Tag Archives: sobriety

Sober Curious? Sober Pissed

20 Dec

 

problem-2778155_640

You may have heard about the “Sober Curious” movement.  Many people are seeking out the numerous benefits of going alcohol-free (AF) and there are even bars popping up all around the country that don’t serve booze.  According to a CBS News Story (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sober-curious-alcohol-free-bars-events-changing-what-nightlife-looks-like/), “Interest in the “sober curious” community can be seen at new alcohol-free bars and events and online, with more than 1.2 million #soberlife Instagram posts and more than 500,000 #soberissexy posts.”  While the movement is growing, it has a long way to go before it comes close to the 4.2 million likes of the “Mommy Needs Vodka” Facebook personal blog (almost as many as Sobrietease—ha).

A CNN Business article from June 10, 2019 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/tech/alcohol-alternative-sober-curious/index.html) says that people who want to socialize in a “bar-like location, but without having to drink alcohol” are part of a “larger trend”.  The article claims that “people of all ages are drinking less beer, while millennials are drinking less overall.”   It seems that more and more restaurants I go to have non-alcoholic drinks, or mocktails, on their menus.  As a recovering alcoholic, it’s nice to have options other than club soda or sparkling water with lime.

Last night, I went to a holiday work dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been to before.  I looked forward to having one of the creative, non-alcoholic drinks on their menu.  As work colleagues ordered their pomegranate martinis and commented on how festive the deep pink hue was for the holiday season, I was happy to order my mint-cucumber-lime concoction.  We chatted over appetizers, ordered our entrees and as another round was requested, I asked to try a different drink from the alcohol-free selections. This one was made with blood orange juice, sage and ginger beer.  The waiter asked if I wanted that without alcohol, and I said yes, also from the alcohol-free selections.  He said “Oh, the first drink I brought you had alcohol in it.”  I froze.  As did the people seated immediately next to me as they overheard, knowing that I have been in recovery for over seven and a half years now.  I stared at him in disbelief and questioned him.  I told him, no, I had ordered one of their AF drinks.  It couldn’t be.  I just kept looking at him.  He kept a straight face and continued to tell me that it contained alcohol.  After what seemed like hours, he finally broke into a smile and said “I’m just kidding!” He winked at me.   I went from terrified to furious.  Enraged.  If I were a cartoon character, you could have seen smoke blowing out of my ears.  I was speechless.  Not wanting to make a scene at the table, all I could muster up to say to him quietly was “that was not the least bit funny.”   He collected glasses around the table and went to get the next round.  My night was ruined.  Those seated across from me and next to me were also blown away by the waiter’s absolutely idiotic joke and behavior.  I made it as long as I could and was so relieved when the night was over and I got into my car to head home.  I was still fuming when I got home and shared what happened with my husband and daughter.

I tossed and turned some during the night, not only upset about what the waiter did, but also about what I did not do.  I didn’t do anything.  I froze.  I knew that I needed to take a little time to breathe, calm down and then sit down to write a piece about it.  But I wanted to do more.  If there are so many people out there “curious” about sobriety, more needs to be done to educate them and train people in the industry.  As soon as the restaurant opened, I called and asked to speak to the manager.  To my surprise, and I’m sure a God-wink, I got a hold of the manager, a very nice guy named Dan.  I calmly explained what had happened last night, but sternly made it clear that in no uncertain terms was it the least bit funny. I explained to him that there can be many reasons why someone might order a drink from the alcohol-free options on the menu—they could be pregnant, nursing, on medication that they can’t mix with alcohol, allergic, acting as the designated driver that night, or, as in my case, an alcoholic who is already struggling to stay sober during the difficult holiday season.  In any of those scenarios, joking about accidentally serving a drink containing alcohol is just plain cruel, tasteless, stupid, moronic, dumb, idiotic, asinine, foolish, brainless, imbecilic…did I mention idiotic??  I explained that I did not ask for the manager last night or make a bigger deal of it at the table given the circumstances.  It was also not my goal to get the waiter fired right before the holidays, but instead I hoped that the establishment would focus on educating and training their entire staff to be more aware and sensitive to the severity of the issue.

Dan not only apologized but shared with me that he has 16 years of sobriety.  He was mortified that one of his servers (or anyone for that matter) would be so thoughtless.  I was assured that he would share my concerns with his full staff and make sure they know that something like this is completely unacceptable.  He thanked me for “doing the next right thing” and taking the time to call him and explain what happened.  I hung up the phone and finally exhaled.  I realized that the old me might have simply held on to this resentment for days, weeks or longer and have been afraid to use my voice since I tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible.  But, as I grow in my sobriety, I grow in my strength and self-worth.  I owed it to myself to speak my truth. While I’ll never know, I hope that perhaps taking the action I did and writing this piece may help someone else from having the same experience I had last night.

For someone who writes books and a blog called “Sobrietease”, with a tagline that says “God, Grant Me the Serenity to Laugh at Life”, which emphasizes finding humor in life whenever possible, some things are simply not joking matters.  Off-limits.  Yes, it would have been much, much worse if there actually was alcohol in that drink.  And yes, I would think that I would have tasted it if it had, but who knows.  Sober curious does NOT mean that someone is curious about throwing their 2761 days of sobriety out the window at a holiday work dinner.  Sober curious means that many people, for whatever reason, are looking into living their life without alcohol in it.  I applaud the restaurants that are offering non-alcoholic options on their bar menus. I salute the talented bartenders who indulge me in my challenge to make delicious concoctions without booze.  I thank the waitress I had in San Antonio who was smart enough to make the connection when I asked for an alcohol-free drink that she warned me which dishes and desserts on the menu contained alcohol.  And, to my waiter from last night, I hope you’ll think next time before you make a joke like that again.  I have a great book you should read….maybe I’ll drop a copy off for you.  You might learn something.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  e.e. cummings

 

 

 

 

Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round?

28 Aug

dreamstime_xxl_109892466.jpg

Today marks 7 years and 3 months of sobriety.  2648 days. 378 weeks.  What is significant about 2648 days?  Nothing.  And everything.  It represents 2648 “one-day-at a-times”.  Countless victories over temptation and cravings and thoughts of giving in. Thousands of hours of work.  Working through the ups of the “pink cloud” of sobriety, the downs of facing life on life’s terms, and everything in between.  Facing my darkest demons head-on and surviving the battles.  Learning and understanding the true meaning of humility. Training myself to let go of things that are out of my control and turn them over to my Higher Power.  Sometimes I take a moment to pat myself on the back. But I will face day 2648 today as I do every other.  Just for today, I will not pick up a drink.  One day at a time.

