This may seem like a hilarious comparison, but hear me out. As I sat down to write a blog post reflecting on these past 60 days of my sobriety, I thought to myself, “How do I accurately explain all of the ways that I have come alive in the last two months?…all the things that I have started doing (or not doing) to better myself? How on earth do I begin to describe the absolute ground zero on which I started to reconstruct my whole “self” as I knew it? So, naturally, I Googled (because we live in the future) “Two Month Development”. Et voilà: it turns out that my experience mirrors, surprisingly well, the week-by-week development of a two-month-old baby.
The series starts its narrative at week #2, which I find fitting, since the first week of sobriety (and of life) is nothing more than stumbling around, drooling, in a state of awe (everyone’s awe is different; for me, perhaps because I have experienced long-ish term sobriety before, my awe was full of feelings and thoughts such as “Holy shitballs I love not being hungover at work, I’m so much better at my job!”, “How/why/what the fuck was I thinking when I started drinking again?!” and “Whoa the Texas sky is so beautiful! Look at that sunset! (as tears well up in my eyes)”). Below are the titles of each week’s description of a newborn’s development from an article on http://www.babycenter.com, (the article is found here, and excerpts will be italicized in quotations below, and are directly from the site that I have cited unless indicated otherwise) then translated into my own two month development (sobriety). I’m only including the weeks that really resonated with me, as eight full explanations seemed a little overzealous.
Week #2: It’s a scary world. “Your womb was a warm and cozy environment, and it’ll take time for your baby to adjust to the various sights, sounds, and sensations of life outside your body. You may not be able to detect much of a personality just yet, as your baby spends his time moving in and out of several different states of sleepiness, quiet alertness, and active alertness. […] The only way your baby knows to communicate is by crying.”
You bet your sweet ass this world we live in is scary! And booze provided a warm and fuzzy blanket of denial over my entire life: social situations persisted that I was not happy with, my insecurities were covered up (until I would black out and unleash every last one of them, oops), any long-term success goals I had were ignored, and I was always hungover, so the world around me was dimmed and blurred. The second week of sobriety felt confusing; as the sights, sounds, and sensations of processing life through clear lenses was overwhelming at times. My personality certainly couldn’t be detected fully, since I was not comfortable with my true self shining through (because I actually wasn’t even confident I knew myself much at all!). I slept A LOT. And well, the crying thing, I’ll talk more about this in another post.
Week #5 (two choices from this time period): The first real smiles. “Smiling happens at about the same time in all cultures, so get ready for your baby to reward all your loving care with a beaming, toothless, just-for-you smile. This will probably make your heart melt, even if you’ve just had your worst night yet.”
A little over a month in, I started to notice how genuinely and unthinkingly I felt emotions. Everyday, all the time. I felt all of them more vibrantly (sadness included), but for me, feeling grateful and happy was especially surprising (since, after all, I was depressed and muted and sad constantly while drinking). I noticed I was smiling more naturally, like I did when I was younger (like, much younger, since I started drinking at the ripe old age of 16). Which brought me deep relief and joy. I remember thinking, “so this is what it feels like to experience real joy, it’s been such a long time! There’s really no need to drink to fascilitate laughter”. Trust me, the real feeling is much, much better.
Sound asleep. “Your baby may start sleeping longer at night (maybe four to six hours).”
Many people claim alcohol helps them get to sleep. I was never one of those people. In fact, my brain must release an incredible amount of chemical stimulants to counteract the depressing effect of alcohol (after learning this actually happens, my drunken hyper-state and behavior started to make so much more sense, yay science!), because I’d always stay up all night drinking, no matter how much or how little I imbibed. The following day would be spent in and out of an anxiety-ridden 20-hour-long nap (literally my hell). Needless to say, not drinking has made me a Sleep Goddess. I sleep like a baby, nearly every single night.
Week 6: Music appreciation. “Now that your baby’s awake for longer periods during the day, you can use these times to support his sensory development. Try singing your favorite lullabies or playing music. […] Your baby might also enjoy the sound of wind chimes or a ticking clock. The more varied the offerings, the richer the impact. Inevitably, you’ll notice that your baby responds to and favors some selections more than others as he begins to develop preferences.”
This is particularly noteworthy for me. Likely, many of you reading this experience a deep connection to music. It has a way of showing us a deeper understanding of a world of emotions that seem to make no sense. I have always especially loved live music, and have been going to festivals since long before they were cool. I’d rarely say no to a show or concert. Guaranteed, if a band I like is in town, I’d be going to see them. I’ve also had drink (or drugs) in my system at nearly all of these events; limiting my ability to realize if the fun time I was having was actually fun, or just a ruse. I now experience live music on a totally different plane; I have grown much more picky about the music I deem as worthwhile, and I know exactly when I am ready to go home.
I also find myself listening to nature and other sounds more intently. I’ll focus my ears on the wind passing through trees in my backyard, the wind chimes (I actually had no idea these were there before) on my porch, or people laughing as they walk past me in the street (cheesy AF, I know, but that’s what happens when you’re sober, life becomes cheesier and cheesier).
Each week’s descriptions would end with a disclaimer of sorts: “Remember, your baby is an individual. All babies are unique and meet milestones at their own pace. Developmental guidelines simply show what your baby has the potential to accomplish – if not right now, then soon.”
This disclaimer fits nicely, though funny, as a reminder, in my development with sobriety; sometimes I get stuck comparing myself to others’ progress, or being too hard on myself for not being perfect. It is so important to remember that no one experience is the same, and each person’s sobriety story is unique. Growth happens one little milestone at a time, and it’s only after it has occurred that we can really look back and revel in awe at what we have accomplished.