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27 February 2009

Guess what? [More:]
I'm ten years sober today! Holy crap! How did that happen?

Ten years ago I was a mess. I was really lucky to get sober when I did, because I still had a job, home, husband, and a semblance of a 'normal' life. But I had no dignity or self-respect, and I was consumed by fear and self-hatred. I couldn't have put words to those feelings, though, because I'd numbed myself with drink for years, in an attempt to stop myself from feeling anything at all.

As soon as I stopped drinking, my life began to improve. I stopped losing things - handbags, keys, jackets, chunks of time ... I haven't peed myself once since I got sober, or come to in a strange bed with a strange man.

But it was the big changes that took time. I read something only yesterday in a novel that describes it well:

"It's delicate - this process of waking up, coming in from the cold - you can't do it overnight."
"Why not?"
"You'd die. You don't know how to feel - or more accurately, what to do with what you feel. When a person comes in from the cold, it's not like they immediately feel warm. If they've been out for a while, they come in and everything hurts, and the warmer they get the more pain they're in. It's excruciatingly painful. For, as much as you want to feel nothing, you feel everything, you feel too much to bear, like you'd explode, or go crazy, if you knew how much you felt."

That describes it very well. Learning to feel again was very hard, learning to love myself even harder.

The last ten years have had some big ups and downs - divorce, love, death, illness - and I have to take the good with the bad. I can't feel joy unless I also know what pain feels like. These days there's far more joy than pain.

Tonight I'm going back to my first home group, which is an old geezer meeting in East London. Anyone who's ever been to AA will be familiar with the old geezers, sober a million years, telling the same old war stories over and over (as they'd probably be doing if they were in the pub), but so, so kind to me when I was a raw newcomer.

A few years ago one of the old geezers told me that they all thought I wouldn't make it, because I thought I knew it all and couldn't be taught. I had to learn to become teachable, to learn a new way of living that's giving me an incredible new life today.

I am grateful. So, so grateful.
Wow. Congratulations.
posted by stilicho 27 February | 03:09
Wow, ten years. That's an achievement.
Good on ya, essexjan!
posted by CitrusFreak12 27 February | 04:11
Congratulations, sweetie! I'm so happy and proud for you.
posted by taz 27 February | 06:07
HUGE congrats to you, my friend.
posted by BoringPostcards 27 February | 06:41
Congratulations on your journey and discoveries.
posted by gomichild 27 February | 07:04
we should celebrate with yummy yummy warm applepie&ice cream! Congrats and well done. Great passage in that novel too.
posted by dabitch 27 February | 07:08
(((essexjan))) What a milestone. Congratulations.
posted by gaspode 27 February | 07:25
That's wonderful and I'm so happy for you!
posted by Stewriffic 27 February | 07:36
Yay, EJ! Congratulations on a huge milestone!
posted by fluffy battle kitten 27 February | 07:50
posted by mightshould 27 February | 08:16
Great. Just terrific. Happy Anniversary! Wishing you continued good health and much happiness.
posted by Kangaroo 27 February | 08:38
Well earned Jan. It isn't just ten years, it is 3650 days of doing everything you are supposed to day in, and day out. I'll leave you with the story of Sylvia K., the first woman to achieve ten years continuous sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. Good on you Jan.
posted by netbros 27 February | 09:34
Jan, you're amazing.
posted by rainbaby 27 February | 10:21
I haven't peed myself once since I got sober, or come to in a strange bed with a strange man.

And this is a GOOD thing?

(jk. . .really. . .congratulations jan!)
posted by danf 27 February | 10:30
(((essexjan))) I have seen the fatal affects of addiction up close, and know how hard it can be to wake up every day and choose whether to drink or not. You're awesome. And strong.
posted by Melismata 27 February | 10:31
Great work!
Your sobriety is a 5th grader now and should be learning the capitals of the African countries. That is quite an achievement.
posted by rmless2 27 February | 10:31

Although am I the only one who expected the More Inside to be "chicken butt"?
posted by rhapsodie 27 February | 10:55
Thanks, netbros, that story of Sylva K is great. I also like the little summary of the AA programme at the top of the page.
posted by essexjan 27 February | 11:12
rhapsodie, you are not.

