On February 17th 1985, I began my life sober from alcohol.
While I have kept my sobriety for almost 38 years since that day, having a full year of solid mental wellness has not been my experience.
The uninvited visitor of ass kicking depression knocks on the door somewhere in October and doesn’t like to leave until March. And I am in an episode now.
It’s common in recovery circles to celebrate the anniversary date so that people can see sobriety from alcohol over extended amounts of time is possible. This is sometimes done with a special speaker and cake. I have always felt joy and good esteem at these celebrations.
In February of 2018, I celebrated my 33rd sobriety date in the psych ward in Tulsa, Oklahoma. No cake, but at least they had ice cream.
In February of 2022, I celebrated my 37th sobriety date in the psych ward in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. And they didn’t have ice cream.
25 years ago, after my daughter was born, I began to have suicidal ideation when I had postpartum depression on the edge of psychosis. With every seasonal depressive episode, the pain of the suffering was an exquisite agony, if there can be such a thing. I never wanted to actually die, but the suffering was excruciating. And over time, my passive interest in killing myself began to take on a life of its own.
To say it was humbling to celebrate in the setting where people are locked in to try to be well and attended to, would be an understatement. Poignant might be a good word depending on your perspective. A blessing when you think about the alternative of being permanently gone. And believe me, I made the best of it wherever I was.
2018 was a hard year. Not just season. And that was the year that Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade both ended their private hells. Envious that their suffering likely had ended, I found myself googling ways to check out. And that frightened me.
It is said that alcoholism is a progressive disease, and that if I were to pick up a drink, I could find myself as if I had been drinking all these years. This is something I will not test. I was a black out drinker at 25 and I feel sure that during a blackout today, the brain chemistry and booze might lead me to my permanent end.
It has been my experience, up until modern medical breakthrough therapy came into my life in 2022, that my suicidal ideation had become a progressive entity as well. Thank God I always ask for help. And get it. Because I do get to the other side. Every time.
In February of 2020, I had a different experience with the seasonal depression. I was visiting Florida for the month to try it on for size as my potential new sun filled home away from landlocked status in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This time, I was able to celebrate 35 years of sobriety with other people in recovery not inside a locked hospital ward.
The noteworthy difference in my mood during the February I was at the beach in Florida is this. Every day without fail, (for 29 days because it was a leap year), I was on the beach when the universe turned on the lights at sunrise. And it helped.
So here is my declaration. For this month of February 2023, I, Lucinda, will invest in my well-being and attend the opening ceremonies for each day as the universe turns on the lights in this beautiful place, I get to call home.
If you’re reading this and wonder how on earth it’s possible to not drink for nearly 38 years, this is how I did it. I didn’t pick up a drink and put it to my mouth. I didn’t die. I finally found a real connection to my maker. And I ask for help. In lots of places. Whenever I need it most.
I know it is hard to reach out when you feel as though there is a boulder crushing you, but please know you’re worth the effort and if you don’t know it there are people who will know it for you until you do. Feel free to reach out to me if you are struggling with any of these things. It’s nice to not have suffered in vain and it helps me to share with others.