Today I am 31 years young 31 years ago my fearless and courageous mother gave birth to her second and last child. She tells me she knew I would be the crazy one. Shortly after I learned to walk I began to teach my older sister how to do mischievous things, like open the toilet seat lid and play in the water. Another time my mom was running a bath for me and I snuck into the bathroom and turned the knobs to scalding hot, then proceeded to put my feet in, burning myself and screaming bloody murder. At the grocery store I would run down the aisles away from my mom, laughing my ass off, thinking it was hilarious she couldn't catch me and didn't know where I was.
I don't think my mother planned on watching her baby spiral into, and eventually out of, a dark addiction. This year on June 7, she'll celebrate my 4th belly button birthday in recovery. If I can make life as her daughter a little less of a roller coaster for her, I will spend the rest of my life willing to try. Before my 28th birthday, the only thing my birthday meant to me was a huge party and I would most likely be blacking out while surrounded by friends, or popping bottles in VIP. The birthday celebrations generally continued for a week. I was the queen of finding reasons to party and if I could make my birthday last for week, why not? My mother always said, "You know your birthday is just another day." And now I understand why she wanted to make sure I knew my birthday was an uneventful, normal day in the scheme of this big universe.
I now reflect on my birthday each year with gratitude and through the framework of my sobriety. I don't know any other way. My sobriety has been the biggest transformational shift of my life and I believe I will always view it as "what happened before" and "how life is after." As I turn 31 this year, it's hard for me to believe how different my life looks from this time last year. If you read my post from last year, I was a little depressed about turning 30. I was living in my parents' house with Fer, looking for a secure career path, and wondering where my life would take me. This year I have a fiancé, a new home, and a full-time job where I get to write about the things I'm passionate about, every day. It's really true what they say about things working out in their own time. I didn't know that life would be so different just one year later, but then I shouldn't be surprised because it has been that way in the past too.
Looking back on my 30th birthday I feel kind of silly being stressed by self-imposed arbitrary timelines, but then again I've always had to learn things in my own way. If I've learned anything during this last year, it's that life never goes according to plan. You can try to be prepared, but in the end you have to adapt to whatever the universe throws your way.
Birthdays to me now, mean one more year of precious life that I am given. I didn't realize it then, but during all the birthdays I celebrated in my 20's, until the age of 27, I was literally throwing my life away. I measured happiness and success in dark nightclubs and random encounters with people I'll never remember. I thought "fun" was drinking dirty martinis and scoring bottles in the VIP section. I lived for the craziness that ensued after every night out. I thought families, children, a steady income, and creating a loving home was lame. I was on the highway to an early death and I didn't care. I thought that was living. But I was wrong.
Birthdays should be reflective, relaxing, and full of gratitude. Birthdays should be cherished, not "celebrated" by blacking out, and binge drinking. I don't have time for that anymore. At 31, I've finally grasped just how precious and fleeting this life is. It makes me sad to know that I've wasted so many birthdays getting wasted when I could have been laughing with my family, meditating on the beach, or riding roller coasters at Disney World. Maybe it's because life is so short that I couldn't come to terms with the fact that I was drinking my life away. Without alcohol I am soft. I weep. I laugh. I feel. And it is ever so exhausting. I have been forced to open up, to love, to allow the people in my life to love me and to love them back. Drinking was my armor, my wall that shielded my heart from the world. And God, it's hard being out there vulnerable and raw, without alcohol to protect me, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Alcohol was only ever a temporary fix; a temporary fix I tried so hard to make permanent. Knowing this fact is what makes me never want to go back. Alcohol will never be the solution I so desperately want it to be. It wasn't then and it won't be in the future. The thing that has given me more birthdays to look forward to, the tools to truly live life to the fullest, and an irreplaceable calmness in my heart, is recovery.
I'm still learning how to forgive, how to say no, and how to be unapologetic about my goals, but maybe 32 will hold some more gems of wisdom. What I know today is that I am so goddamn lucky to be here. To be alive, to be sober, to be present and content with my life.
June 7, it's just another day, right mom? People will die, new babies will be born, others will graduate, get married, or move houses. Hopefully others will get sober. Me? I will wake up in my comfy bed, next to the same man, and go through the same routine I have for the last few months - CrossFit, work, maybe a nice dinner. And I'm ok with that. Routine is enough for me, in fact it's comforting, and I am finally content with sharing my special day with others, whoever they may be.