While the official Day 365 was yesterday, I’m celebrating one year today. And celebrate I have! I posted about my project on Facebook (a first) and have been basking in the internet applause as much as I’d like to think I’m above it.

I’m drinking a fancy Seedlip mocktail and giving my sick body a break from working out tonight. The highlight? I plan to go to bed early. What a PAR-TAY!!!

Yesterday, I celebrated by attending a music festival, SeaHearNow, in Asbury Park. C had VIP passes that we took turns using so I was solo for my evening out. And stone cold sober. I parked about 1/2 mile away and as I walked to the festival, I picked up the smell of beer from about a 1/4 mile away. Nope, don’t miss that one goddam bit.

And ya know what, that’s probably one of the main takeaways for me after a year: I DON’T MISS IT. I honestly don’t.

I went back to my first few posts in reflection over the past couple days, and there was a lot of yearning, a lot of hedging my bets. Now? I don’t identify with that at all. 

Sure, the romantic idea of a good wine paired with a fine dinner experience is one that hasn’t completely left (specifically the notion of a Sonoma trip with C, tasting our way through California) But then I think back over the last year, and all of the wonderful romantic, wild, crazy, fun, adventurous times we’ve had – that I experienced fully, sans-alcohol. In fact, I might argue that I actually had a BETTER time without it.

I told myself One Year. But now, I’m not going back. I love the way this makes me feel, and I’ve appreciated the mental and emotional growth that has come as a result.

Speaking of which, I’d love to distill all my learnings into one “Top Ten” list for this post, but sorry to say, I haven’t. Maybe in the days to come I’ll take the time, but for now – I’ll share a few of the highlights. Here are some of the key things I’m learning:

The Ability to Absorb

Now that my brain isn’t soaking up alcohol, I find that it’s much more capable of absorbing the good stuff I had been trying to pour into it over the years. You know, all the self-care stuff, all the self-discipline needed to stick with healthy changes in routine, all the processing of difficult life shit, all (well, most) of the details of my friends’ and family’s lives that I used to forget in my self-centered haze.

And when I say absorb, I mean deeply. Not just on a superficial level.

I’ll give you an example.

Driving home from work today, I noticed that I was biting my nails and breathing shallowly. I took a few deep breaths and then found myself, in the most caring, loving way, saying “you’re going to be OK”.

The mother in me comforted the child in me, and it was such a profound, complete feeling of love that I started crying. 

Now, I know that we’re all supposed to love ourselves first and foremost. And that self-love is where it all starts. And although I’m not a mantra person, I can see how positive self-talk can help people. Today though, I truly absorbed the feeling of self-love in a way I’ve never experienced.

So so many penny drop experiences, sprinkled throughout the year. Like nothing I’d experienced when drinking. I’ve called them mini-epiphanies in this blog – and at the beginning, it was almost daily. 

The flip side of that coin is that you really do feel all the feels, with no buffer to ward off the pain. And through that, I’m learning about the power of:

True Body Awareness

When I was drinking, as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of my mental awareness of my body was connected to the alcohol. Headaches, dry mouth, upset stomach in the AM, the mental/physical pull in the PM, the relief of the first drink, the dissatisfied chasing of the buzz through the evening, then the dull immobilization at the end of the night. Of course I felt other things too, and I would never have thought that my physical experience of the world was dulled while I was still living in that haze.

But now? On the other side? O. M. G. It’s a completely different experience. Like someone took the bubblewrap off. Like I finally woke up.

While my body may not be literally FEELING more, I’m noticing it more. I’m more connected to my own body.

I notice the difference when I don’t [fill in the blank – exercise, eat healthy, sleep, meditate etc] and when I do. I notice my body’s reaction to stress, anger, sadness, and can (sometimes, not always) act appropriately instead of reacting unconsciously.

My posture has improved. With the time bought back in the evenings, I now have healthy options after a stressful day crouched over a computer. And I look forward to stretching my body like a cat, feeling the muscles expand and contract, feeling the strength and pushing them to improve. 

A hot shower at the end of a day can be almost as good as sex. There, I said it. Seriously though, now that I’m fully aware, I take long showers a few times a week and enjoy every damn minute.

Being truly IN my body, noticing the details I’d never paid attention to before, has time and again, taught lessons that have helped me grow.

And of course, while being in the body, one is also aware of the interior landscape of the mind.

Better Thought Control

The last highlight I’ll mention tonight, but a big one. This was one of the goals I wrote down at the beginning of 2018, and living sans alcohol has made it easier.

Before, everything felt like a drama. I wasn’t able to process the shit life handed me so I either overshared with others, blew steam off at C or the kids, and/or numbed it with alcohol/pot. It always felt like something was going wrong – and it was Life’s fault, not mine! 

I’m sure that when I shared my sorrows with others I came off as a constant victim of life circumstances, always looking for someone or something to blame.

My relationship with C was the biggest and most common place I pointed the ugly finger of blame. And it was all C’s fault.

Now, those thoughts still occur but I see them, I stand outside of them, and I chuckle a bit. That’s just a thought, Self. Just a thought. That’s not reality.

I’m not the best at this, but I’m getting better. Meditation is helping a lot.

And that brings me to my last point.

I’m not there yet.

And I’m realizing there is no There. Yeah yeah here comes the “life is a journey” inspirational poster line.

When it comes to me – a highly goal-oriented Type A personality – I need a There to strive for, but I’m learning to love and accept myself along the way, to cut myself a break for missing a night of exercise, or for biting my nails when I keep telling myself to stop goddammit, or for losing my shit with the boys again.

I’m a work in progress and I’m OK with that.

Can’t wait see what Year 2 brings!