I often hate dealing with life on life’s terms.  I still foolishly think I can do life on my terms.  Never really works out, but yet I still try.  I can honestly say that life is a zillion times better in sobriety than it was when I was drinking.  But shit happens in life, whether you are stone-cold sober or numbing it out and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve found some sort of Nirvana-like alternate reality.  Life is hard. But life is beautiful.  In these past 7 years and 3 months, I have ridden the emotional roller coaster time and time again.  Sobriety allows you to feel ineffable joy at times.  It also gives you the presence to fully experience pain, hurt, sorrow and grief — feelings that I often tried to avoid and numb by quickly reaching for the bottle.  I can honestly say that I’d rather fully feelthe joy and the sorrow than feel nothing.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin in which Grandma tells a story about riding on the roller coaster when she was younger.   She said “you know, it’s just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together.  Some didn’t like it.  They went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”   Steve Martin rolls his eyes thinking Grandma is just rambling.  His wife, Mary Steenburgen, clearly understands the wisdom that she is sharing with them.  Life is much more like a roller coaster than a merry go-round.  Stay real.

Recently, my roller coaster ride included taking my oldest child to college.  I see so many posts on social media about friends dropping their kids off at school.  The excitement, the fear, and the sadness of them flying the coop, all captured in the pictures and posts.  Many of these kids I’ve known since they were babies.  How did this happen?  It honestly feels like just yesterday that I was taking my daughter to the playground to play with them.  But time flies, kids grow, and they move on.  I didn’t cry.  I was so thrilled that she seemed happy, grounded and ready to go.  I realized that’s the best I could ask for as a parent.  To prepare them to move on and be strong on their own, teach them to make smart decisions, and always listen to and trust their gut.  When I drank, I couldn’t trust my gut.  I couldn’t feel my gut.  And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being present now and available for my kids is a true gift of sobriety.  Whether I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to experience that thrill of the drop, or at the bottom working slowly on the climb up, I am here for them. Fully present.  Fully feeling.

The heat of the summer is coming to an end. The leaves will start falling and another season will arrive. Mother Nature’s roller coaster.  We will put the bathing suits, swim goggles and pool bags away and get out our new gear, sport our kids’ school colors and cheer at their football and lacrosse games. We will share in their triumphs and disappointments. We won’t make them stay on the merry-go-round.  We will let them ride the roller coaster.  But we will buckle them in and let them know they are loved.  And tell them to enjoy the ride.

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” – Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly”

 

 

 

Trigger Happy

22 Jul

IMG_1047

After being sober for seven years now, I’ve learned how to deal with several of the triggers that bring out my urge to drink.  It took several years before I was able to comfortably go to social events and be surrounded by alcohol.  But I learned how to formulate a plan that would enable me to go and be with friends who drank—I would get a nonalcoholic beverage in my hand as soon as I arrived, focus on other thing besides the booze, have an excuse ready for why I wasn’t drinking, try to make conversations with people who did not breathe wine on me, and have an exit strategy for when I knew I needed to leave.   And I knew when it was time to go.  I would start staring at that glass of wine, or martini, or whatever, just a few seconds too long.  The drink devil sitting on my shoulder would start trying to tell me how good it would taste.  That it would be okay if I just had one.  Ha. Thank goodness the tools I acquired in my recovery taught me better and prepared me for how to ignore this nonsense.

There are so many triggers for me.  People, places and things that I associate with drinking.  I shared most of them in a piece I wrote called “Miss or Miss Out”. Crabs with a cold pitcher of beer.  Spicy Thai food paired with a cold glass of Viognier.  Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.  Mint Juleps at a Kentucky Derby party.  A hearty Italian red wine with spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna.  Cold beers at a tailgate at a concert or sporting event. Hot toddies after a day of skiing.  A nice martini (with three olives) after a round of golf.  I could go on… But right now, the trigger that’s taking its aim at me is the beach.  As beautiful as it is, and as much as I enjoy it, there are few things more challenging to my sobriety than coming up from the beach at the end of the day.  The beach houses that surround me are filled with people enjoying their cocktails, cold beers, or blender drinks.  It’s like a Pavlovian response that’s hard for me to break—that walk home from the beach, washing off the sand, and reaching for a cold drink of something yummy.  To me, drinking was synonymous with the beach. Hell, drinking was synonymous with breathing, but right now we’re talking about the beach.

It’s one of those things I didn’t think about until it whacked me like a crashing wave as I walked through the sand to go back to the house in the late afternoon on our first day at Fire Island. I actually said it out loud to my daughter, telling her that I forgot how much the beach made me crave a drink.  Her incredibly thoughtful response was that we could go to the little general store and make some fun mocktails. Great idea. We did.  And the craving passed.  Sometimes just speaking it out loud takes the power out a craving.  Ice cream didn’t hurt either.

The reminders of what the alternatives would be are also quite helpful.  I’ve shared before that what often helps me the most is remembering to “think it all the way through.”  What happens after that first sip?  In addition to throwing away my 2612 days of sobriety and dealing with the shame and disappointment that would come with that, I know it wouldn’t be just one sip. Or just one drink. It would be off to the races.  And to a nasty hangover.  And not being able to enjoy watching my sons jump in the waves. Or the beautiful sunset over the water. Or the serenity that I have gained in my sobriety.

So hopefully I can add the end of the day at the beach to my list of triggers that I am now better equipped to handle. There will be many more.  But I will handle them like I do my days….one at a time.

“When we heal the wounds of our past, we move forward into our lives with an unburdened sense of self and a higher awareness of what our own triggers are.” –Athena Laz

 

 

Squirrelly About Seven

24 May

didyouknowst

It usually happens to some extent every year.  A little before the anniversary of my sobriety date, I get squirrelly.  I get anxious.  Restless, irritable and discontent.  Excited but scared.  Proud but cautious.  This year seems worse than previous ones.  Maybe it’s the number 7.  Seven seas. Seven continents.  Seven days of the week.  Seven colors of the rainbow. Seven years of sobriety, God-willing, on May 28th. Many people would say I shouldn’t even write that and risk jinxing myself. But I do. Because it’s an important date. It’s the day my life changed for the better.

