May 31

Today would have been our anniversary. A day I’ll never forget. Even though years have passed since our last one together, with more distance between us with each year that goes by and someday we will have spent more years a part than together it’s a day I’ll always think of us, but -only at the beginning. That’s when it was the best. It was right after Memorial Day weekend and there was a warmth in the air. I could smell summer on the horizon even with the coolness after the sun set. It was breezy that night, I wore my favorite gray hoodie with a hole in the front pocket as we walked and talked and told each other our hearts. I was nervous so I ran my finger along the frayed edge of the pocket where the hole was growing. I tried to stitch that hole over and over again for years after that night so that I could keep my favorite hoodie, just like in some ways I tried to stitch us. But on this one, very first breezy night, there was a lot of hope in the air. This was one of those days where I remember the smell and the temperature so well that over the next 14 years we were together occasionally there would be a cool spring evening just like that one where the weather would remind me of that first night together.

I started to forget what that breeze felt like. Especially after you left.

Until recently.

It was spring this time last year. Right around Memorial Day. The days were warm and the nights were cool. Familiar. I had been working so hard on letting go of so many things that no longer served me, including you. Where there were no longer those certain unhealthy things taking up space, where they had been comfortable for so many years there was room. Lot of it. Giant voids wanting to be filled. Wide open. It was so hard not to fill them. Even in all the self work, in all the clearing out the clutter, some of these unhealthy things remained. Like drinking. And after a typical “fun” night out where I had drank too much and worried far too long after, I laid on my yoga mat, in a fetal position, rocking back and forth.

A year ago I wrote about that exact experience on that mat that day. It was just at the beginning of a big decision, and at the time I wrote it I didn’t realize how big it would be. That moment made this moment I was experiencing a full circle one, 365 days later possible.  Focusing on my my teacher’s words that day “Let go of what no longer serves you. Take what you need, release the rest.” Like a Tibetan bowl, they rang in my ears, resonated in my heart and stayed with me. 

I thought about those things that no longer served me. I thought about my relationship with food as I stretched on that mat, rocking back and forth and how I had gotten into such a healthy place, ending my co-dependent, therapeutic relationship with it and how that was so worth celebrating. Then in lieu of celebration I thought about alcohol, I curled up tighter, rolling back and forth, back and forth, as shame bubbled up.  I reflected on how it had become a more regular occurrence in my life especially in the days since removing mindless eating out of my routine. Because of that swap and how it filled that giant void that was begging to be filled, soothing it, I knew that it added nothing good in my life. Nothing. Drinking always started in good fun, even when I didn’t stop... celebrating even in the excess, until the next day. When I would wake up. Heaviness in my chest. Trouble breathing. Shame and guilt appeared and remained. For days. Sometimes those feelings didn’t leave at all, just getting buried underneath new ones. Like this one memory that will always remain. A memory I’ll never forget, like our anniversary. Sometimes I wish I would forget both.

I think back about a time in NYC years ago where I was at a fancy party for food bloggers and writers, among chefs I admired and I was didn’t’ know anyone. I was excited. I was also already nervous and that in combination with celebration, drank so much. So much. I didn’t mean to. It was all in good fun, until it wasn’t. I felt like every time I drank a small sip from my glass someone from the staff came by, topping me off with more, too much. I got sick at that party that night. So sick. All over the bathroom. I tried to clean up. I was a mess and I’m not just referring to the status of the bathroom tidiness. I didn’t think anyone would know. Oh but they did. I tried to hide it and I was mortified, I barely remember getting home that night which is scary, waking up the next day so ashamed of myself. I bashfully reached out to the PR team that threw the party first thing the next morning apologizing for forgiveness, from them and myself hoping it wasn’t as bad as I hazily remembered and matter of factly receiving a reply, being asked in return to pay a cleaning fee. My face was so red in that moment I thought it would last forever and that people would look at me and know what had happened, even if I never told another soul about it. Until now. Until you.

In the years since this experience I worked really hard on giving myself grace and understanding for that night. All these years later every time I occasionally think of it, that terrible pit in my stomach remains. My face feels flushed. I feel ashamed. That is how I would often feel a day after drinking. Even if it was a fun night. I worried. I beat myself up. Shame. Guilt. I felt terrible after, always. And after all that hard work I was doing to take care of myself mentally and physically this was doing nothing but the opposite of that in both areas. So as I left that one yoga class at the end of May of last year I decided to stop, to take a break from drinking for the month of June. Just to see what came up for me, or what didn’t come up in those 30 days.  One month passed, quickly. More easily than I thought. I was still social, probably more and still went out with friends even to bars. The most amazing thing happened in that first month. I still had fun. Even better, I had fun and then woke up the next day without any of those old feelings. I was in control of all my actions and my words and was intentional. I never felt shame in that way I was so familiar with and haven’t again. I haven’t had to worry about losing control, but not in a controlling way, in a freeing away.

So I went onto month two. And then month three. I didn’t miss it. Wait- I didn’t miss it?  My friends curiously asked when I would start drinking again. I think they worried I wouldn’t be fun anymore, I knew I would be more fun. I always told them I wasn’t sure but I knew this felt right. So I continued on.  I had a lot of mocktails, and seltzers and memories I actually remembered. I was present. I saved money. I saved energy from constantly worrying. At first I would respond to people when they asked that why I wasn’t drinking with “I’m taking a break from drinking for the month.”

Then it became “I’m taking a break from drinking.”

And then evolved into “I don’t drink.”

So after one month that turned into twelve, I celebrate that day in late May and decided that OUR anniversary would become MY anniversary. One year of not drinking. May 31 2019. A date I’ll never forget. It was right after Memorial Day weekend and there was a warmth in the air. I could smell summer on the horizon even with the coolness after the sun set.  It was breezy that night, and on this one, breezy night like that first one before it there was a lot of hope in the air.  I stepped outside and I thought about you but also thought about me and I felt it- that familiar cool breeze after a warm spring day and as the breeze blew over me this time, it felt different, I felt different and it all had a new meaning. Happy anniversary to me.





Sarah Polite