I woke up this morning with 6 years of sobriety. 6. In a row. I wish I could tell you everything is easy, perfect and exactly what I dreamed of, but that would be a lie. The truth is my life still needs work. I still need work. I guess I thought that getting sober would solve my problems. Getting sober and staying sober has kept me alive. I now have a life actually. When I was at the end of my drinking life I was nothing but a shell of a person. I was empty. Six years ago today, I woke up crying and alone. I can still remember laying in my bed in my parent’s house thinking that my life was over. My husband had left me, my friends were long gone, I hadn’t had a job in months and I had nothing. It always surprises me a my addiction. There are a few people that knew me during that time. I know that they are the real heroes of my life. I can’t thank them enough for loving me through that time.
I have always said that I am grateful that I was a non-functioning alcoholic. I drank every day for over a decade. In the last year, that was really all I did. I was no longer eating and the doctor told me my liver was failing. I was dying. I was killing myself. Addiction can be a slow killer. I don’t think I truly grasped how painful loving me was during that time until I was on the other side of addiction. I didn’t get the heartache this disease causes until I was the one who was praying and hoping that the person I loved would just wake up and get it. I do believe that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help when it comes to addiction. You can love them and be there for them, but you can’t make them want sobriety. You also come to a point where you have to decide if you are helping or enabling.
I am often asked what my rock bottom was. What made me get sober? I don’t have one particular event. Truly, there were so many things, embarrassing things, that should have been my rock bottom and weren’t. I know people were probably shocked when wrecking my car, losing my friends, not being able to show up to work, saying awful things and not remembering them were not my bottom. I honestly do not remember most of those terrible things I did. That doesn’t excuse them. I still have to work on letting that guilt go and giving it to God. I can’t change my past. I can only move forward. My bottom was realizing I was nothing but alcohol. That was my entire identity.
I spent the month of December in 2011 alone and in outpatient rehab. I was done with alcohol. I was just done. During that month I turned back to my faith. I had shut out God for so long. When the rape happened, I had given up on God. I tried to numb that hurt. I ran from it. I ran to all the wrong places, things and people. How I reacted to the trauma was what caused more damage than the actual trauma. Then forgiving myself for my reaction seemed overwhelming and frankly impossible. In my eyes, I had ruined my life. So I gave up. The alcohol addiction was slow. The drug addiction came fast and ended within 2 years. I thought I could beat drugs so I could handle alcohol. Everyone drinks. I could, too. I was strong. I beat drugs. I spent 10 years with a functional drinking habit. Well, it wasn’t functional. I know that now, but you couldn’t have told me otherwise back then. I am still working on forgiving myself for losing a decade. I can’t get it back. Sometimes I just get so disgusted with myself for that and I feel like I will never make up for that lost time. But, y’all that is the devil talking. I don’t have to make up for that time. In fact, I am grateful that I appreciate time and how valuable it is in a way I may never have if it weren’t for addiction.
Guilt. It is a killer, too. I often get these feelings of just sadness that my addiction and me not being able to drink like a normal person (what even is that?) is what killed my family. My marriage could not survive my recovery. Being in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic is hard! Addiction didn’t end when I quit drinking. It will never end. I have heard, “but you are fine now.” I am not really sure what they mean by that. I don’t drink anymore. I never will. Nope, not even one. I can’t. That would be a death sentence. However, I am still an addict. I still have that addict brain. I still have to work at not letting that hole in my brain take over. I have to work at that never-ending thirst for what is this undefinable longing take over. That want used to be drugs, then alcohol and now it takes on many forms. It is irrational. It does not make sense. I will never get what that want tells me I need. That is why I have to rely on my faith. I have to pray for God to ease that burning desire for the unknown prize. The truth is, I could get what my addict brain is telling me I need, but it would never be enough. I think that is the hardest part of being an addict, learning and putting in to practice contentment. Learning to live in the now and not chasing that dragon that I can never truly reach. Addiction is like this mirage of beauty that is really nothing at all except for pain that can suffocate you.
