When I was 19, I fell in love with a man named Brian. I was utterly, hopelessly, disgustingly in LOVE in a way only a 19 year-old can be in love. He was remarkably flawed. He was a 26 year-old, follically challenged restaurant manager who lived with his mom and yet, I utterly worshipped him. When he broke up with me on our one year anniversary because he was having sex with another woman, I was beyond devastated. I became a ghost of myself. I lost weight. I became terribly ill. It was all very Victorian. I pined and raged. I sobbed and mourned his loss with every fiber of my soul. But, I also started taking better care of myself. I learned that I was ok on my own. I grew stronger. I began to figure out who I really was and began to find comfort in my own skin for the first time on my life. About 2 months after “the breakup,” he started calling me again. At first I was overjoyed, but at the memory of the pain and suffering I had endured, I became cautious even reticent. About a month later, I met my husband. He saw and fell in love with me, the real me not a version of me I created to please him. He supported and respected me- something completely new. I was able to kick Brian out of my life and fall into a much healthier, stronger love.
I was thinking about my relationship with alcohol and reflecting what I have learned in the last six months. My irrational devotion to alcohol was much like my devotion to Brian and my “break-up” with alcohol paralleled both the pain and struggle I endured and the amazing peace and clarity I gained through that experience. Giving up alcohol was (and still is) messy, endlessly difficult, excruciatingly painful but also rewarding on a level I don’t think I can easily explain. I have discovered myself again. Sobriety has not been a magic bullet. My life is far from perfect. But sobriety has enabled me to find peace and gratitude for my life and for my self, just as it is and just as I am. In sobriety, I find it easier to embrace the now rather than endlessly fret over the future or pine for the past. This is a radical shift.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease. Recovery requires constant vigilance. I need to remind myself of this often. Recovery is (and should be) hard work. For me, recovery has become huge part of my daily routine and thought process. There is not one day that has gone by where I have not thought about and worked on my recovery. I have had to rework aspects of my life to fit into my new alcohol free paradigm. I have not set foot in a liquor store for six months. I avoid bars like the plague. I declined party invitations this year and I asked my family to make my home alcohol free over the holidays. It hasn’t been an easy switch but what in life that is truly worth anything comes easily?
I am lucky. I have a lot of support. I have AMAZING friends. My husband is also sober and is my rock. He relapsed in October and it shook my sobriety to its core. I realized that although we are on this journey together, our recovery is not intertwined or interdependant. Also, while I have determined that AA is not a great fit for me at this time, I find daily meaningful interaction with other alcoholics to be the cornerstone of my recovery program.
I am not saying I have it all locked up. Everyone has their own path. I am not, nor will I ever be, “cured.” I am, however, a much better version of myself sober. I choose this life over alcohol any day.
This week has felt like one long sobriety test (pun intended) but I have decided that Friday, is by far, my least favorite day of the week (this might be because school hasn’t started and I am a teacher). I had a shit day on Wednesday and couldn’t find anyone to watch my kids so I could go to a meeting. Grrr. My solution was pizza and wings (better than bourbon, right?). I made it through. Thursday, conversely, was a wonderful day. I usually go to an AA meeting on Thursday (or at least that is the day I have “committed” to meeting attendance) but I was feeling so good that I decided to skip it. Friday (Today), however, sucked on a near biblical level. All day, thoughts of Friday “happy hour”drinks kept popping into my head. I spent the day with a really good friend, but she is a normie so I didn’t feel totally comfortable giving her a play by play of the inner workings of my alcoholic brain (although we did have a cool conversation about HPs).
The day went smoothly until it didn’t. Within an hour, I found out my dad was in the hospital and my children (6 and 4), who had behaved all day, lost their minds and turned into demon children right before my eyes. The icing on the cake was that my son decided to bring our very large, very untrained, very unworldly dogs out into the front yard on a leash. The dogs, being utter morons and weighing around 200 lbs together, took off down a huge hill that leads directly to a busy street. It was utter chaos featuring a cacophony of of screaming children and their very angry, very freaked out (flip flop wearing- not conducive to chasing dogs down a hill) mom. No wonder the dogs made a run for it. It all miraculously turned out ok (the dogs are ok and I didn’t sell my children) but holy fucking hell did I want a drink after all of that.
On one of the messages my dad left from the hospital, he said he was proud of me for going to AA and encouraged me to keep going. Hubby watched the wee ones and I attended a meeting. It was my favorite meeting so far and I feel much, much better. I survived the afternoon from hell without bourbon, beer or wine! Woo-hoo!
I have been going to meeting for a couple of weeks and I feel like I might like to try out the whole sponsor thing. How does that work? Do you ask someone or wait until they offer? I feel like the little bird in “Are you my mother?” when I consider asking someone… Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank goodness Friday is almost OVER!
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I just posted this on a friend’s blog but it seems to really speak to so much of what so many folks are going through in the recovery process. Fergie is actually a recovered addict. Quite a success story, right? (Yes, I know it is trashy pop music and I may have my indie-punk card revoked for posting it, but ‘Cool’ is overrated anyhow). :)-
Wolfie whispered in my ear as I passed a mirror tonight. I was laughing at something my husband said and I caught a glimpse of myself. The conversation went like this:
Wolfie (voice flat and small): What are you doing? This isn’t you. You want your life back, don’t you?
