or some certificate that says “You are 100% all Better!”, it’ll never happen. But you’re right there is proof that things are better and that we’re on the right path. So congrats to you and keep up the good work!

  2. Boy, can I relate to this piece. Loads of good things to remind myself of. Yeah, there was some adjusting to do from thinking in “Quick Fix” mode to just doing the next indicated thing and staying out of the results. Suit up and show up? Only if you can promise me it will immediately make everything better. I never thought making slow, gentle progress was going to get me anywhere. I need a Deux ex Machina, baby, and I need that fucker, like yesterday! One of my biggest breakthroughs came when I finally stopped TRYING to be happy, excited, elated, or not depressed, or bored, or empty etc. Even when alcohol and drugs weren’t working, I kept at it, in the hope that they might. My whole life was a constant straining for some ideal state, and that (oh bitter irony!) made me miserable. It’s better for me to just to feel whatever and not make a big deal over it. Next thing I know, like yourself, I notice I’ve manage to trudge a long way up the hill. Thanks.

    • Amazing post, Marius. I love that you say “One of my biggest breakthroughs came when I finally stopped TRYING to be happy, excited, elated, or not depressed, or bored, or empty etc.” Exactly! I’ve been so fucking artificially flavored for so long that just having a natural emotion, one that wasn’t totally premeditated, is totally a revelation to me. Just “being” and not really getting wound up about it is true grace indeed. So thank you for the reminders too.

  3. I love those deep reflections of gratitude realization…I’m a skilled projector of the wreckage of the future, yet, in those times where my pain comes from resistance, I finally give in to “this simple program” and it works. It really works. I’m so glad you’re here…trudging, blogging…making people laugh, cry, rejoice, etc. Keep trudging. (I hate that word FYI.)

    • Thanks, Jen. Experience, strength and hope is what saved my ass and continues to do so today. And folks like yourself are proof we CAN get through it and even help other people. love it! xo, S.

  4. Sean

    Oooh My father in law, a very high functioning drug addict and alcoholic, met me when I was 3 months clean. It was a challenge to be in his environment BUT I was committed to my sobriety. HE nailed me right away (no judgement on my sobriety)

    “Honey,” he said puffing away on a Dunhill, “You are a CLASSIC adrenalin junkie. You may be clean and sober but you many never be clean and sober if you hang on to that. Adrenalin is dangerous too.” wise man. I was and am addicted to adrenalin and want it all NOW and FASTER and BETTER.

    I loved this:

    “I feel like I need to tell myself this story today because I’m often ungrateful or negative or still doubting that my life is better and that I’m better. I’m far from perfect and my journey of recovery today is a different one.”

    I am gonna remember this Sean. It is so relevant.

    I love the bewitched reference!

    XO Jen

    Thank you for saying things I can’t put word to..

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