January 2020 | Spiritual Awakenings

Return to Bourbon St.

For years, New Year’s Eve was a drunken blur. Now that she’s sober, she can remember it

New Year’s Eve was my favorite holiday to get drunk because everyone around me had the same goal—or so I thought. Every New Year’s Eve, I’d convince myself that it was completely normal to get drunk. And each year, the next day I would always make a resolution to drink less and less often. However, every year I drank more and lived with those old feelings of guilt and shame, which only grew throughout the year.

I grew up in East Tennessee, and football and drinking went hand-in-hand. The ultimate goal was seeing our team win the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship and an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl, which was held on New Year’s Day in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

What I loved about New Orleans was that you could drink in public! Stories of good friends and family celebrating there for the New Year were always filled with drinking. It was an alcoholic’s dream, walking up and down Bourbon Street with a rum-infused hurricane drink in hand.

My first visit to New Orleans was as a recent graduate of my university. Our university team was set to play a team from a neighboring state, which was a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). 

The ACC team wore coats and ties versus our “loud and proud” approach that included team colors on every piece of clothing, even our shoes. My entire family met in New Orleans to watch our team play in the Superdome on New Year’s Day. In the bar with my family, there were more “coats and ties” fans than “loud and proud” fans. A couple of us started talking to fans from the other team and quickly drank them under the table. In other words, we beat them. My alma mater went on to barely win their game New Year’s Day, more reason to celebrate on Bourbon Street.

Nearly a decade later, I was in the military, stationed overseas during the first New Year’s Day of the 21st century. The Y2K scare filled the air back then and my military friends were hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner. Luckily, the village fireworks at midnight ended up being the only craziness that night. Our phones and computers still functioned. The world didn’t end. I knew this year would be different since I was having a period where I was drinking “normally” for a while. I had convinced myself I was not an alcoholic.

Almost another decade would pass until my last New Year’s Eve before coming into AA. I was now back in the States. It was a typical military party, a bunch of us friends having a big dinner to celebrate. There were so many choices for alcohol because these friends had been overseas—European beer and wine, in addition to champagne for midnight, flowed freely. My husband at the time, who drank just one—even on New Year’s Eve!—was my designated driver. As we left the party in the wee hours of the morning, I remember being grateful he was willing to drive, as I was seeing blurry triple lines on the road. Again, I thought to myself, this year is going to be different.

I went to AA and got sober in November of 2009. I’m so grateful I got sober in a large city with a big family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration called First Night. My first sponsor invited me to join her there with a group of sober women who were planning on walking around the live music venues and capping off the evening by watching the fireworks. Also, just blocks from this event, in the church basement where I attended my first AA meeting, there was a big New Year’s Eve “alkathon.” I had 55 days in recovery that first sober New Year’s Eve. I was surrounded all evening by a plethora of alcohol-free options and, most importantly, many incredible, sober women in the Fellowship.

Today, I have eight years of sobriety. I try to live my sober life in keeping with a statement in the Big Book: “Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do.” 

For me, being spiritually fit means having a sponsor who takes me through the Steps. It means sponsoring other alcoholics in AA. It means I have a home group and a service position, and surround myself with sober women who are incredibly dedicated to recovery.

God willing, this New Year’s Eve will be my last as an active-duty member of our armed forces. I’m retiring next year with nearly 29 years of service. It will also be my last year as a divorced sober woman, because I’ll be marrying my best friend, who has 25 years in recovery. I look forward to my first trip to New Orleans as a member of this Fellowship, walking down Bourbon Street after attending an AA meeting. I know there will always be meetings wherever life takes me, even on New Year’s Eve.

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