FOUR MONTHS AND SOMETHING DAYS INTO SOBRIETY
By: Tsholo Shounyane
I am a South African Black woman and my country is on Level-3 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This basically means that nobody really cares about quarantining anymore. We have sort of returned to our normal lives, and from the looks of things nobody gives a damn.
Aside from COVID-19, South Africa has been dealing with a number of other crises. Murders. A crumbling education and health care system. An increase in gender based violence. One big mess after the other. Problems continue to arise. Still, I am blessed because despite all of the chaos I have found my centre and continue to focus on my sobriety. I finally put the bottle down on Sunday, March 15, 2020, after accepting that I could no longer drink responsibly.
A huge thank you to Tsholo Shounyane and the Sober Black Girls Club for sharing this moving and important story about sobriety during Covid-19. Find more terrific content at the Sober Black Girls Club, an incredible community that provides resources and support to Black girls considering a beautiful, sober life!
I did not hit rock bottom. I did not lose my job. I did not get into a car accident. From the outside looking in, I was doing well. When I told my friends and family that I thought I had a drinking problem, they figured I was being dramatic. They thought I was being “too hard” on myself, but the truth of the matter is there was no middle ground to my drinking. There was no balance. Did I drink daily? No. I didn’t even drink weekly. But when I did drink, I DRANK! I could not stop after two glasses, and I wasn’t just drinking wine. I enjoyed drinking the strong stuff. I tried really really hard not to drink at home but I did. My country has a horrible drinking culture and what we consider “normal” is actually quite unhealthy and dangerous.
I decided to give up drinking for a number of reasons. I was tired of drunk driving. I could no longer stand for my own hypocrisy, endangering the lives of others. My drinking was never planned and hardly ever took place over the weekend. It was haphazard and usually occurred after work or when I was feeling triggered. It was spontaneous so I never planned for an Uber or a Taxify.
I could also no longer stand the hangovers and days wasted on recovery when I could have been focusing on crafting or writing or hobbies. I was tired of getting into arguments with my partner and not being able to remember anything about them. I was tired of wondering if I embarrassed myself the night before and rethinking about all of the things I said and did that could have potentially offended anyone. I was tired of the way I felt about myself. I was tired of the self loathing.
My journey with alcohol has been a strange one. I had my first drink at a party in high school. I got into the party scene shortly after that, and realized the effects of drinking and the type of person I became under the influence. A month before my 19th birthday in 2006, I decided to stop drinking alcohol completely. I did not want to begin my adult life under the influence. I was living in the United Kingdom, at the time, and wanted something different for myself. Something new. I also committed to lacto-vegetarianism. I no longer eat eggs, fish and meat.
Things were great until 2011. I nearly died from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy in January, and my brother was murdered in December of that same year. I completely fell apart, and I haven’t been the same since. It has been a journey trying to piece myself back together. Some days it’s even difficult to look at myself in the mirror.
In 2012, I began to drink daily. I drank while working my 9-5. I drank while studying for my Post Graduate Certificate in Education and while hosting my Sunday radio show. I could not handle my past- the trauma I endured- without being under the influence. I drank myself as far away from reality as I could. Running from all the hurt. Between 2013 and 2015, I entered a relationship that broke me even further. I did not drink during the relationship but I returned to the bottle as soon as it was over. My life took a strange turn and for four years I constantly asked myself: “who are you”? “Is this who you want to be?” I was a stranger to myself. I was foreign to me.
At some point I realized that I could no longer live life like this anymore. I had so much to lose. I felt like I wasted so much time. I wanted to save my relationships with my partner and with my family. I wanted to face my anger and traumas head on. I wanted to feel better without alcohol. I knew it was possible.
I tried to get sober and failed so many times in the past. I’ve lied to myself so many times. I was so concerned with how other people would view me. I sure as hell didn’t want to come across as a prune. But I had to make a choice. I had to fight for my life with my life. I knew that if I wanted to be a good daughter, a good partner, a good sister, a good aunt , a good artist and a good friend that I would have to be good to me. I had to start with myself.
These last four months have given me so much. I am 126 days into sobriety and these last couple of months have been the best couple of months in the last nine years of my life.
Every day is another chance to get it right. To save my life. To live my life.
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