Something I wrote on day 187 was quoted on another website this week as advice to someone who just hit 9 months and is having that sloggish feeling. You know the one. Some of the difficulty of getting sober has worn off, but so has some of the novelty. You haven’t gotten that pony you wanted yet–and worse, you suspect you may never get your pony, and even worse than that, you suspect there is no pony. So there you are: sober, bored, awkward, and horseless.
I’d feel lousy under those circumstances, too. I did, in fact, which is why I clung to the idea in that post: that sobriety accumulates, even if it doesn’t always feel that way in the moment. That if I could just make it through the grayness of those days, they’d add up to something.
That was 853 days ago. In those 853 days I’ve upgraded my job twice. I’ve written two-thirds of a novel and a bunch of essays that I’m working with an agent to package as a book proposal. I’ve run something like 1,500 miles and raced three half-marathons. (All in one summer–never, ever do that. So dumb.) We’ve added a second dog to our family. I’ve found myself connecting with people, in direct and sometimes surprising ways. I regularly say true things. And yes, I did finally lose that 15 pounds I was harping on about (using one simple trick you’ll never believe!: dieting).
And you know what? Those 853 days were 25% pure pony. Thrilling and fun and wondrous and everything else I was holding out for. Everything you’re holding out for, maybe.
Which means they were still 75% slog. Not in a grim way–I’m not talking about depression, or emptiness, or fear, though all those guys have had their parts to play too. Just, you know, dailiness. Because I no longer get to artificially contort my life into one big highlight reel. I have to actually show up for it moment by moment, and it turns out not every single moment can be like the last scene in a movie. A lot of them are more like the part of the movie where the characters are parking the car or buying a falafel or putting on their shoes. Moments that are moving toward something more art-directed and swooning, plod by plod.
It’s largely a slog right this second! Job upgrades are about prepping for interviews and being the new girl again. Running is about weather and the tyranny of the IT band. Writing books is about time management and staring into space and staggering uncertainty. Dogs are about ear infections and stolen socks. And we haven’t even touched on my cuticles. They are shameful and I totally don’t want to deal with them. Not to mention I really want a falafel now.
But it’s a far, far better slog than I have ever slogged before. And 853 more days from now, there’s reason to believe it’ll be a better slog still.
There’s your pony. It’s maybe a little more wonky and wall-eyed than you had in mind, and hard to see up close. But it’s real.
By the way, I said on day 187 that the thrill of waking up without a hangover is bound to fade. And maybe it is. But as of day 1,040 it’s still my first waking thought most mornings. I still get giddy, knowing that even if I feel tired or groggy or, say, wild-eyed with resentment that I have to wear clothes and earn a living, it’s not because I deliberately ingested lots of a known toxin. Never underestimate the joy of not poisoning yourself.