So why squirrelly? Why anxious?  Do I want to pick up a drink?  No.  Have I thought about it?  Many times. It’s a bittersweet weekend for me. Memorial Day weekend in 2012 was the last time I drank.  And I drank a lot.  And then some.  My hands shook at 11 am until I got some wine in me.  The weekend ended with me admitting that I was powerless over alcohol.  That my life had become unmanageable.  I made the decision to get help and it was the best thing I have ever done.  It was hard as hell, but 2553 days later, I have not had a drink.  I had that scare I wrote about in my last post (A Sip Not a Slip), when I accidentally picked up a drink with vodka in it, but I have not intentionally picked up a drink in a long, long time.

From what I have learned over these past nearly 7 years, my squirrelly feelings are quite common among people in recovery.  There’s something about facing the anniversary of the last drink that brings up a lot.  I look at the weekend ahead, which will be filled with those #^%@#& red Solo cups at pools, backyard barbeques, parties, etc.  Coolers filled with cold beer.  Wine glasses with beads of sweat dripping down the side.  And more.  And then I think about making it through the weekend to Tuesday.  And about reaching another milestone in this personal battle.  And I think about how much better my life is without the booze.  Without the hangovers.  Without the blackouts.  Without the poison that took its toll on my body.

Don’t get me wrong…life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows just because I don’t drink.  The shitstorms still come, and if you looked at the Doppler radar in my life right now, you’d see a huge storm raging right above me that’s not clearing for quite some time.  But, as I’ve heard repeatedly, there’s no problem that picking up a drink won’t make worse.  Jose Cuervo has no power over the storm clouds. But my Higher Power does. Sometimes I write what I need to read, hear, and remind myself.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try and do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work:  you don’t give up.”– Anne Lamott

A Sip Not a Slip

9 May

8c8a2e1df12408c0bfd57a7c6ad3a3b2

I had absolutely no intention of putting a glass of vodka mixed with cranberry juice to my mouth.  No desire to have it touch my lips and wash against my tongue.  In fact, when it did, my reaction was so strong, it surprised me.  I immediately recognized that it was not my drink (cranberry juice and club soda) and once I realized that there was a strong amount of alcohol in the drink that I picked up, I turned away from the two women standing next to me and spit it out.  And spit again.  And again. And I think wiped my tongue with my sleeve.  And then wiped my lips.  Repeatedly.  I have not had a drink that contained alcohol in nearly 7 years (2537 days to be exact). What used to be so familiar to me was now a very, very unwelcome stranger.

I’m pretty sure I simply said “Well, that was not my drink!”  The woman whose drink I accidentally picked up apologized profusely.  She knew I didn’t drink. Totally not her fault.  The drinks looked identical. Both had lime garnishes. Both a pinkish-red hue from the cranberry juice. But one had an ingredient that was clearly not okay for an alcoholic. I walked away to return to the work event I was attending. The other woman, a good friend of mine, came over to me and asked if I was okay.  I told her that I was more than a little freaked out at having picked up an alcoholic drink.  She told me not to be too hard on myself, not to give it a second thought, since I clearly hadn’t done it on purpose.  I let it go…for the time being.

When I got in my car, I picked up my phone to call a friend who is also in recovery.  But then I hesitated.  For a few seconds, I worried that if I told her what had happened, should would tell me I should reset my start date and begin again at day one. So I thought about not telling her.  I think that scared me more than picking up the drink.  Sobriety requires “rigorous honesty”.  Keeping a secret about something that clearly bothered me, considerably, was not a good plan.  It doesn’t matter that other people may think it was totally innocent, no big deal, that I was overreacting, whatever.  The fact was that I was more than a little flustered about tasting vodka again, even for a split second.  I dialed the number and told her what happened. She told me it had happened to her, several times, that it was okay, clearly not intentional, that I didn’t fake it and swallow it and continue to drink the wrong drink, and that I did the right thing. She said it was a “sip, not a slip.”  I felt much better.

As Elvis Costello will tell you, accidents will happen. Chances are good that something like that will happen again. I’m actually quite glad that my reaction was so strong.  That I didn’t taste the vodka and feel like I missed it and wanted more. I’m grateful that I woke up today with another day of sobriety under my belt.  Grateful to wake up without a hangover. Grateful it was a sip, not a slip.

“There are no accidents…there is only some purpose that we haven’t yet understood.”-Ritu Ghatourey

 

 

Turn the Page

31 Dec

dreamstimefree_18005194.jpg A new year brings with it the opportunity to turn to a blank page in a brand new book, full of possibilities for you to write your own story going forward.  Like many, I find myself introspective at the end of each year, looking back at the highs and lows, and peering forward optimistically at what might come.  I had grandiose ideas of writing a long piece exploring all of those things in greater detail, but, again, like many, I find myself out of steam as the year comes to a close.

So this piece will be brief. A simple thank you to those of you who have followed my blog this year.  Thank you for the kind words from people who have shared that my book or blog helped them get through a rough time, stay sober, or change their perspective on life for the better.

I’ll close out 2018 with 2409 days of sobriety under my belt.  Not something I take lightly.  There were many days when it looked like I might be starting back at day one again. But I pushed through.  And for that, I am grateful to those of you who stood by me, lent a helping hand or a shoulder, reminded me that I am strong and how hard I fought to get where I am today.  Most importantly, thank you for the reminder that I am not alone in this journey.

As for resolutions, I have thought of many.  But I’m leaving you with two quotes for the new year from people much smarter than I am:

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”– Abraham Lincoln

“Ring out the false, ring in the true.”- Alfred Lord Tennyson

 Happy New Year.

Selfish?

31 Oct

I must have heard it hundreds of times as my children were growing up.  Someone would see them in the stroller or in my arms and comment on how fast the time goes and how quickly they grow.  They spoke from experience, longingly remembering the days that their own children were small enough to ride in a stroller or be carried. They were right.  The time goes so quickly.  As I help my oldest child with college applications, getting ready to send her off next year, I can’t help think that those days of diapers and bottles were just yesterday.

I’m writing this piece, as I usually do, to share my story with others in the hope of helping someone who is struggling.  But today, I’m also writing this as a reminder and help to myself.  On the days when the intense battle to resist the urge of picking up a drink ramps up, it’s helpful to be reminded of the joys of sobriety. The gift of being present is way up there.  I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories about families torn apart by alcoholism and addiction.  People who are estranged from their children or parents.  Older generations not allowed to spend time with their own grandchildren.  Friends cut off completely by loved ones because of their repeated offenses while drinking or using.  I have had it clearly presented to me exactly what could have happened had I continued down the path I was on.

