Today is the third anniversary of my sobriety. Getting sober may have saved my life. I’m definitely happier, more stable, loving and purposeful now that I’m sober.
When I say sobriety may have saved my life, I mean that literally. Several years ago I was walking home drunk enough that I was stumbling. Halfway across the Vanier bridge, I decided to climb onto the stone railing, which was about a foot and half to two feet wide, and to walk across the rest of the bridge along the railing. Despite my drunkenness, I made it across. If I’d fallen in, I think I would have died.
Six months later, drunk again, and this time also high on speed and ecstasy, I decided that it would be fun to climb a tree. I found a tree that was easy to climb up into, and went up about thirty feet. I remember sitting close to the top of the tree, with my legs straddling the trunk and enjoying the view of the park in the early morning light. Then I decided to climb back down. All was well until I tried to get out onto another branch. My foot slipped, and I fell fifteen or twenty feet to the earth. I fell badly, landing hard on my left foot and left hand. I crushed the bones in my left ankle, broke my left wrist badly, fractured my collarbone, and squished two discs in my spine. The damage to my ankle, spine and joints ( I now have arthritis) was permanent. I was lucky to survive the fall.
Healing and sobriety
There is a tight connection between my sobriety, recovering my memories of abuse, and healing from the trauma that abuse caused. The day I began to remember the abuse, I had recently decided to try to stop drinking permanently, and I had been sober for a week or two. I was at my apartment and I started having intense feelings in my body. My body was buzzing, my head was ringing and I felt panicked, confused and overwhelmed. These feelings happened at the same time as my thinking about whether I had been sexually abused by my biological father shifted from possibly to certainly.
That day was a breakthrough in my therapy and in my efforts to heal. Not only did sobriety begin, or hasten, the process of recovering my memories, but it has also been essential to doing the hard work of healing from severe trauma. My life is so much better than it was three years ago, and getting and staying sober, has been central to this improvement.
Now that I’m sober, I’m happier. I have more fun. I am a more trustworthy and responsible person. I’m a better friend. I am more connected with the people I love. I’m also more connected to the natural world, and a more effective activist. If you ask me, I’ll tell you to stop drinking. It will change your life for the better.
I can easily imagine some people deciding that advocating sobriety is reactionary. In my mind they ask, “But what about harm reduction?” and they’re ready, willing, perhaps eager, to start calling me out for having an opinion that differs from the Most Perfect Activist Opinion. Let me say, then, that I am for harm reduction. I’m opposed to the criminalization and stigmatization of drug users. I’m for supervised injection sites. I’m for the decriminalization of all drugs. Being pro-harm reduction doesn’t mean being pro-drug use.
I understand and support the use of drugs as medicine and as a part of spiritual practices. Other than that I don’t think they are necessary, and are in many ways harmful. I do recognize that people use drugs and alcohol (and other behaviours) to cope with problems that they do not know how to resolve otherwise. I believe we must work to provide more solutions to the problems people have, such as abuse and poverty
Sobriety is important for everyone
Do you drink regularly or semi-regularly, but you’re sure you don’t have a drinking problem? Why not try not abstaining for a month? If you can take or leave getting drunk, then what’s the problem?
The worst case scenario is that you’ll have more money, be in better health, and, I guess, you might miss out on a good time or two. You’ll also know whether or not you find it easy to stay sober for a month. It seems like a no brainer to me, and, after all, if you don’t rely on alcohol then it should be super easy, right?
And if you decide that drinking might in fact be an addictive behaviour, you can take action. There are many things you can do. First, don’t feel guilty or ashamed. Addictive behaviours are simply ways that we find to survive in a hard world. There are almost certainly better options, though. You can try and stop on your own, or access treatment programs, you can seek counsel from a faith leader, you can try therapy, and you can ask your friends for support. No doubt there’s more you can do that I haven’t thought of.
Today is the anniversary of my third year sober. Sobriety has made my life better, and I believe it will improve the life of anyone who has an addiction to alcohol.