English: Statue of John Lennon in public park,...

English: Statue of John Lennon in public park, Vedado, Havana. December 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do these three things have in common?   December 8!!!  Mother Mary’s Immaculate Conception feast day is today, this is also the unfortunate anniversary of the day John Lennon was shot and………… it’s my 9th anniversary of sobriety.   Yay me!  I think I’ll have a drink to celebrate!

Yes, it has been 9 very long and very quick years since my last drink.  Going through my old journals as I have been (I’m in 1999 now) has really reminded me of how much I drank, how much I depended on it, how much I loooooved it, how much I hated and feared it.  What do you expect working in a bar every day?  And it’s different than bartending or waitressing because those employees need to be sober to do their jobs whereas dancers usually do better when indulging in some liquid courage.  And indulge I did.  Sometimes it was all I could do to face another day in the clubs.

But it started long before that for me.  I was running pretty hard with alcohol by the time I was 17.  Mostly on weekends.  It was all about the next party and getting wasted.  Aye yi yi.  Alcohol and boys.  I thought it made me grown up.  I wanted very much to be grown up.  Instead I was throwin’ up.

I met Lloyd, my husband, in Ontario in October of 2002 and we got absolutely plastered the night we met.  For the sake of brevity I’ll tell you that Lloyd had been visiting his mum in Ontario and gave me his B.C. address before he left.  I was planning on moving to England.  Long story short, I wrote him, he wrote me back and we began an over the phone courtship for the next 3 and a half months.  Instead of England, I bought a one way ticket to British Columbia.  2 weeks before I was to arrive in BC, Lloyd gave me a shock over the phone.

“Guess what Paula?  I quit drinking!”

You quit drinking????  Really??????”  (Then I thought “Well who the hell am I going to drink with in British Columbia then?”) ……. long pause…….“You didn’t quit smoking pot did you?”

“No.”

“Thank God for that!”

The party could still continue.  Whew!

Now my husband is almost 10 years sober- he will be in January.  See, he was READY to quit then.  Me?  No way Jose.  I still had a few more bottles to upend.

When I arrived in BC in January 2003, I hung out with my brother in Vancouver for 3 days and we had our own little booze fest.  I still smelled like alcohol when I arrived on the Sunshine Coast where Lloyd lived and was waiting for me with his brand new, two week old, ever so fragile sobriety.

Lloyd had a bottle of wine in his fridge for me but I never opened it.  It stayed there like a sentinel for almost a year.  I felt like drinking in his (our) home would be rubbing it in his face.  It became clear that he was serious about quitting so I was going to help him.  I never drank a drop for all of February, March, April, May and June.

In the meantime, I had been undergoing a spiritual awakening/conversion of sorts at the time and it was very intense.  I had also begun to re-integrate into normal society again and found a job waitressing in the teeny tiny community of 150 at the local pub.  Yeah, I know, talk about setting yourself up eh?

So as can almost be expected, it was glorious B.C. summer time, and I took to having a glass of wine on the patio, overlooking the ocean and the mountains after my shift was over.  I wrestled with my conscience over that first glass- I had to justify it to myself, had to tell myself that I wasn’t the one who had quit drinking, my months of not drinking that spring had proven that I had a handle on things and what’s the big deal about having one little glass of wine anyway?

I let myself move up to two glasses after work.  I remember how excited I was about those second drinks.  I felt very giddy and powerful because I was drinking like a normal person and not getting drunk.   There was this feeling of moving back in with an old army buddy who had been through the war with me.  An old army buddy who had kicked the shit out of me numerous times, but I was going to make sure it was different this time!!!!  We could get along!  I really, really wanted to be able to get along.

This continued throughout the fall until tourist season was over and my shifts disappeared.  I made plans to go back to Ontario for a month- the entire month of November and early December.  I was going to take the bus and stop off and visit everyone one at a time.

My first stop was in Sault Ste. Marie to visit my favourite Auntie and Uncle.  I stayed there for three days and nights.  On the first night, I was happy to join them in a glass of wine.  On the second night, I was even happier to join them in two glasses of wine!  On the third night, I was positively giddy to be taking the next step- the step that often defines how your night is going to be.  Are you going to hang out where you are and enjoy that lovely glow or are you going to take that ball and run like hell with it?  Well, of course I ran like hell, duh.  I had the third glass and to me, that was the ultimate proof that I had CONQUERED ALCOHOL and could proceed without any more caution.   The logic of an alcoholic.  Go figure.

My next stop was to visit my brother and his new girlfriend in Ottawa and I stayed there for about 5 days.  We immediately went for something to eat and drink.  Every day we went out for drinks.  I LOVED it.  On the last night we went to a Canucks/Senators hockey game and I chugged a whole bunch of beers in a very short time and ending up falling backwards over one of the seats right onto my ass.   The guilt returned.

I moved on to Windsor, my last stop where my parents and little sister live.  My folks always have a stocked bar and are generous hosts so of course the party was ON!  We went out a few times to the pub and I worked my way up to the magic 3 drinks line again and actually had an extra one back at my folks’ house on top of it.  Take that alcohol!

And then my sister dropped a truly worthy bomb.  She was pregnant!  Well folks, you know what THAT means, don’t you?  That’s right!  It was time to celebrate!  We went to the pub for drinks (to “wet the baby’s head” as the English say), we went out for dinner and had more drinks to toast the baby and we went back to my parents’ place and drank some more.   And my dominant thought that night was NOT “I’m going to be an Auntie for the first time ever!”   No, it was more along the lines of “I wonder how many bottles of wine mum and dad have in that cellar?”  And I remember bugging my mom to open another and ANOTHER when it was clear that we’d all had enough.  I’m not sure how many bottles I went through that night but I know I awoke the next day, December 8th, with the worst, and I do mean the worst hang over I’d ever had in my 20 plus years of drinking.  I couldn’t move my head for 3 hours.  I felt like death.  The guilt was like poison coursing through me.

And I finally knew.

I knew that this was where alcohol and I had to part ways.  It was obvious that I couldn’t have a few.  I didn’t know how to stop.  My new life demanded new habits and new ways of thinking.  I didn’t begrudge anyone else their drinks, I just knew that I could never have another drink for the rest of my life.  And I was willing to try and live that reality.   When I got back to B.C., I finally took that bottle of wine out of the fridge- the one that Lloyd had bought for me and had been standing guard for 11 months.  I opened it and I poured it down the sink.

And so I have lived sober for nine years now.   And God has blessed me with the most fruitful years of my life.  A husband who is a friend, a lover and a fellow spiritual traveller, my companion to the end.  The amazing daughter whom, if I had made a list of all the things I’d desire in a child, she’d have filled them all.  Satisfying, challenging (unpaid!) work.  Brilliant, funny friends who love me from near and far.  A spiritual mentor who is wise and humble.  A home of my own.  Accomplishments of which I can be proud.  A chance to re-educate myself.  Challenges for the future.  An awareness of the daily miracle of life and the beautiful details that bring joy to my heart.  True growth and evolution.  True love.

Happy December 8th everyone.  🙂

 

Mary, mother of Jesus, as the Immaculate Conce...