I live in a place in the US where just about any day is a good day for a party! Today was our annual St. Paddy parade and it cued reflection. As I was pulling my children in the radio flyer wagon, walking the streets, I noticed things I would not have noticed just two years ago. Although a good majority of folks were drinking alcohol at 9 oclock in the morning, many were not. That’s right. Many people were parents or grandparents with young children, sipping coffee waiting for the music and floats to roll. Such a revelation. That in this place of notorious debauchery, drunken antics, alcoholic rowdiness, there are others like me. Well, I’m not sure they are in “active recovery”…maybe they just don’t drink. Or feel the need to get a buzz on a Saturday morning while they wait in anticipation with their happy, smiling children. How can it be that only 18 months ago, the reality of soberity was not on my radar. Far from it. I couldn’t conceive of being sober at a St. Patricks day parade. Are you kidding me? In fact, I remember the same parade just a few years ago. I was horribly hungover from the night before. Shaky, sweaty, head achy, moody…with my one year old and my three year old. It took all I had in me to sit down and avoid vomiting all over the grassy knoll. Even after swallowing beer after beer, my body was still hurting. I was so sick. Today, although crowds continue to be a source of extreme anxiety for me, I was sober and actually participated in the morning. What I mean is…what I need to be grateful for…I was present. I smiled at the drunks, noticed the coffee drinkers, truly aware of actual people not drinking at what once, for me, was an obvious choice to be intoxicated. How far I’ve come. And I’m only beginning my journey. Did I feel an itch when the guy walked by me with a 6 pack, or the girls in green socks sipped frozen beverages out of shamrock straws? It was surreal, dreamlike. Like looking in a mirror at my former self. But also seeing a thing for what it is…the simplicity of abstinence. The difficulty of recovery. And I know as I age, as the days and years go by without drink, I will be more accepting of drinkers and drinking. I wonder how recovering addicts would feel in a crowd of parade goers shooting up, snorting lines right before their very eyes. That’s what separates alcoholism and alcoholics from the drug addict. Until you can walk down the street smoking crack while enjoying a morning parade, I’m not sure you can realize how strong us alcoholics have to be in this boozy world. Alcohol is everywhere. But today I could see that it also was not. If you look for it, you will find the reason to stay the course. Grateful for the reminder. I always knew getting sober and living sober would not include avoidance for me. I want to be part of life. I want to participate in this world around me, the truth is that it unfortunately includes a lot of alcohol. Folks don’t know how strong we are until we have to be. I’m learning how to be a person in this world. I love it that much and I want to stay for a while. I will keep recovering and I thank my Higher Power for giving me hope and strength and insights like I never knew. If you are struggling, it gets easier because you get better. That’s all I can say. Not sure sobriety is ever gonna be easy, but it makes you a better person. I promise. I’m her.