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.
Ok, here it is. I reread the 12 Steps last night and I am just not a 12 Stepper. What it comes down to for me (and only for me) is that if I believe some other force outside of myself is in control, I will just say ‘fuck it. I can’t control this’ and tumble into a deep well of bourbon and tequila. Call it a lack of faith in outside influences and perhaps and overabundance of faith in myself. I think the steps are amazing tools for others and I respect the power and the role they have played in other’s recoveries, but they are not for me. Instead, I wrote my own steps. I was going to call them rules but I never, ever pay any attention to rules (except rules that if not followed might result in death or dismemberment) so I am calling this my playbook. This is a work in progress. Yes, some of them are close cousins to one another, but for the time being, each is important enough to stand alone. As the months go by, maybe I will combine, reorder, rewrite or add to the playbook.
(Holy shit! As I typed ‘months’ I just realized it is my sober one month anniversary. Woo-Whoo!)
My Sobriety Playbook
- Admit that you are addicted to alcohol and while you are not powerless, acknowledge your addiction is a formative foe not to be fucked with.
- Ask for what you need. Realize that your recovery is essential to your survival and needs to come first right now.
- Gather the troops. Surround yourself with supportive allies. Avoid less supportive influences.
- Be introspective and self aware. Write daily. Blog, journal, write poetry, lists, and or work on your novel.
- Reach out! Listen to and read other’s stories. Realize the wisdom and power in the journeys of others who have survived or are surviving with you.
- Be curious. You have been numb most of your adult life. There are many things you likely don’t know about yourself.
- Be kind to yourself! Exercise, eat well and enjoy life.
- Forgive yourself and others.
- Breathe. Unclench. Relax.
- Recognize the voice of Wolfie. Recognize that her voice is crafty, powerful, deceptive and seductive. Wolfie wants you dead. Tell Wolfie to fuck off. Often.
Today, I finally started to feel ok. I cut way back on the herbals I started taking last week. One of them was making my head ache and I just felt sluggish. As a result (I think), I had an abundance of energy: I cleaned the house; painted everyone’s nails for the 4th; ran (Yay!!!); went to the store (skillfully avoiding the liquor section) and stocked the fridge with healthy yumminess for tomorrow and connected with some awesome folks via this blog. Also, random added bonus, I can wear contacts again for more than an hour. I am ending the day contented for the first time in 10 days. 🙂 I don’t know if I am at a sophrosyne level but I feel like I am headed in the right direction.