Holy cow! I’m sober on Halloween. How did this happen? Well, since you asked, let me tell you.

I moved into this beautiful gem of a neighborhood 3 years ago. This is a town where you know all of the business owners, say hi to your neighbors and attend fun events. Three years ago I was a heavy drinker in a relationship with another heavy drinker. I had dreamed of the person I thought I wanted to be with and finally found her. She was beautiful, funny, intelligent and sweet. We moved here to “settle down” and start what we thought would be a nice, settled life. We got engaged and were planning our wedding. We discussed having children and lived in our little love bubble.

Everything we did surrounded drinking. The people at the convenient store would say “2 packs of Marlboro’s and a 12 pack of Corona?”. They knew exactly what we were coming to the store for. All of the bars we frequented knew who we were and what we wanted to drink. We did nothing without drinking. I should have installed cup holders in my bathroom. All of our friends thought we were the perfect couple because that’s how we acted, but our relationship was anything but perfect. The person I longed to be was screaming to come out. I wanted to lead a life that allowed me to help others and be useful to society. I wanted a sober life with purpose. My girlfriend wasn’t down with that. I was with a woman I didn’t understand, but loved so much. She had a soft, sweet side to her, but the vulnerability I wanted to see was never there. She portrayed herself as a strong, positive person and in many ways she was. She was very difficult to figure out. She seemed detached as if she didn’t want to see what was really happening in her life, but there was also some wisdom there.

I was hoping she would wake up one day and realize that our drinking career needed to end so that we could get down to the business of being productive members of society. I spoke to her about this frequently, but it only irritated her. She wanted to be a life long college kid. I wanted something completely different. That became very apparent and we ended the relationship. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through. I was still in love with her no matter what had happened throughout the relationship. I just wanted her to take an honest look at her life, but she didn’t feel the need to do that. She chose drinking over our relationship.

After we broke up, my drinking was completely out of control. I had become a raging alcoholic grabbing on to anything for comfort. The loss of that relationship was like a death to me. Unfortunately, I drank my feelings away and never dealt with it. After about a year and a half, I finally decided that I needed to stop drinking. I failed many times, but never stopped trying. I realized that even though I was relapsing every once in a while, I was getting better little by little. I finally started to take it seriously and started going to AA.

It’s been almost a year since I entered AA and started taking my sobriety seriously. I realize now that sobriety is not only about not drinking. Not picking up a drink is only the initial step. Dealing with all of the feelings of shame and guilt, understanding what your triggers are and learning how to cope with what life brings you is the next step you take. I also realized that this is a life long journey that requires us to take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves on a daily basis.

Last Halloween I was sitting on the patio drinking. This Halloween I’m passing out candy to children and enjoying each moment as it comes. I’m still dealing with the shame and guilt, the anger and resentment and everything else about being a recovering alcoholic. With time, those feelings will pass as long as I understand that thoughts are just thoughts. They aren’t who I am. It’s also important that I remember that I did this to myself. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault. There is no one else to blame and no one else to be angry with.

This year I have hope, clarity and an understanding of myself and others that I didn’t have before. I am living my life with purpose. Instead of keeping my mask on this year, I took my mask off.

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