But today, as I read my daughter’s college essay, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for the gift of sobriety.  And for the opportunity to understand what that means to her.  While the first line of her essay might suggest otherwise, my daughter has benefitted from my recovery more than I might have thought.  She begins her essay by saying “My mom is selfish.” Yup.  I am.  My sobriety comes first and foremost, and for that I will not apologize, even to friends and people in my life who don’t understand and criticize me for that.  My daughter goes on to say that she has learned that it is not only okay to put ourselves first, it is essential and actually selfless, in order to be the best version of ourselves that we can be and allow us to help those around us. I had shared with her my analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane.  Parents are always told that they should secure their own masks first so that they can then be able to assist their children with theirs.  My daughter describes how she has come to understand that I had to secure my own sobriety first so that I could assist her (and her brothers) in keeping safe on the airplane, or that crazy roller coaster called life.

She also questions her own role and responsibility in my recovery.  I am also grateful to read that she understands that ultimately no one else can stop me from picking up that first drink.  That’s all me.  Not her. Not anyone. The choice is mine.  And I have to do the work and all that I can to not let that happen.  But those who love me, like she does, can be there to support, encourage and ensure that my oxygen mask is still secured.  To tighten it when it gets too loose.  To remind me to put it back on if I get too cocky or complacent.

Her first choice for school next year is my alma mater.  In a corny act of superstition/hope for good luck/acceptance “rain dance”, I put on my college sweatshirt, torn and tattered from so many years of wear, and we pushed the send button together on the computer and submitted her application. Now we wait.  I have told her that it’s out of our hands.  That she will end up at the best place for her, even if it isn’t her first choice.  I remember well what a stressful time it was for me and I am grateful that I am sober and present to ride through this part of the roller coaster with her. And when the ride gets really bumpy, I’ll make sure my mask is on securely and double-check hers.  I am selfish. And so is she.  And I’m so proud of her.

“It is not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.  It’s necessary.”  –Mandy Hale

Life on Life’s Terms

13 Sep

empty-gas-tank-996x560

Today marks 2300 days of sobriety.  Not sure if there is any particular significance to that number, other than it’s 2300 days without picking up a drink.  2300 days of not succumbing to temptations or cravings.  2300 days of learning that life is so much better sober. 2300 days of not choosing numbness over feelings, even if those feelings are painful. 2300 days of not relying on alcohol to provide me with an escape from reality.  2300 days of no hangovers.  2300 days of being present.  2300 days, one day at a time. 2300 days stronger.  Basically, 2300 days of living life on life’s terms.

Please don’t get me wrong –while I can honestly say that life is so much better sober, it does not mean that life is by any means easy or all rainbows and sunshine.  Bad things happen in life, whether we are sober or inebriated.  I used to do a great job of convincing myself that it was easier to deal with difficult times by escaping reality and anesthetizing myself with alcohol.  If I simply ignored the things I didn’t want to deal with, perhaps they would go away.  Funny, that never seemed to work. They would still be there in the morning, along with a miserable hangover and pounding headache.

Yes, life is tough. But what I wish I could convey to people who are still struggling with addiction and alcoholism, still smothered with hopelessness and despair, is that the difference when you get to the other side boils down to one simple thing:  hope. Miraculously, recovery has given me the incredible peace of mind and comfort that somehow, someway, everything will turn out ok.  As. Long. As. I. Don’t. Pick. Up. A. Drink. Or, put another way, as a friend in recovery often says, “Not even if your ass is on fire.”

I’ve been dealing with significant health issues for over 14 months now.   To say that I’ve been frustrated is a huge understatement.  For a person who is used to going full-speed (and then some) to not have the energy or stamina to make it half-way through the day has been brutal.  Being in a constant state of pain and exhaustion has taken its toll, not only on me but on those closest to me I’m sure.  As days of feeling crappy turned into weeks, and then into months and a year, I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t think about picking up a drink.  I did.  Several times.  But I remembered: not even if my ass is on fire.  2300 days of sobriety has taught me that no matter what, a drink would only make things worse. Much worse.

I’m finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve written many pieces about the trying to find the silver lining in all situations, something that a very dear friend has taught me.  While this whole ordeal has been pretty damn miserable, I have been able to take away a few key lessons.  First and foremost, I have learned to put myself first.  I do that with my sobriety because if I don’t have my sobriety I won’t have anything else.   But physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand with that. I’ve learned to listen to my body and that when I’m exhausted, I need to rest. And that it’s OK to rest.  Without feeling guilty.  For many of us, especially moms, it’s been drilled into us by society that we have to go a million miles an hour, take care of everyone and everything, and be constantly on the move, doing something productive at all times.  We often put ourselves last on our lists, if we even make it on there at all. Self-care is not a luxury.  It is imperative.

I’ve also learned to prioritize and reassess what is truly important.  It shouldn’t take being sick to do this, but it is what it is.  When you have limited energy and capacity, you have to be realistic about what you actually can do and what really needs to be done.  And what can take a backseat.  It’s often probably more than you might think.

I also came to understand that it’s okay to wave the white flag and ask for help.   Since my sobriety is very much at the top of that list of priorities and what is truly important, and sometimes getting to meetings wasn’t an option because I wasn’t feeling well enough to attend, I reached out to friends in recovery and they graciously brought a meeting to me. Or, if my tank was running on fumes, I chose a meeting over doing a load of laundry. Filling up my tank with fuel for staying sober was more important than loading up the washing machine dispenser with Tide.   Clean living over clean laundry?  Sorry, I’m getting carried away…

Self-care is crucial for everyone, not just those in recovery.  Taking care of yourself, in every way that is important, will allow you to live life on life’s terms.  On the good days and the bad days.  On the days when it feels like your ass is on fire.  Be kind to yourself.  Put yourself first on your list.  Aim for more days of rainbows and sunshine and you just might get there.

“An empty lantern provides no light.  Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”— Unknown

Dream Weaver

9 Aug

wine-glass-1329442-2

I had a dream last night that I drank a glass of white wine, sitting at a table with friends at some kind of work event.  It seemed to be early in the morning, like a breakfast meeting or something.  Despite the fact that it was a dream (more like a nightmare for me), I could vividly feel the instantaneous remorse, regret, shame and guilt.  In the dream, I asked the people with me not to tell anyone that I drank the wine, and told them that I didn’t want to have to go back and start my count at zero days of sobriety again (as opposed to the 2265 days that I have accumulated since I stopped drinking 6 years and 2 months ago).  It was awful.