Do I miss drinking? No. Not at all actually. I do miss being able to numb myself for that fleeting moment. I miss being part of that drinking high. I do go out with friends. Six years later many of my friends drink. I don’t have a problem with it. I just feel left out sometimes. It is almost like going to a theme park and enjoying the fun atmosphere, but not being tall enough to ride the rides. It is fun and you are glad you get the enjoy the show until everyone gets on those rides you can’t go on. You realize those rides would probably kill you, so rationally you know you can’t go on them, but you still feel so left out. You also don’t realize how SO many things are centered around alcohol or have alcohol involved until you are no longer drinking. It is everywhere. Early in my recovery, it was hard to handle. I couldn’t even participate. Now, it is different. I can go and enjoy myself. There is usually a point when I realize I need to go, so I go. I am thankful that I have friends that were always willing to abstain and did not resent me for it.
I am also thankful for those friends that loved me enough to stand up and say enough is enough and I will be here for you when you are ready to be yourself again. They were true to their word. They are still my friends now and we have this beautiful friendship. I am grateful that they let me back in their lives and gave me another chance. I am grateful that they are understanding with this lifelong recovery process. I am grateful that they loved me enough to be tough 6 years ago.
I did not think that I would be back at my parent’s house 6 years later. I have grown so much and learned so much in this 6 years. I am most grateful for parents that unconditionally love me and believe in me. They don’t give up and always, always, always show me love even when I don’t even feel that I deserve love. I could go into the difficulty of the past six years, but I can’t write that novel today. Recovery is not easy. It has not gotten easier like I thought it would. Oh, sure, the temptation to drink is almost non-existent, but the addiction just gets harder. It comes in waves of obstacles that I have to swim past. I feel like I am drowning sometimes. Yet, I have also learned how to enjoy the water. Life is just learning to love the moment. So, I have made it past some of those swells that I was sure would crush me. I am grateful for parents that allow me to live with them for a little while. I can guarantee you I would be dead without them.
I still do not regret any of my past for it made me who I am and I love that person. I wouldn’t change some of the most painful parts of my recovery because they gave me my Vivienne. God knew what He was doing when He sent her to me only a few months into recovery. I couldn’t change the past because she is from that place and the world is a better place for having her in it. And, if the only good I do is be her mom, I am winning.
So, why do I still talk about recovery? What is the big deal? It has been 6 years, why is still an issue? Because I have to deal with it every day. So, thank you. Thank you to those who love and support me in this recovery process. Thank you to those who are learning right along with me. Thank you to those who know that I am just a hot mess, but chose to see the hot part more than the mess part. If you are struggling, just know you can do it. If I can do it, you can do it. Recovery looks different for everyone, so don’t ever compare yourself to others. Just do your own personal best each day. Remember where you started and what you came from, but don’t live in that space. Learning to love yourself and forgive yourself is a daily, life long process. Find your passion. Channel that addiction into positive things. You can’t get rid of it or hide it, so use it. Make your addict brain a positive thing.
6 years and I am just now feeling worthy of good things. I am just now feeling like I deserve love. Is this where I thought I would be 6 years ago? No, not at all. However, I am happier now than I even thought was possible 6 years ago. I have a career I truly enjoy, selling insurance! Really, who really thinks they will enjoy selling insurance? But, here I am getting up and going to work and loving it. I also love educating and helping people learn about essential oils. I have the most amazing daughter and spending my life with her is just a blessing. I have meaningful friendships. I am active in my faith. I have a boyfriend who not only loves me in spite of my sobriety, but actually likes me a little more for it. Me in a healthy, loving relationship with someone who not only puts up with me, but seems to like me just a little bit? Whoa. He not only does not make me feel less than for being sober, but uplifts me and goes above and beyond to make sure I feel safe and secure with my recovery even when it is probably inconvenient for him. I really thought my recovery would always be a burden in my relationships and always put that on my con list when it came to dating, but now I am trusting and believing him when he assures me it is not a con, yet a positive thing. (more on that to come in other posts) I have fishing that was a hobby turned passion. I have things I look forward to and a life worth living. I am not where I thought I would be 6 years ago, but I am in a place that was truly more wonderful than I could ever imagine 6 years ago. My advice to those in recovery is to just keep going. Take it day by day and moment by moment. Learn to forgive, even yourself, which seems to be the hardest part.