You know that feeling you get just before a vacation? You’re giddy with anticipation. The build up is palpable. You furiously finish work assignments and skip out of the office early. The excitement grows as you organize your clothes and gather up your toiletries.

Passport – check.
Dramamine – yup.
Phone charger – packed.
A spring in your step – absolutely!

You remind yourself of the last trip you took and maybe you didn’t quite relax as much as you should have, or maybe you had the time of your life. Doesn’t really matter, but you still remember. Everything gets real as you hop in a cab and head to the airport.

You almost don’t want the lead up to end and the vacation to begin because once you’re there, it’s that much sooner ’til the experience is over.

That’s what it feels like as I approach a major milestone – 1 year sober. Tomorrow marks 365 days since I’ve poured cheap white wine down my gullet. And I do mean pour. 12 months of continuous sobriety.

Big sigh. Big smile.

There’s lots of anticipation, just like a vacation. Each day and hour closer to this anniversary feels more and more weighty, important, significant. It’s like something super heavy is about to happen. A delivery of sorts. Not a baby, of course, but a new person, perhaps? Before we go too far imagining giant humans being birthed bloody by laboring mothers, let’s instead picture an unveiling of sorts.

I started this year in recovery as a scared, raw, bewildered lump of human clay. I entered AA meetings with fear and confusion, all up in my own brain, trying to make sense of new surroundings and vocabulary and not look like the biggest asshole in the room. Self-conscious as fuck. The alcohol was gone, but not yet replaced with anything significant, like common sense or logical thinking. There was a vacuum. If I was lucky, every so often I got a sense of being slightly more “with it,” but otherwise I felt like an alien.

Each meeting, as I listened, or rather shushed the voices in my head, others’ words soaked into my psyche and I began to take shape anew. My thoughts turned more positive and hopeful and each session with my sponsor enlightened me to different ways of being. She modeled sobriety for me, and I liked the way it looked on her.

I shed a layer at a time, sometimes thick ones, sometimes tissue-thin. Occasionally, big chunks of bad habits would fall off me as if I was losing diseased limbs. Oh the relief! But mostly, all year long I’ve felt a subtle turning and shifting, like a sunbather adjusts her beach chair a few inches every hour to align herself with the rays. She tugs at the towel beneath her, spritzes a little more oil on her skin, and lays back, warming herself in the light. She repeats the process one hour later, and on and on. (Let’s hope the oil contains sunscreen, eh?)

At the same time, I naturally look back to where I was and what happened one year ago. I cringe a lot as I remember the details of my last boozy experience, and it was a doozy. (Hey, that rhymes!) I am fuzzy on the details of that blackout-drunk night, but distinctly remember the next day’s feelings of shame and self-hate, my mouth stale and sticky with a thick glob of red sangria goo and God knows what else in the back of my throat. While the physical effects subsided over the subsequent 24-36 hours, my conscience just wouldn’t stop beating me up. Loser – pow! Irresponsible – wham! Hit after hit kept coming. But that ugly story is for another day.

I believe it’s important to catalog all of those feelings, just like trips to exotic places in the past. Remembering provides a frame of reference and lessons learned, many times the hard way. If you lose your passport in a foreign country, my guess is that will happen only once. Having lost my way and my true self when I was drinking, I know now that I’ll never let that happen again.

On the eve of this milestone, I’ve got butterflies and I want this feeling to last as long as possible. Happy one year sober to me, and many more.

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