Congrats, essexjan. AA gave me my brother back.

posted by mrmoonpie 27 February | 11:15
Congrats Jan. I really like that passage.
posted by sperose 27 February | 11:34
That's great, jan.
posted by mudpuppie 27 February | 11:36
Rock on, Eedge. Now if my brother could only manage that lofty feat.
posted by Lipstick Thespian 27 February | 12:59
well done Jan! Do you get a shiney plutonium sobriety chip?
posted by By the Grace of God 27 February | 13:22

Happy Anniversary, Baby!
posted by jason's_planet 27 February | 13:22
I'm so proud of you, jan. *BIG HUGS*
posted by terrapin 27 February | 13:27
ej: Yours is one of the most inspirational posts I have read in weeks, and lately we have had some really good ones.

My take is that we only get one life and living as many lives as possible is our own individual responsibilities. I figure that I am up to my fifth, and if certain recent events pan out, I could soon begin a sixth.
posted by Ardiril 27 February | 13:29
Congratulations Jan! You are a wonderful, strong woman and I am proud to call you a friend. *HUGS*
posted by turtlegirl 27 February | 13:50
Congratulations! Been a few years since I've peed on myself too, life is great.
posted by Marxchivist 27 February | 14:00
Good for you.
posted by buzzman 27 February | 14:00
I peed myself two weeks ago. But you have to blame grungy Greek public bathrooms (which, thank Dog, are fewer than they used to be). We left a cafe, walking home, and before we left I asked V., "how's the bathroom?" because I knew I was beginning to feel a bit tingly that way... and he said, "Not Good." So I decided to hang on 'til I got home. But we stopped for bread... at apparently the only bakery open on Sunday in all of Athens, because there was a huge line. And then we still had a mile to walk to get home. I didn't quite make it all the way... lost it about a block from my house.

But that wasn't too bad. The last time it happened was during a streetcar party in New Orleans, a million years ago. The streetcar didn't make the next stop in time for me - so. Imagine, basically, peeing yourself in the middle of a cocktail party.
posted by taz 27 February | 14:22
I'm proud of you, babe!
posted by jason's_planet 27 February | 14:31
w00t! Your story is really touching. I don't know you that well, but can I say I'm really proud of you?
posted by sakura 27 February | 18:01
Congratulations!!!!! Have some more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by TrishaLynn 27 February | 18:28
*big hugs*
Well done, you're wonderful. One of the first posts I remember reading was the anniversary last year of when you'd been sober. I guess that was a whole year ago!

I'm so happy to hear you're doing much better. xxx
posted by jonathanstrange 27 February | 18:46
Congratulations -- and thank you so much for sharing your experiences with such grace and honesty. You're one of the goodest of the good eggs, my dear.
posted by scody 27 February | 18:57
You are one of the most wonderful and inspiring people I know. Congratulations!
posted by casarkos 27 February | 20:30
Congratulations! That's a lot of one days at a time! (sorry if someone already said that)
posted by desjardins 27 February | 20:49
Congratulations! You are an inspiration!
posted by Twiggy 27 February | 23:09
That's so wonderful... Happy 10 years!
posted by Pips 28 February | 12:55
Fantastic achievement Jan!!!! ((((((((((((HUGS)))))))))))))

(although I thought it would be news about the interview, but this is better of course!)
posted by Wilder 28 February | 15:06
Awesomeness! Such a great achievement! Congratulations :)
posted by TheDonF 28 February | 18:05
Whoo! Congrats!
posted by mdonley 28 February | 19:03
Congratulations, essexjan. You're an inspiration. Congrats.
posted by LoriFLA 28 February | 19:19
Congratulations, jan. I'm so glad you took that first step.
posted by deborah 28 February | 21:37
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