I’m sitting in my teenage bedroom in New York. There are ten days left in 2021 and I’ve been sober for three years, four months, and five days.
The room looks relatively the same as when I left it all those years ago. There’s a collage of photos taped to one side of the wall, floating shelves on the other, scattered with trinkets I didn’t bother to take with me when I moved. Everything else is blue: blue walls, blue curtains, blue sheets.
I drank in this room. Snuck teen romances in and out, hid journals in drawers, and believed it would be better once I left. It was this house I hated. That was the lie I spun. If my father hadn’t gotten remarried. If my stepbrother and I weren’t the same age. If my mother hadn’t gotten so sick that I needed to move to New York. It was this on repeat until I eventually left and realized, years later, I’d crafted an entirely new list of reasons why this other place was to blame.
The only real difference to this game of fault I’d been playing was that almost nothing I owned was blue. My house was a cornucopia of colors and patterns and interior design aesthetics because I was an emotional vending machine filled with uncertainty, rage, self-pity, and righteous anger. I’d not yet learned that these can be found at the base of almost any alcoholic. We’re not bad people who are desperate to be good, we’re sick people who are occasionally desperate to get well.
I spent years playing a game of pinball with myself. I jumped from multiple careers (all of which were unrelated to each other) to sporting activities (because I still believed yoga and movement could cure anything—no shame to yoga, it’s just not my vibe) and to self-help books. I was desperately clinging to the hope that an external source could solve all of my misery.
The New Year’s Eve before I got sober was one of the worst days of my life. No exaggeration. I was in an abusive relationship, the world felt pointless, heart-wrenching, and cold, and I had followed suit. Our anniversary just so happened to fall on New Year’s Day, and it was nothing like the Taylor Swift song I built it up to be in my head.
This was not when I received the miracle of sobriety. It took eight more long and distressing months for me to gain all of the joy and freedom that accompanies living outside of my addiction. But since finding the rooms of recovery, I’ve watched so many take oaths and make promises between December and January to get clean. Some do keep those promises, but most I don’t see again.
I don’t know why the lucky few of us receive this gift. I know I did nothing earth-shattering or miraculous prior to becoming sober. I asked for help and did what was suggested. Truly, that’s it. I made phone calls and listened to women and reached out to someone other than my own ego and took it all minute by minute. I’m a firm believer that there are far too many hours in a day and because of this, we’re often asked (or expected) to do way too much in addition to existing in a body. So I slept a lot. I cried all the time and everywhere. Pro tip: crying in a Trader Joe’s is a great option because sometimes they give you chocolate.
Nevertheless, the point is, I didn’t make a resolution. I didn’t spend my first year of sobriety writing out all of my big plans and ideas for the future. I made a check-list that looked like this:
- Make your bed
- Do the dishes
- Call three people
- Ask for help
My to-do lists haven’t changed all that much since. I sometimes add laundry or meditation, but I couldn’t have told you at the very start of 2018 what was in store for me, no matter how much *manifesting* I did.
When I was about nine, my mother and I spent New Year’s Eve at my best friend’s house. My mom was also very close with her mom so it all worked out. They lived in a fancy apartment on the “nice” side of town and all I really remember was us writing down our hopes for the next year on scraps of paper and burning them. I don’t know if this held specific significance for anyone or if they’d gotten the idea out of a magazine, but it was probably the only time I actually set intentions or placed wishes out into the universe on the hallowed last day of the year.
Now, if approaching midnight on December 31st 20-whatever is very important to you, good on ya! I am not here to rain on that parade. But sobriety taught me this: I can always restart my day. That means I have the ability to change my mindset, re-order my priorities, or set new intentions within the 24 hours that I’m currently facing. Sometimes this looks like me taking a second to close my eyes and breathe. Other times, I get up and do a literal 360-degree turn to visually convince myself that I am starting over.
I’ve also come to realize that most of my “ideals” or things folks call “resolutions” around this time of year aren’t actually what I want for myself but are what I assume others want for me. And one of the best things I’ve begun doing these last few years is relinquishing anything that doesn’t come from my own heart and soul. So, historically, when I used to make a goal to “lose weight”—but I crafted it to appear more digestible so it looked like: eat healthier, move your body, gain muscle—I started asking myself, “Do I want this for me or do I think society (i.e. my family, the 72 billion dollar weight-loss industry, etc.) expect this from me?”
Once I started asking these follow-up questions to each of my “goals,” I watched my “resolutions” change from external alterations to less tangible but more fulfilling things such as finding joy in one little thing each day, holding space for quiet gratitude, believing I’m exactly where I need to be. These were the things my mind, heart, body, and soul were actually craving—not what I’d been taught to strive for.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be smaller. You don’t go on the “Special K diet” in middle school without being taught that thinner is better. Except, that isn’t the case. That’s an idea sold to us by an industry that needs us to believe as such so that they can continue making money. So I don’t actually want to be smaller, I never have, what I’ve wanted is to love my body. And love—good, true, soft, and kind love—doesn’t ask you to change. It accepts you exactly as you are.
I used to think I’d hold more value if I learned how to do as much as possible, like speaking another language, playing an instrument, and so on and so forth. And while those are amazing activities, I have way more fun and feel truly connected to my one brilliant, extreme, rare, and effervescent life when I’m re-reading a book I love. So again, I asked myself, “Do I want to speak another language or play the piano because it’s what I want or because I think it makes me seem more impressive?” I’m going to go ahead and assume you know the answer.
This is my truth. Stopping to restart my day and asking follow-up questions for the intentions I set for this life I’m living are what have worked for me. They may or may not feel comfy and cozy to you. If I’ve gathered anything from the countless truths sobriety has delivered to me, it’s that there’s no rule book. There’s no test we’re all cramming for. Life is meant to be enjoyable and chaotic and occasionally heartbreakingly agonizing, and most importantly, authentic.
So as you review those resolutions of yours or read these words, I hope you’ll ask yourself, “Am I happy?” And if the answer is no, maybe spend some time exploring why that is and what is within your power to create more light, more hope, and more joy for yourself and head in that direction. And remember, what you want and what you think others want for or from you is not the same. You owe it to yourself to draw a line between the two. No one else will do it for you.
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