I Haven’t Had a Drink in Three Yearswoman on Beach

Today I have three years sober. By the grace of some cosmic force that allows space to infinitely — magnificently — expand into nothingness, I haven’t tasted alcohol in 1,095 days.

That’s 1,095 days of facing the terror in my brain playing on a perpetual feedback loop. I thought I could outdrink it with whiskey, beer, cider, or wine. It turns out, if you challenge fear to a foot race, it always wins in the end. So on August 7, 2016, I decided to befriend fear. What can this emotion teach me? What is it really masking?

Since then, I’ve learned that my fear was actually disguising anger at myself. I despised myself because I’d known for so long that I was secretly queer, yet I couldn’t face that fact. I’d been living a heterosexual life for 26 years, after all. What would everyone think if I were to disrupt my seemingly perfect life? This deep, dark secret caused me to lash out at those I was supposed to love. In fact, when I was 30 days sober, I wrote the following paragraph:

If my sobriety were somehow universally significant and broadcasted on every major news station, I feel like all of my ex-boyfriends would breathe a collective sigh of relief that could blow over an old-growth redwood grove. Prayers would be muttered, and violent fights would be explained. This, obviously, is a completely self-centered fantasy, yet the underlying need of sending my amends to past loves remains the same. I’m sorry to everyone I’ve hurt, I’m sorry to my liver, and my own damn self for causing this much trouble and heartache.

I’ve learned so much since I wrote that paragraph three years ago. I’ve learned how to stand firmly and quietly, just like that old-growth redwood grove. I’ve made amends, and I’ve hurt more people. I’ve realized that by making certain amends, I’d hurt myself or the other person even more. And I’ve learned that sometimes, you don’t owe anyone a goddamn apology.

But I’ve also learned how to love. So deeply, it sometimes evolves into that old friend: Terror. Have you ever loved someone so fully, you worry that your soul would be ripped apart if they ever disappeared? I’ve felt that for the first time, and sobriety has taught me love like that is perhaps the greatest lesson.

Sobriety has given me so many gifts: I have hobbies. I’m writing again. I’m going to graduate school. I came out. I found love. I live in a beautiful little mismatched home where I burn way too much incense and listen to “Visions of Johanna” on repeat. This life is better than I could’ve ever imagined.

I’ll end with this: I recently attended a wedding with my partner. For a few minutes, I sat alone outside on a wooden bench eating a piece of wedding cake. It was my first wedding I attended as part of a queer couple, and people treated us with love and respect, even though we were the only gay people there. Perhaps I was the only sober person there. But I felt no fear; just a deep, deep sense of gratitude. In the heat of a Southern Minnesota summer, I ate my sheet cake and felt safe in my body. Finally.

Later that night, I slow danced with my partner. It was the first time I’d ever felt that overwhelming sense of love from dancing I’d only seen in movies. Full with sheet cake and La Croix, I knew I was home.

Bonnie Horgos

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I’m a former Californian living and freezing in Minneapolis. I write about mental health, sobriety, LGBTQ issues, and feminism. www.bonniehorgos.com.