It was last New Year’s Eve. My first sober NYE.
I quit drinking on January 19th 2020, so I had almost a full year of being sober under my belt. My sobriety, however, took place in the midst of a pandemic. There weren’t parties. There wasn’t much to celebrate.
With the pandemic still in full swing, we were celebrating New Year’s Eve at home with our little family of 5. I had some fun activities planned for the kiddos, complete with an ice cream bar offering an embarrassing amount of topping choices.
The kids were in heaven, and my husband and I were content. We didn’t want to be anywhere else but here, in this moment, with our people.
As the night wore on, I decided to kick things up a notch with a dance party. I blasted One Direction’s Story Of My Life, grabbed a toy broom as a makeshift microphone and hopped up on the coffee table.
Closing my eyes and belting the lyrics, I danced my heart out, hair whipping back and forth, hips moving, fingers pointing.
My oldest joined me on the coffee table, shedding the anxiety and fear she knows so well. We danced and danced until the song was over, and then I played the song again. And again. And again.
The coffee table was our stage, our family our audience. We ran around the room, dancing and laughing, free and wild.
I collapsed onto the couch after the third or fourth song, breathless and spent. My middle girl had joined in at this point, and the girls were performing their own living room concert now. I was happy to take my seat in the front row and be the groupie to their rock stars.
As my heart slowed down and my breath became normal, an uneasy feeling washed over me.
It was instant. A reaction more than a feeling, like my girl’s knee-jerk response in our Pediatrician’s office.
Then, a realization and just as quickly, relief.
No. There was no shame today.
That dancing, wild, silly mama that my kids just witnessed?
That was all ME.
It wasn’t artificial joy caused by one too many glasses of wine. It wasn’t faux silliness or an out of control almost 40 year old mom, buoyed by booze.
The shame dissolved into something else: pride and wonder.
I was proud that I had shown my girl that it was OK to let it all go. We had taken off the weight of judgement like it was a stuffy old winter coat and replaced it with the lightest feeling of all – carefree, unabashed JOY.
If I had been drinking, I would’ve assumed that my dance party was fueled by the alcohol. I would’ve thought that it was the wine that had been the catalyst, maybe even the reason, for my willingness to let go. And even worse, unknowingly, I would’ve taught my daughter the same.
I knew the shame spiral all too well. It had wreaked havoc on me in my 20’s and early 30’s. It was the main reason I had chosen, almost a year prior, to quit drinking. I was intimately aware of shame and the damage it had done to myself and my relationships.
It was this night that I recalled to a new friend a few weeks ago.
I had just learned that she was 20 years sober. Finding this out was GOLD to me. Connecting with other sober women feeds my soul, and I was particularly excited to talk with someone someone who has lived such a full life without alcohol.
She brought it up first.
“You know, its funny. Sobriety has brought out this silly side of me that I don’t know was there before.”
YES. That was it. I had been trying to put my finger on it since that New Year’s Eve.
But that was it.
Sobriety isn’t stone cold. It’s the opposite of that. It’s a process of letting the light in, making room for the silly and the wild. Rather than numbing with alcohol, it’s a sort of coming alive again.
The only way I learned this is by removing the alcohol. I spent so many years thinking that the alcohol was magic.
Turns out, it was me.
Read more about my sobriety journey here!