My heart would swell with pride and gratitude – Kristin Fleming
On Christmas Day, 2020, I began my day with mimosas at 8:00 a.m. Throughout the day and evening, I drank wine on a consistent basis. This wasn't that unusual from any other day at this point in my drinking career. Always needing more, and never having enough. I believed that the numbing effects of alcohol were actually “helping me”, when in fact it was like pouring gasoline on a fire.
On the day after Christmas, as I started to return to a somewhat conscious state, I was confronted by my children and their father, who had decided that if an intervention didn't take place, I was going to lose my life. They confronted me with a week's worth of bottles in the recycle bin… there were 17. Some hard alcohol, mostly bottles of wine – an average of 2 1/2 bottles per day, not including the alcohol that I drank outside of the home, probably an additional 4 bottles. After hearing what my family had to say and taking a real hard and honest look at who I'd become, I reluctantly decided to commit to 90 days of sobriety “for my kids.”
On that first day, I was filled with fear, sadness, rage, anxiety, and racked with heaving sobs. Not knowing where to turn, I looked up “sober podcasts”. In the first podcast that I listened to, the speaker spoke about doing the One Year No Beer challenge. Curiously, I looked it up, and discovered a non-judgmental, forgiving and inspiring community that offered daily emails and affirmations, along with educational instructions about how to begin a life without alcohol. Since I promised my kids sobriety for 90 days, I found a 90-day challenge, and signed up.
Upon joining, I was invited to a Facebook support community, where I read countless stories about others on my journey, and the tips and tricks that they used to be “AF”, alcohol free. I learned all about AF wine and beer, kombucha, and sparkling beverages, as well as the pitfalls and danger signs to be on the lookout for.
As I celebrated New Year's Eve, for the first time sober, in 14 years, I stayed up until midnight with my kids, popped poppers while Face Timing various friends and family, as we rang in the new year. That night, I sobbed with sadness and gratitude at the same time. I have been plagued with debilitating insomnia and night terrors for most of my life, and I was terrified of getting through yet another night without my wine.
As I awoke on New Year's Day, my best friend asked me if I wanted to go to the beach for some ocean therapy. I agreed, and we piled the kids in the car, and went to the ocean. Surrounded by our daughters, we took turns searching for heart-shaped rocks, taking photographs, and even got pummelled by a huge wave! It was my first time being at the ocean sober in many years, and I was surprised by the loud laughter, sights and smells that were flooding my brain that day. I felt euphoric – quite literally, the tide was turning.
Starting out on my challenge
Every day, I received an email from OYNB that contained a video that was either educational, or contained advice and affirmations to support a sober lifestyle. From how to deal with telling others about your sobriety, how to cope with cravings, and relaxation and breathing exercises to get you through just one more day, I had come to look forward to these daily reassurances that I can do this.
In those early weeks, I became a connoisseur of sparkling water – I actually had to purchase plastic bins to hold all of the cans and bottles, as my kitchen began to resemble the shelves at a convenience store. I was enjoying posting my progress on the OYNB Facebook page and receiving accolades and encouragement for my progress. Hearing other new members say that I was inspiring to them filled me with strength and happiness. When I began to show “before and after” photos, my heart would swell with pride and gratitude, as the changes in my skin, hair, face, eyes and demeanour were blatantly obvious.
The community support
On February 10th, day 47 AF, I received the heart-wrenching news that my beloved grandmother had passed away. All along this journey, I had said that I have no idea how I will handle if something “bad” happens- surely, I will relapse. I posted my loss on the OYNB page, with a beautiful picture of me and my “Grammie”. My Facebook notifications lit up like chasing lights on a marquee – I was being surrounded with love, light and healing wishes from people from all over the world, offering their condolences, support and even saying that I can reach out to them if I needed someone to talk to during this hard time. I felt like a safety net had enveloped me and was holding space for me to move through my grief in a safe place that I could share happy memories, concerns and fears. I did not break my sobriety – I even spoke at her funeral calmly, full of love, and knowing that I was being held up by this group and my loved ones, which contributed to my strength on that difficult day.
During my 90-day challenge, I have saved almost $2,000 by not buying alcohol. I have lost 7 lbs and two dress sizes. I am no longer on anti-depressants, I walk or do yoga daily, I can hike 6 miles, my skin is dewy and smooth. I still sing, dance and laugh loud from my belly, and I am told that I have inspired others. I am completing the final two classes that when passed will be the completion of receiving my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology – a journey that has taken more than 5 years to accomplish. I have relaunched Forward Progression, a coaching and consulting practice that I have dedicated so much time and energy to that I refer to it as “my third child.” I am crossing items off of my master list that have taken my whole lifetime to dream of and accomplish. The most important, and at the top of my list, is “to be a positive role model to my children.” CHECK!
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