People in recovery often talk about having “drunk dreams” or “drinking dreams”.  Some experience them often in their early days of sobriety. Some have them even after decades of not drinking.  I woke up so grateful to realize that it was only a dream, but shaken by it enough to write down some thoughts to share.  The dream was a good reminder of just how cunning, baffling and powerful the disease of alcoholism is.  It’s always ready to pounce. It would be logical to think that most people relapse when things get really difficult in their lives, when tragedy strikes, or when they find themselves in bad shape emotionally, physically, financially or some other way.  But I know people who had gotten sober who simply picked up that drink when all was right in their world.  Just because it was a sunny, nice day outside.  Just because they thought that they could somehow now “control” their drinking.  Or without any forethought, they just poured one and started drinking.  They say in recovery that we pick up that drink in our minds long before the physical act actually occurs.

For those early in their sober journey, they may just not understand it yet.  They may still think that they are able to drink just one beer. Just one glass of wine.  If they are alcoholics, they simply cannot.  They think this time will be different.  That this time they can limit the amount they drink. The true definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Maybe that one particular time, they will only have one drink.  But then there will be the next time.  Once the alcohol primes the pump, fuels the disease, triggers that mental obsession and physical compulsion, it’s off to the races.  And back down to hell.

As we know, the first thing to go out the window when we drink is our judgment.  So after the first drink, our ability to discern the fact that another drink is not a good plan for us will be dwindling, if not gone already.  I have heard countless stories where that idea of just having one drink led down a dark, miserable path of self-destruction and pain.  Even death.

Do I really need to be so dramatic about this and use words like hell and death?  Yes, I do.  Because there are empty chairs in rooms I sit in where people thought that one drink wouldn’t hurt them.  Because I have seen first-hand the path of wreckage and destruction left behind by someone who made that choice to pick up the first drink, again. And because the cunning, baffling, powerful disease from which I suffer has tried to tell me that I, too, can maybe just have one drink now.  That maybe 6 years is long enough and I have somehow (miraculously) garnered the power and mystical ability to control my drinking.  It can tempt me with a dream that has me drink a glass of wine and seem fine.  But even in that dream, my gut told me it was wrong.  We tell our kids to listen to their guts to help them discern right from wrong.  If you get that bad feeling inside, you know you’re not on the right path.  How amazing that even in our dream state, we can get that feeling in our gut. As I said previously, I could vividly feel immediate remorse and regret after I drank the wine in the dream.  And shame.  Enough shame to ask the people around me to keep the fact that I drank a glass of wine a secret.  We are only as sick as our secrets.  Clearly, this alcoholic still has a great deal of work to do.

I’ve been told that these dreams will happen.  Cravings will still come.  Whether you have 6 days, 6 years, or 6 decades of sobriety, you have to always stay vigilant.  Do not let that drink devil that will sit on your shoulder and whisper nonsense in your ear win.  Do not get complacent.  The disease of alcoholism will continue to do pushups every day. Be stronger. Dream bigger. Dream brighter.  I’m on to day 2266 tomorrow—take that, Dream Weaver.

“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”–Jonas Salk

 

 

Because I Came Into These Rooms

28 May

 

IMG_1508

Because I came into these rooms

-I found people who understand me and my disease
-I found a place where I am not judged, but rather loved unconditionally
-I met an amazing sponsor and friend who is always there for me, and who reminds me that it’s okay to give yourself an ‘atta girl once in a while and recognize and be proud of how far I’ve come
-I met a kind man who takes the time to write a nice comment on almost every piece I write and encourages me to continue to share my story
Because I came into these rooms…
-I made friends who care enough about me to bring a meeting to my house when I am too sick to get to one myself
-I learned how amazing a sober life can be
-I benefitted from the wisdom of those who have been in these rooms before me
-I shared my struggles and got help… from the great guy who listened to my disappointment about not being able to get my book published and connected me with his sister who ended up publishing it (!)  and from gentleman who heard my frustration at all the things that needed to be fixed at my house and showed up at my door to fix them.  He shared something quite simple but very true:  “We’re friends.  That’s what friends do.  They help each other.”
-I learned about being kind to myself and making myself comfortable and bringing what I need to have with me during the times in my life when I’m waiting in the hallway
Because I came into these rooms…
-I learned about turning things over to my Higher Power and that it’s not about being strong enough, but about admitting that I’m weak and I’m human.  I can’t. He can. Let Him.
-I made so many friends who care, who notice if I haven’t been here in a while and reach out.  And who gave me back the gift of laughter, sometimes making me laugh until I cry
-I get donuts.  And pastries.  And hugs.  And, of course, coffee
-I get the support of a group who makes me share when they can tell I’m hurting
-I am strengthened by the people who went out and bravely came back in to these rooms and shared their renewed experience, strength and hope with me
-I am humbled by the newcomers who struggle to say their name and add the word “alcoholic” to it, who still tremble from withdrawal and who, I pray, find the solace and comfort that I found in these rooms as well
-I have the honor to sit beside people who made it through huge personal losses and stayed sober, thanks to the support they got from people in these rooms
Because I came into these rooms…
-I am making  my way through the steps and working the program which has helped save my life
-I learned how to help another alcoholic and sponsor other women, who inspire me to be the best I can be
-I learned the simple sayings that help keep me sober every day:
-one day at a time
-keep it simple
-keep coming back
-do the next right thing
-think it all the way through
-I learned that I can say the serenity prayer over, and over, and over again whenever I need to
-I learned that I can start my day over at any point
-I learned how to speak my truth, and speak it with grace
-I discovered the power of gratitude
-I learned that my sobriety is a gift and that it is a daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of my spiritual condition
-I learned that I can write.  And that sharing my experience, strength and hope can, and does, help others
Because I came into these rooms…
-my life is a thousand times better than it was during the dark days when I was in the throes of my addiction
-I will not pick up a drink today
And because I got all that when I came into these rooms, 2190 days ago, I will keep coming back.
Thanks for all the support and love over these past 6 years.  One day at a time…

Flying Sober

30 Mar

14745625

I heard something really powerful today. A fellow alcoholic shared something that was passed along to him:  “Alcohol gave me wings to fly…then it took away the sky.” Just think about that for a few minutes.   You may not get that at all. Or it might make perfect sense to you. I completely understand it. I often turned to alcohol for liquid courage. To quell social anxiety when I had to walk in to a room full of strangers. To battle depression (it took me years to figure out that trying to fight depression with a depressant wasn’t exactly a smart plan).   To celebrate and chase a higher high. To escape. To try to stop the pain. To avoid feeling things I didn’t want to feel. And when I turned to alcohol for those reasons, I usually did get my wings to fly away from or high above whatever I was avoiding. Or sometimes to fly closer to something I was chasing.