Me: Fuck you.
It was a much shorter internal conversation than the maranthon from yesterday. In my life when I am doing the ‘wrong’ thing (something that doesn’t make me happy-usually in the form of bad relationships or friendships) I get this anxious lump in my chest. Tonight, it felt as if something in my subconscious was trying to manufacture that feeling. The feeling of being on the wrong path. But it wasn’t genuine. It tasted like synthetic sugar and felt like cheap polyester. I have been thinking about that other path for an hour or two now. I was so afraid to give up that life. That drunken bourbon/tequila/beer and wine soaked existence. I told myself that it was easy, fun, exciting. It was cool. It was gritty. What a load of bullshit!
I don’t miss it tonight. I don’t miss stumbling around the house. I don’t miss feeling too drunk to brush my teeth or check on my kids. I don’t miss the night sweats or waking in the morning feeling more dead than alive. I gave 20 years of my life to this shit. 20! I started getting high (anything to escape) the summer I was 17 and I am now 37. It is enough. It is too much, but I can’t do anything about that now. I don’t have a fucking time machine… There is only moving forward.
I have been reflecting on surrender and vulnerability lately. I have a hard time with surrender but I am getting closer to understanding its role in all of this. I am afraid of surrender. I am terrified of vulnerability. I have some work to do. I know I am on the right path. Fuck you, Wolfie.
I have brushed off suggestions of trying out an AA meeting or working the steps. In fact, I have been firmly against it from the very beginning. I watched an episode of “Bullshit” the first weekend I was sober that centered around “the cult” of AA and wrote it off as an organization designed for and by Christians. This week however, I have been listening to and reading recovery stories online and a great number of them have some sort of foundation in AA. Further, many of the speakers or writers were like me, non-Christian… Hmm…
Fast-forward to the Friday night from hell. I just felt terrible. I reached out and I got support from online friends. I white knuckled my way through it but this morning I wondered if I needed another layer of support…
I have been leery of my town’s AA circle. Part of it is a (sorry if this offends anyone) mistrust of Christians, having been burnt by some so-called folks before. Part of my hesitancy might also be rooted (this is where things might get a little heavy) in my own perception of alcoholics in my community. Alcoholism is a pervasive social problem in my little town. The negative stigma is alive and well here. There are many people who suffer from debilitating alcoholism and I frankly have a hard time envisioning myself as a member of that particular social group (this is me checking my elitist asshole bullshit). Nevertheless, I hunger for a community, for face-to-face connection and support beyond what my dearest friends and family can (or should be asked to) provide.
So I decided, at 11:20 this morning, to attend the noon meeting. Before I left the house, I coached myself, “don’t get your hopes up.” The meeting was held in a single wind trailer surrounded by lush trees and bushes. Inside the trailer I found a large open room with two long tables, peppered with books and coffee cups. I was a little early, but when I walked in, everyone was already seated and either chatting or doing their own thing. I took a seat pulled out my knitting (to avoid talking to anyone, of course) and waited for the meeting to begin. A kind-faced, older man offered me coffee which I graciously accepted. A couple of older gentlemen a couple of seats away were arguing over the meaning of the word ‘cornucopia.’ A younger woman played with her phone. Two tattooed younger men sat quietly at the end. A few other people sat around the table seemingly preoccupied with their own thoughts. I made several snap judgments about their respective backgrounds and how they came to attend meetings in this little trailer. I am an idiot.
The meeting began. It reminded me of mass. I kept knitting. The leader, the same man who gave me coffee, asked if there were any new people or visitors. All eyes landed on me. I spoke the words: My real name. I am an alcoholic. I told them I had 33 days and was unsure about AA because I wasn’t a Christian. I figured I would get that shit out of the way right off the bat. I was half hoping, half expecting they would give me some sign that I was not going to be accepted. If they didn’t accept me, I could move on and strike AA of my list of tools right? As I spoke, I noticed the leader tense up (“Oh, boy. Here we go.” my brain said). As soon as I stopped speaking a man across the table from me said sort of incredulously, “you don’t have to be a Christian to be a member.” From there, each in turn, the members welcomed me and reiterated their own struggles and versions of their higher power. The same man who said I didn’t have to be a Christian said that the meetings were about alcoholics helping one another not what anyone believed or didn’t believe in. The man who tensed up when I spoke, spoke of his own agnosticism and struggles with defining a higher power. He even talked about atheism and physics (wasn’t expecting that). He gave me a 30 day chip (so cool!), bought me a big book and gave me a hug, commenting that he never missed an opportunity to hug a female.
Um… I was… a little shocked, ok more like flabbergasted, by their kindness, acceptance and thoughtfulness about the program. I shared a bit more and I thanked them all for welcoming me. I am still not sure if the steps are my cup of tea, but I found the meeting to be very reassuring. I left feeling quieted and hopeful. I think I might just go back. I feel honored that I might have the opportunity to learn a thing or two from these folks.
I have felt much better, stronger, more good looking lately but the Friday evening witching hour is seriously fucking with me right now. I am holding on to my tools (blogging, knitting, seltzer, chocolate, podcasts) but this really fucking sucks. I feel like I have exhausted my friend talking privileges. When does this get better? Can someone just put me in a coma until it does? FUCK!