It's Labor Day weekend and September has come on subtle, like it always does, when it feels like summer has just started. It's the last full month of my 20s and I just finished an August where I took on entirely too much but somehow got through it. This month I will be a year sober. For the first time, in a very long time, I have stayed with myself for one whole year with no escaping and no opting out. I have closed and locked every trapdoor in my life, for good this time.
This has been, bar none (not a sobriety pun, but also kind of a sobriety pun), the best year of my life. It has also been the hardest, in that I have had to face a lot of truths I had been avoiding, I have had to ask myself what I really want out of life, I have had to break with people and patterns that no longer worked for me, and I have done it all with no armor. I've had to come to terms with past things, which I always thought would break me if I faced them head on. In that, I have learned that there is nothing that will ever break me beyond repair. I have learned not to snap at people, I have learned how to take responsibility and how to set boundaries. How, over time, those boundaries become a little easier, a little more defined. How loving people does not mean you need to lose yourself in them.
It seems fitting that I will be a year sober right as I move into my 30s. This year has meant a lot of transitions, a lot of growing up, a lot less hiding, and if I'm being honest, which I try to be now, entirely too much coffee. I started writing, I've given multiple public talks, and have gotten just a tiny bit weirder every single day for the last 11 plus months. I officially became a paid writer, the only thing I've ever wanted to be. I feel good in my skin, and strong in my voice, and I am proud of this person that I have become. Prouder still of the one that I am still becoming.
Birthdays have always been exciting to me. I have always loved them, not for any type of celebration, but as a personal acknowledgment of passing time. They're reflective, a time to figure out what has worked and what didn't But this is the first time, in a very long time, that I can say with fair certainty that I am thrilled for the next chapter.
Last month I took on some writing projects, along with everything I usually have going on. I was surprised with how much I struggled to sit my butt in a chair and write. I was scared. When you think of your dreams in an abstract "someday" sense, they're theoretical and easy to love. When they're right in front of you and suddenly there is the very real possibility that you will fail at them, it's terrifying. Every single feeling of not being good enough came rising up to the surface with a vengeance. But for possibly the first time in my life, I didn't come down even harder on myself. I didn't punish myself for bad behavior by adding in even more commitments, negative self-talk, and restricting food. Instead, when the panic spiral started, I was kind to myself. I skipped the gym, ordered in food, went to bed early, said no when I usually would have forced myself to say yes. I treated myself as good enough so that I could believe that I am. The writing got done, and my procrastination and avoidance even birthed a few poems that I am really proud of. I had never given myself the space to notice that I'm a procrastination poet before. Even avoidance has its purpose.
When everything breaks and you just can't do it anymore, you have no choice but to start giving yourself a pass. Just because I am sober does not mean that I have all of my shit together, nor does it mean that I need to present that way to the world. It does mean I am much more aware of how much shit I have that is nowhere near together. Not even in the same zip code as together. There is this pull towards performing this high-functioning sobriety, just as there was to performing as a high-functioning drinker. I had made this life-altering decision, and I wanted to cram as many things as possible into my life to prove I could. I wanted to show everyone how much I could do because I was willing to give up this one single thing. But this extreme can also become too much. There is no space to be if you're constantly searching for the next thing to do.
So this month, the last of my 20s, I am going to take it easy. I will not live my life, head down, always bracing to run through the next wall. I am going to do the things I want to do and eat the things I want to eat and skip the things I want to skip. I am going to nap, watch crap TV, read good books, and write a lot. I will probably still drink too much coffee and spend too much money on fizzy water. I am going to move in ways that call to me. I am going to relax into my 30s because at this point, I deserve a bit of a break. I have built this life. Now I am going to live it.
Also, holiday weekends are really hard when you're newly sober...in case you need a reminder, you do not have to drink today. I love you and I understand. x