Many people can remember the feeling they got from that very first drink. Most alcoholics will tell you that they instantly knew how much they liked it…a little too much. It may be gradual, but they will continue to try to recreate that buzz, often at great cost.   The kid who is shy and quiet might have put a drink or two in him and felt like he was the life of the party. The woman who was afraid to walk in to a crowded room full of strangers might have downed a glass of wine, let out a deep breath and marched in with a new-found confidence. Wings.

While we are drinking, sometimes we feel invincible. We feel no pain. Hell, I fell down a steep flight of concrete steps and should have been killed, but somehow in my alcoholic stupor, I hobbled away. We feel larger than life. We feel funnier, smarter, stronger, and braver. Wings. Yes, some of those times, maybe we were funny. Maybe we were enjoyable to be around. The life of the party. And then the party ended. But perhaps not for us. As I have said before, I look at my alcoholism as having a broken off-switch. Once I start drinking, there is no telling whether that switch will work or not. While other people may recognize that they have had enough and should probably put on the brakes, I’m only getting warmed up. If I felt good and buzzed, I only wanted to feel better and fly higher. The off-switch usually doesn’t kick in.

I am reminded of a Greek myth (hey, I was a Classical Studies major in college, so indulge me here a bit) – the story of Icarus and Daedalus. Daedalus built wings made of branches of osier connected with wax for his son, Icarus, and him to escape from the labyrinth in which they were imprisoned on the island of Crete by King Minos. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high, too close to the sun, or the wax would melt and the wings wouldn’t hold up. Icarus was too exhilarated by the thrill of flying that he continued to soar upward. Sure enough, the sun melted the wax, and the boy plummeted into the sea (now known as the Icarian Sea).

Icarus was literally high, but sought to go higher. And paid the price of his life for it. That’s what can happen to alcoholics when they get their wings from alcohol. They may think that they soar. Until it takes away their sky.   What you think is liquid courage may be “instant asshole” potion. I don’t even want to know how obnoxious I truly was when I was lit. MaybeI had the courage to walk into a room full of strangers, but if I continued to drink, chances are I slurred, made little or no sense, embarrassed myself and others, and stumbled out. You seek the light and end up alone in the dark.

Alcohol gave me wings to fly… until I ended up on the cold bathroom floor with my head hanging over the toilet.   Swearing I would never drink again. Until I did.Alcohol gave me wings to fly…until my hands were shaking in need of another drink.Alcohol gave me wings to fly…until I lost sight of who I was and what was important in life, and I almost lost all that I cared about. What’s ironic is that the higher we try to go, the lower we end up sinking. The closer we get to the sun, the more we get burned. We think we are going toward the light, but we end up in total darkness.   Alcohol does, in fact, take away the sky.

The beauty of sobriety is that it is where we find the light. With each day sober, a little brighter ray of light breaks through the cracks. Now, almost six years without a drink, my future is so bright, I gotta wear shades (sorry, I couldn’t resist). And, I believe I can fly. Without alcohol. I can fly safely, without crashing. How? By relying on my HP. By reminding myself how much better life is sober than when I was wondering when the wax was going to melt. You too can F.L.Y.—First Love Yourself.

Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 

 

 

Faith Springs Eternal

24 Mar

jan_17-002661Well, Spring whirled in with a big snowstorm here in Northern Virginia. Kind of sums up how things have been going for me lately. Haven’t had much time to write. For those of you wondering, it’s been 2125 days and I’m still sober. Not something I take for granted and I am thankful for it every single day. There have been days lately in the chaos that surrounds me when the thought of picking up a drink has crossed my mind. But that’s as far as it went. It crossed my mind and then kept on going. But for some, that thought can linger and lead to the actual action of picking up a drink. How do you keep the snowstorm from getting out of control and leading you to pick up that first drink?

Getting sober and staying sober is so often simplified into a few very clear, easy steps: Go to meetings. Don’t pick up a drink. Do the next right thing. Help another alcoholic. Then why is it so hard?   Alcoholism is described as being cunning, baffling and powerful. All of those are apt descriptions.   Cunning is defined as “sly, scheming, deceitful, guileful, and foxy.” Even “Machiavellian” comes up as a synonym, but that’s for another blog piece. The disease is all of those things. It is always lurking, always ready to pounce when your defenses are down. For the newcomer, those defenses may not yet have been developed. But I have heard countless stories of people, sober for years, who let their defenses down and stopped going to meetings, stopped working their recovery program, and ended up picking up a drink again. Then it’s off to the races. Because for alcoholics, it’s never picking up “a” drink.

Baffling is also a perfect description for the disease because it is so confusing, perplexing, mysterious. It is an obsession of the mind and a physical allergy, malady or compulsion. There is no magic cure or pill to treat the disease. Alcoholics come in all different shapes and sizes. Alcoholism does not discriminate against age, race, sex, socio-economic background, religion, etc. An alcoholic can go years without a drink and then pick up and be right where he or she left off instantly. Baffling.

And powerful. Well, that is an understatement. When I look at the number of people who relapse and struggle with this disease, I cannot help but appreciate the formidable power of the sickness. It’s not until we actually admit that we are powerLESS over the disease and surrender that we can start a path of recovery. Futhermore, we are not strong enough to battle this powerful disease on our own. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: We are the only ones who can do it, but we do not have to do it alone. This is where your HP comes in, or Higher Power. It is said in recovery that “probably no human power could have relieved us of our alcoholism.” I know this may be a very controversial statement for many but I firmly believe that no one can keep you sober—not your sponsor, not your doctor, not your priest, not your spouse, not your best friend. Not even you. It is bigger than you.

A Higher Power is a very personal and individual concept. For some it is God or Spirit. For others, Allah. Some find their Higher Power in nature. Some find it in recovery rooms. One of the things recovery has taught me is to be more open and respectful of the beliefs of others. I believe that willingness, faith and the ability to turn things over to a power greater than ourselves is essential in recovery. With these things, it is possible to not only keep the cunning, baffling and powerful foe at bay, but to thrive in a sober, stronger, and better way of life.

