My Journey to Recovery
My sober journey started when I walked into a church basement to attend a 12-step meeting, with every intention to never, ever, pick up a drink again! Yet, I spent the first four years trying to figure out exactly how to do that!
I have never imagined that I would end up being an alcoholic; it definitely was not my childhood dream! It was quite devastating to realize that no matter what I tried, I could not control my drinking, and once I put alcohol in my body, I never knew what would actually happen. Repeatedly, my deep desire and honest promises to self, that I would not get shitfaced this time, again, often went out the window after the first few drinks. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to drink like a “normal” person.
Getting sober was the most difficult transformation of my life, yet it turned out to be the most rewarding.
Looking back at my life, I have realized that I have never felt comfortable in my skin. I always wanted to be that person out there and wondered why I was not. I often felt alone, and I could not find my place in the world. But alcohol made me feel like everything was OK and I was OK too. It seemed like the perfect fix for all of my insecurities. I could do anything with a little buzz — I could be anyone I wanted to be, or anyone you wanted me to be.
In the beginning, drinking was lots of fun!
I believed that it gave me courage, made me happy, and created a life full of excitement and many friends! I was the ultimate party girl, a social butterfly, always the first to get a party started, for any reason, or no reason at all. My parties were “legendary” and gobs of people would show up – most whom I didn’t know! But who cared, the more the merrier, right? Little did I know they were not there to see me…
Ultimately, alcohol became my best friend and I couldn’t do anything without it and if it didn’t involve drinking I just didn’t do it! Happy hour twice a week turned into 3, and 4 and 7 nights a week. Meeting friends for dinner ended in bar hopping, and the occasional wine tastings became a weekly event. My entire life revolved around drinking!
I am not quite sure when my best friend actually turned on me, but the blackouts become the norm, and risky behavior put me in danger more than I want to remember. I begun to have to drink just to feel normal. I started drinking alone at home in fear of making an ass of myself again, or doing something dangerous in my blackouts. I blamed my drinking on my horrible life, my horrible parents, and just plain, old, bad luck, because if you had my life you would drink like this too! Yet, for a long time, I still managed to have a job, and a car, and a home. This also made me believe that I, most definitely, I was not an addicted, because those were the people who hung out under the bridges, and drank out of paper-bag covered bottles of vodka! That was not Me.
Eventually, my alcohol induced behavior filled my heart with shame and guilt, and made my life absolutely unmanageable! I was unable to do much of anything beside drinking. I finally ended up losing my job, and was unemployable. I did not have any friends, and I did not talk to my family. I sold my car after getting a DUI (Driving Under Influence), so I wouldn’t drink and drive anymore – strangely enough it never occurred to me to keep the car and quit drinking instead!
You’d think this was quite enough of unmanageability for me to stop drinking, but NO, not at all. This disease is so cunning and baffling. It was another 4 long years before I got sober!
The craziest part about it all, was that despite all of my consequences I still did not believe that I had a problem! I was constantly comparing-out because I always found someone else worse off than me.
During the 20 month out-patient rehab, I actually got a job, then I got a car, and I was starting to get back on my feet. All in an attempt to show the court that I was a fit mother. After the rehab I drank on and off, moderating the best I could, and feeling that I was pretty successful at it. I was actually thinking that I finally had it figured out – I finally figured out how to drink like a normal person!
My last day of drinking, was not something I planned; there was nothing wrong in my life. It was a sunny Friday afternoon when I started drinking. However, when I woke up, it was Monday morning, and I was laying face down on the kitchen floor, barely able to move. The house was a wreck and I was still wearing the same clothes I did two days ago. When I realized that I just spent the entire weekend in a blackout, I completely freaked out! Somewhere in the middle of all the crazy thoughts running through my head, I had a moment of clarity! I finally came to the complete understanding that I could NOT drink like a normal person, and that I really was an alcoholic.
My life begun on April 15, 2008 when I made a decision to stop drinking and to ask for help! My main support was from the 12 step program where by following the steps, I learned how to clean my past, get rid of the shame and guilt, find a Higher Power, and live a happy sober life.
The first year or so was super difficult. I often felt naked, alone, and like an outcast without my liquid social buffer! I realized that I had no idea how to live life on life’s terms. I had no coping skills, and could not keep my emotions leveled. I cried, l and cried, and I cried for hours. But I was determined. I came to a place where I wanted to stay sober much more than I wanted to drink! I decided to just keep going, one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. I started comparing-in at meetings by listening to how people felt and I interrelated to their stories – they were all my stories!! I also found an enormous amount of support, and met some amazing people through the 12-step fellowship. They helped me get trough the dark days, and see the amazing changes that sobriety was bringing to my life!
Getting sober allowed me to go back to school and complete 4 IT certifications, which also gave me the opportunity to get a great job. Sobriety also freed me from my dark and lonely apartment, out into the world where I could meet people, and make friends. It allowed me to have a sober wedding, and two more kids and many anniversaries to celebrate. Sobriety gave me the ability to gain joint custody of my daughter, and gave me the opportunity to co-parent her with her dad.
My birthdays, holidays and even the normal days are no longer spent in a depressed and hopeless state! Instead, I have had the greatest moments spent with family and friends, filled with many warm memories.
I also watched my step-mom lose her battle with breast cancer, and because I was sober I was able to be there for her and my family through it all. I am so very grateful for that time.
To this day, I believe that every day that I do not take a drink is a miracle, because looking back, it is hard to believe that I am sober today. This was a difficult and scary journey, but I do not regret any moment of it. It has shaped me into the person that I am today, and sobriety has given me a second chance at life.
Most importantly, I am finally free and comfortable in my own skin.
Update: I relapsed in September 2017 after almost 9.5 years in recovery. I felt like my life had spiraled out of control during the end of my divorce process, and the pain had become too overpowering. Over the next several months I will try to put this part of my journey on paper, sort of speak, and share this challenging yet transformational period of time in my life with you all.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles. You may also find some great inspiration, support and resources at the bottom of this page.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. (Ref: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders)