My husband has a surfing buddy who has been sober for 20-plus years, and he said something great the other day about how the effects of sobriety are cumulative, even if the practice of it can be very one-day-at-a-time. (Surfers are surprisingly philosophical people–it turns out Point Break is exactly like real life, except for the Nixon masks.) When we first get sober, he said, we can see lots of quick benefits–better sleep, better waking up, clearer thoughts, and so on. And those benefits, along with the sense of finally having turned a corner, can keep us going for a while. But eventually (and this is about where I am now, at 6 months), we may not wake up every morning and think ‘wow, I don’t have a hangover! How fantastic!’ because being hangover-free is the new normal. Or because it’s no longer a challenge to simply get through the day without drinking, we start to ask why not everything has fallen into place the way we imagined. (Why haven’t I lost fifteen pounds yet? Why did the office holiday party feel awkward and tiring, when I’ve had plenty of practice with sober evenings out? Why hasn’t sobriety magically removed all dread from the impending visit to my parents–shouldn’t being sober for 6 months make me feel like I can handle anything?)
According to Bodhi (his Point Break name), this is when it’s important to have patience and a long view. Sure, he said, the 6-months version of you may not have lost 15 pounds, but think of what the healthier you will be like over time. In another six months you’ll be a 44-year-old who hasn’t drunk alcohol in a year. In 2023 you’ll be a 53-year-old who hasn’t had a drink in a decade–just think how much healthier that person is likely to be than the version of you that kept on drinking. Think of the old version of you with her career doubts and dissatisfactions that she’s just beginning to seriously work through–the 45-year-old you will have had two solid years of really showing up in her own life to have figured some of that stuff out, and the 48-year-old will have five years of clear thinking (well, sober thinking at least) under her belt. Think about turning 50 with almost eight years of sobriety in your body, your work, your relationships. It really adds up, he said–it’s just hard to see that in the middle, just like at times it was probably hard to see what a mess your drinking was gradually making of your life. You’ve just got to have faith that all these good changes are happening all the time while you’re just going about your new sober life, doing the best you can.
I loved this–I found it so smart and practical and above all reassuring. I hope it will help someone else out there too.