I woke up feeling hungover. My head hurt, I was dehydrated, and I felt a sense of dread. I didn’t drink last night, as I haven’t every night for over 8 months, but still felt it, the “sick heat of hangover” as Lorrie Moore described it. It is a cruel joke because freedom from hangovers is an undeniable benefit, and no small benefit at that, of living sober. One of the first AA meetings I went to, two years ago, when I did not want to go to AA meetings at all, when I was tired and desperate, but not yet willing to get better, I heard a man speak about this. He remembered his first real day of sobriety, after withdrawal, walking to work. He had wanted to jump for joy, click his heels and dance around a lamppost, because there he was: walking down the same street he always had, in the same clothes, under the same sun, waiting at the same light, without a hangover.
My first real day out of rehab was sunny. The park by my house was full of people, even though it was 11am on a Tuesday. I walked to my car along a familiar route. 4 blocks I had walked many times. This time, I looked up at people that passed me. I breathed in. I noticed that it was Spring and it was not raining. Noticed the sun. I felt present for the first time in so long. Felt like I was there, on the sidewalk, and not under water. I felt ok about whatever might happen because you never know what to expect and you can’t worry about it because it’s going to happen anyway. I didn’t know what “it” was exactly, except that it was the future. I felt free. I said “thank you” out loud and smiled.