I’ve learned more in the nearly 6 years I’ve fought for my sobriety than I have during the rest of my entire life. Some of the most important things being the ones I just mentioned—a willingness to be open, honest and work my recovery program.   Faith in my Higher Power. And, thanks to my old friend the Serenity Prayer, the ability to differentiate the things that are in and out of my control and knowing when and how to turn things over. For those of you who have seen the cover of my book, Sobrietease, you know that the tagline underneath says “Turn It Over”. There is an upside down martini glass, which is, of course, turned over. But the main meaning is turning over the disease to my Higher Power. Surrendering. Asking for help. Putting my ego in the back seat instead of letting it try to run the show.

These things are helpful whether you are in recovery or not. We can all benefit from a willingness to be open and honest. Vulnerability has some extraordinary perks. The Serenity Prayer helps us to keep things in perspective in our daily lives—acceptance of what we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and wisdom to know the difference. And for the things we come to understand we cannot change or are greater than we are, knowing how and when to turn them over to our HP.   I’ve also learned that everyone has their battles and crosses to bear. No matter what that is for you, you are never alone when you rely on your HP.

With those tools, the “simple” steps suggested for getting and staying sober will work and that thought of a drink won’t turn into action. Go to meetings. Don’t pick up a drink. Do the next right thing. Help another alcoholic. Yes, alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. But people battle it and win every single day. It can be done. One day at a time. The thought of a drink may come into your mind. Let it keep on going. Whatever you are going through, many things in life will test your willingness and faith. The tests will make you stronger. Doubt will come into your mind often. Let it keep on going. Snowstorms will come… but the snow will melt.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle
 

 

 

Love, Freedom and Sisterhood

27 Jan

Last night, I had the great pleasure of going to see Glennon Doyle with my mom in Naples, Florida at an event called “Love, Freedom and Sisterhood.” I’ve written before about “God winks” and this was a pretty big one. I made plans to take my boys to Florida to see my parents and found out afterwards that Glennon and her new wife, Abby Wambach, would be holding an event only about eight miles from my parents’ house while we would be visiting.

For those of you who don’t know who Glennon Doyle is, check her out here: Glennon Doyle. In a nutshell, she is a woman for whom I have a great deal of admiration for several reasons: she speaks her truth, she has learned to find the silver linings in life, and she inspires others to be the best, most honest version of themselves they can be.

After getting sober and writing the blog Momastery and the book Love Warrior, Glennon focused on philanthropy and activism and started a non-profit called Together Rising. The website says “At Together Rising, we believe that the surest way to lift a family or community is to lift a woman — that when a woman rises, she raises her people up with her.  Our mission is our name — To Get Her Rising — and we exist to heal the world, one ‘Her’ at a time.”

I wish everyone could have heard her message last night. There were cameras there filming, so maybe at some point you will be able to see it, but I can at least share some highlights with you:

Become the ones we are waiting for. Through Together Rising, Glennon Doyle has brought immediate help to families that would have otherwise been waiting for long periods of time for aid and assistance. Sometimes, we need to be the first responders. I see this firsthand in both my job with the National Breast Center Foundation and as someone in recovery who tries to help and guide others struggling with alcohol or addiction.

The number of women in my own community who don’t get the medical treatment they need for breast cancer is staggering. I am blessed to work for an amazing physician who saw this need and started a foundation to address it. Women don’t have weeks or months to wait when they are scared, overwhelmed and lacking insurance or financial resources to get the help and treatment they need.  The foundation helps women who need it now.

I also have the privilege of working with many people who turn to me for help with their battle against substance abuse. They may have waited years for help, not knowing where to turn or being too scared to ask. While there are those who disagree with my being so open about my recovery, I think it’s fair to say that if I wasn’t “out there” with it, I wouldn’t have become one of the ones that many are waiting for.

-Don’t abandon yourself to please the tribe. This was the story of my life until I got sober, worked on my character defects and stopped being a people-pleaser who was afraid to rock the boat.   I spent my life trying to make everyone else happy and worrying about what everyone else thought. I lost myself.   I thought for a while that I could find myself in the bottle. Not so much. It only made it worse.   Five years and eight months sober (2070 days but who’s counting), I have only recently started to find out who I really am and speak my truth. Sometimes it’s hard as hell, but it’s much better than living my life completely numb and abandoning myself to please the tribe.

Get to your own voice of wisdom. Glennon talked about how she often turned to friends for advice and help with major decisions in her life. But she learned that everyone’s opinion depends on where they themselves are coming from—their tribe. No one else knows.   Only you know. You need to listen to that voice inside of you. Some call it intuition. Some call it wisdom. Glennon described it as “feeling warm”. When something doesn’t quite feel right, she said she doesn’t “feel warm” inside. I think you know what she means. I do. I am blessed to have a few people I trust and confide in and often run things by to make sure I’m on the right track. But ultimately, I have to listen to my gut. As Glennon said last night, “your life has never been tried before. Every woman is a pioneer.” We will make mistakes in the choices we make in life but that’s okay. The important thing is to learn and grow from them. My mistakes and bad choices made me who I am today. Glennon talked about having our own built-in GPS. It’s okay to make a wrong turn and get that voice that says “redirect”.

-Be still. “Shut out every single voice in your life.”   We often find our brains on overload with a zillion voices shouting at us, people clamoring for our attention, overwhelmed with life’s daily demands. We need to take the time to just be still and tune everything else out. A good friend of mine reminds me often to simply breathe. I’ve learned in recovery the importance of prayer and meditation, which comes only with being still. Being still allows me to connect to my HP (Higher Power) and refocus. Being still allows me to get to my own voice of wisdom. Being still is also something that is not always easy, especially for someone who is used to going a million miles a minute. But it is essential for us to find our true selves.

-Allow nothing but love onto your island. We have the ability to surround ourselves with what we choose. We don’t have to allow other people’s fear, anger, prejudices or judgments into our space. Enough said.

-Be desperate to tell the truth. When asked about when she started writing her blog, Glennon said that she found it to be something just for her. That she “wrote her heart out.” She said that her writing was “raw and real and true, like someone who actually believes she is forgiven.” I feel exactly the same way about my writing. There is something amazing about getting it all out and seeing the words on the page. And there is something even more amazing if those words on the page help someone else.

There was so, so much more but that gives you a good idea. I learned a great deal last night from a fellow recovery warrior, including even a little about carpentry. As Glennon explained, “sistering” means strengthening weak joists with additional material. Adding a board on each side can help a weak one stand stronger. Sometimes we could all use a little sistering. I’ve been blessed to have strong women and men stand up beside me to hold me up when I needed it. I hope that I can be a strong board for others when they need it as well.

