I quit drinking and ended my love affair with cocaine on August 17th, 2008. Wouldn’t you know, my best friend’s birthday fell just three short weeks later on 9/11? (Yes, I know it’s not a fun date for a birthday, bless her heart)
We had quite an extravaganza planned for it. There was no way I could miss it and I was set on not allowing the status of my drinking career to keep me from important moments.
I remember it like it was yesterday as I drove across the bridge from Tampa to Clearwater, where we were having a weekend-long party for her. I pulled into a parking lot and called a friend who was 2 months ahead of me in sobriety to ask him if he had any parting words of advice for me.
As I headed into my first encounter with alcohol and drugs since choosing sobriety…
He told me to stand strong and that he knew I could do it. That I could get through the drunken weekend without relapsing. And no matter how good it sounded, I was riddled with anxiety as a growing fear was running through my veins.
I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Could I actually say “no,” to a drink or a line of cocaine? Could I have fun without these crutches I had relied on for so long? Could I stand in the eye of the storm, unshaken?
I remember watching the party unfold from what seemed like such an outsider’s point of view.
I watched as toasts and shots fired off in all directions at the beach bar. I watched as the cooler was loaded on to the boat we rented, which fueled falls, injuries and mishaps later that day. I left the room when cocaine was being crushed up and divvied out. I saw as drama unfolded, fights erupted and alcohol started to take its course on everyone.
I stood there all weekend with a red bull in hand, simply observing.
Not in judgment, but in mindfulness of what was going on all around me. I realized in these moments that I had actively participated in this exact behavior for so long. That I had been the ringleader of said shots, cocaine brigades and unnecessary, alcohol induced drama.
For the longest time I had, in fact, been the eye of the storm. But this time I was standing just outside of it, no longer leading the charge.
And in that moment I recognized that I no longer needed or wanted any of it.
What felt like it would be the biggest mountain I’d ever have to climb turned out to be one of my biggest ah-ha moments in early sobriety. I left that weekend knowing that if I could make it through that, I could make it through anything.
In early sobriety, it’s so important to understand that we will be tested. As soon as we make a decision to clean up our lives, we will be tested to see how badly we want it. We will be given circumstances and situations that feel uncomfortable. But in the end what we are really given is strength and steadfast dedication for the ultimate transformation that is living sober.
By flexing my sober muscle that weekend, I slowly started to build it up. Then I kept flexing it and building upon that. The more and more I said no and resisted the temptations around me, the more I knew this new lifestyle was for me. And the more confidence I had in knowing that I could do it.
If you are newly sober, trying it on for size or a well-establish person of sobriety, never forget that just a muscle must be exercised to grow and get stronger, so must your sober muscles.
This can be applicable for anything, not just sobriety. When you begin to work towards something, you better believe roadblocks and hurdles will appear to see how high you are willing to jump.
So, when you feel like you are in the middle of a storm and everything around you seems to be rigged against you, remember this story. Remember that by standing strong from moment-to-moment, situation-to-situation and temptation-to-temptation, you are only becoming more grounded and rooted in your choices.
Sometimes the mountain is actually the lesson we need to fuel the rest of the journey.
Looking back on this weekend I can see the lessons it was packed with. Although at the time, it just felt icky and uncomfortable. What I didn’t know then was that I had been given a gift that weekend. I had been given new eyes and self-awareness to see all the things I wasn’t missing.
God had indeed granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Namaste friends.