“If there’s a silver lining to the emptiness, here it is: the unfillable is what brings people together. I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness and my emptiness.” 
― Glennon Doyle MeltonCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

Martha Carucci is a blogger/author from Alexandria, VA.  Her book Sobrietease is a humorous yet heartfelt account of her journey through recovery and sobriety into a  better life.  Follow Martha’s blog at www.sobrietease.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sober Cum Laude

25 Jun

 

It’s graduation time. A time when so many young people move up and move on. Happy celebrations that mark one chapter in life that is ending and a new one beginning. I was delighted to celebrate some of these special occasions with dear friends recently and to be able to do so sober.

In the midst of the festivities, however, yet another friend in recovery went back out “to do more research”. They fell off the wagon. They went back out to their old world of drinking. Often, the action is facilitated by one particular thought: “I’ve got this now.”   However long they have been sober—10 days or 10 years—they think that they can now “control” their drinking. Sorry to say, that ain’t gonna happen.

If however, you are able to prove me wrong, my hat is off to you. No one I know or have met in my five years of sobriety has been able to do that. In fact, I’ve shared some pretty heartbreaking stories on my blog about people who went back out and never returned – they lost their lives to the disease before they could get back in to recovery.   Once a pickle, you can never go back to being a cucumber.

But many people who go back out come right back in. They get themselves back into a recovery program immediately. We are all human. We make mistakes. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful, so kudos to those who get knocked down and get back up again. I hope that I won’t find myself in that situation but…

Recovery is not a program from which one ever “graduates”. But then again, neither is life. If we aren’t constantly learning, we are going backwards. I can honestly say that some of the most important and most helpful things I’ve learned have been in recovery. And they are pretty basic things that can help anyone, alcoholic or not.

Sobriety 101 teaches us “one day at a time.” Sounds so simple but yet often so hard to live by. When I first got sober, the idea of never having a drink again, EVER, was completely overwhelming to me. What helped the most was when someone would remind me that I don’t have to do it forever, just for today. Tomorrow is another day, and I will tell myself the same thing. In tough times, this may get changed to “one hour at a time.” Make life manageable for yourself. Break things down into attainable goals.

We also learn another crucial axiom: “do the next right thing.”   Again, alcoholic, addict or not, everyone can use this reminder.   When you come to crossroads, make the right choice. It’s not always easy, believe me I get that, but ask yourself what the next right thing is and find a way to do it. If you need to, ask for help.

In AP Sobriety, things get a little more complicated. We hear things like “change I must or die I will,” “attitude of gratitude,” “stinkin’ thinkin’” and, my personal favorite, “turn it over.” Again, all of these can be useful to non-alcoholics as well. Who doesn’t have “stinkin’ thinkin’” sometimes?   Many of us could use an attitude adjustment, and we can all stand to have a little more gratitude. I realize that is very difficult when times are tough. That’s where the “turn it over” part comes in. One thing I’ve learned on this journey of sobriety is to trust in my HP, my Higher Power. When things get really difficult, I have to remind myself to turn them over. Some things are bigger than I am, but not bigger than HP. Whatever your Higher Power, your Spirit, your God, remember to turn things over to It/Him. I know that without my HP, I wouldn’t be sober right now.

Whether you are in recovery or not, there are certain things in life that we could all use refresher courses in.   Sometimes we just need to go back to basics, like the lessons above. I’ve had 1854 days in sobriety school and I learn something new every day. Thanks to all of you who have taught me life lessons along the way. You have my attitude of gratitude.

“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.” William S. Burroughs

 

 

 

 

Respect

7 Jun

As many of you know, I tend to be very open, raw and honest in my writing. I know no other way. It is my strong belief that this is what I am being called to do—to share my story openly so that I may help others struggling with alcoholism, addiction or other issues. To turn my mess into a message. I am always so grateful when someone reaches out to me for help. So encouraged that they got something out of my writing and felt that they could trust me enough to open up and reach out their hand.   One thing they trust me with is their anonymity. I want to strongly emphasize to all my readers, followers, friends and fellow alcoholics that I would never violate anyone’s anonymity or trust.

 

I often struggle with the concept of anonymity. It has been suggested that I look carefully at Tradition Eleven of AA, which states that “our public relations policy is based upon attraction rather than promotion, we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. “ I have done several radio, television and Internet interviews and have shared my personal story. I do not in any way, shape or form, speak on behalf of AA or anyone else. An AA pamphlet, conference approved literature, entitled “Understanding Anonymity” says the following: “AA members may disclose their identity and speak as recovered alcoholics, giving radio, tv and Internet interviews without violating the Traditions so long as their membership to AA is not revealed.” The pamphlet also says that “Experience suggests that AA members respect the right of other members to maintain their own anonymity at whatever levels they wish.” While it is my choice to share my experience, strength and hope very openly, I am very respectful of the fact that many people choose to remain anonymous and work their recovery privately. Again, I completely respect this and would never violate anyone else’s anonymity.

 

Step 12 says that “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” I have always been confused by what seem to me to be contradictory statements (Tradition 11 and Step 12). How do we carry the message to other alcoholics without revealing ourselves as alcoholics who can empathize with what they are going through?  How can others get the message that they are not alone, that they do not have to suffer without help? How can I give someone hope by letting them know that 5 years into my sobriety, my life is so much better?   I can tell them that I am a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, and I am also alcoholic. And if I can fight this disease and turn things around, they can too.

 

Perhaps the most important message to quote from AA is this one:
“Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” Everyone’s story is different. Their recovery is different.  There may be many similarities, but your story is your own. The way that I stay sober is to give back what has been given to me—the experience, strength and hope that can help other alcoholics like this one.

 

Unfortunately the need for me to write this blog piece demonstrates just how much of a stigma alcoholism still is in our society. That there is a great deal of fear for many of being found out and labeled as an alcoholic. We have a disease. A very unfortunate, cunning, baffling and powerful disease. It is not a weakness. It is not a lack of willpower. But I get it, people can lose their jobs and more if their alcoholism is revealed. It’s so sad that this is how things are for alcoholics in our culture. To have to battle the disease secretly in church basements.   I am truly blessed to have a family and friends who support me and my journey. I realize that not everyone is so fortunate. And because they may not be, all the more reason for me to let them know that someone like me is here to point them in the right direction to get some help and let them know that they don’t have to do it alone.

 

Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well.” Pema Chodron

 

%d bloggers like this: