Never in a million years, or at least in MY lifetime, would I have believed I could be sober for 365 days straight. Alcohol was my security blanket, my voice, my self-esteem, my courage, my only real hope to fit in with the world. It was a buffer to soften the friction created between me and my fight with reality. You see, I was different. People just didn’t understand me. I deserved to be medicated! I needed to be a little fuzzy in order to feel comfortable just sitting in my own skin. I can’t express myself so please give me a break! Please allow me to ingest mood-altering chemicals so the world doesn’t seem so harsh, so my shame can feel a little less painful. Alcohol was like an opaque veil draped softly over my being. It was a wonderful layer that protected me from getting hurt and allowed me to hide behind it’s fabric of denial. I could drift through life and not really have to commit to anyone or anything. I liked myself much better with a little buzz, and I was determined to believe that people enjoyed my company so much more when I was muffled by the haze of the wine.
I began my journey last year full of uncertainty and fear. Baffled and in disbelief that I got myself into this mess. I saw this coming years ago and was in shock at how someone with my willpower and mental strength could not control this situation. I became completely powerless over alcohol! But, sadly, I couldn’t imagine a life without alcohol! If I couldn’t do it for myself, I had to do it for my family…my boys, my husband! It would be absolutely devastating to lose my children’s respect- to lose their trust! To NOT be the mother they look up to, and depend on, for love and protection.
I guess this was a decision to save my life? SO much death in my family related to alcoholism. Alcohol kills! I had no idea that this decision to make a change had also saved my husband’s life and had saved our family. I was oblivious to the selfishness an addict possesses.
Truly, my main focus over the past 5 years was when I could get my hands on my next glass of Chardonnay. I was clueless to the fact that I was hiding from everyone- including my husband and children. My priorities were so fucked up…Wine First, Boys Second, Husband Third, Sanity and Self Respect dead last! Not trying to minimize my problem too much, but I wasn’t your typical alcoholic: 1- I didn’t drink during the day (well…of course I justified my occasional 3pm glass or two of wine because it allowed my creative mind to thrive when I was writing posts for my blog). 2- I didn’t hide vodka bottles around the house (although I found a great new place to store my “Black Box” of Wine…In my garage! Such easy quick access when I needed to take the edge off; plus, hidden in my dry-cleaning bag, there would be no judgmental eyes to question my need to drink alone. Oh- and I only bought the best of the boxed wines because I was sophisticated and wouldn’t lower myself to Franzia status- I was not a drunk)! 3- I never got a DUI! (I was a good drunk driver- especially when I was driving my kids to and from soccer practice).
I was born into generations of family where “cocktail hour” was the highlight of the day. It always started exactly at 5 pm…but let’s have bottles open and glasses eager in hand at 4:59! You could feel the adrenaline and anticipation in the room; voices getting louder, smiles enthusiastically appearing on faces, laughter building in the air. Ahhhhh, that first sip of alcohol- so smooth, so heavy, so mind-numbing! Now, I thought, this is heaven! Now I can relax, let my guard down, and lose myself in a happy buzz. Now I can deal with the intimidating and annoying world around me.
I know I will struggle on a daily basis. I will fight with myself, questioning whether or not my life is better with or without alcohol. I do miss the good times, though! The care-free drunken times! Life, to me, was so much more exciting, enjoyable, and “doable” with wine free-flowing! I miss my best friend. My liquid courage. I could make the selfish choice to bring alcohol back into my life, but I would have to be ready to deal with life-changing consequences. I could tell those that want me sober to put themselves in my shoes…to sit in my skin for awhile…and to wait for their skin to start crawling. There are days when all I want to say is “Fuck You! You just don’t understand me! You have no idea how my debilitating shyness strangles me everyday”. I actually can relate to my father much more easier now! He too is an alcoholic. He stuttered as a child and all throughout his life. He was unable to express himself the way he wanted! Stuttering made him angry! Alcohol eases the pain of humiliation and embarrassment. Life is just so much easier with Chardonnay or a Martini. I get it, Dad! I have so much more admiration for you, now knowing what you went through, for staying sober throughout the 20 years of my childhood, teens, and early 20’s.
When drinking, I wasted so much time trying to cover up who I was. When we hesitate in being direct- in believing in ourselves, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world. And often that thin covering is the beginning of loneliness and isolation.
But for today, I choose not to drink. I choose to be clear-headed. To experience the world in all its brilliance, beauty, wonder, and unpredictabilty. To FEEL 100%. For the past 30+ years, I haven’t had crystal clear vision!
I can’t tell you how great it FEELS to laugh deeply, cry unabashedley, and love whole-heartedly! Dismissing the constant urge to self-medicate, I try to be in the moment and feel and live every unrepeatable minute. What I’m discovering is that feeling any one feeling deeply enough (thoroughly and completely) makes me feel most alive. We all fear certain feelings and we constantly fight to keep living! We try to be happy and not sad; try to be calm and not anxious; try to be confident and not self-conscious; try to be understanding and not angry; try to listen and not preach; try to be compassionate not judgmental!
The way to stay closest to the pulse of life and to stay in the presence of divine reality, we must be willing to change. Change what has ceased to function within us. To shed whatever we are carrying that is no longer alive. Fear, pride, comfort in the familiar, nostalgia- these all keep us stagnant. When we cease to communicate or present ourselves to the world simply to avoid conflict with others, then we are not true to ourselves.
“…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom”. It’s usually often easier to just sit and wallow in our pain, sorrow, and suffering versus making a change to end and overcome it. We all face this turning point repeatedly! When resisting the flow of inner events suddenly feels more hurtful than leaping toward the unknown. Yet no one can force us to leap but ourselves. How often we thwart ourselves by holding tenaciously to what is familiar. And so for me, eventually, the pain of drinking became greater than the pain of not drinking.
No matter how desperate we may feel, or how hopeless our lives may seem at times, the fact remains that loss and sorrow are part of life…they’re part of change. We can choose to cling to sadness or fear but the next wave of feeling could bring us JOY! We have no reason to fear one another’s presence, or to fear new situations when we realize that all of us are on equal footing. No one’s talents are of greater value than our own and each of us is talented in ways exactly appropriate to our particular circumstances. We have the freedom to make our own choices, the freedom to carve out our own path in the world. Our responsibility in this life is to our own healthy development, not trying to control someone else’s. We have no control over what other’s think of us. It’s none of my business what other people’s opinions are- I can’t change them and I can’t control them.
I wonder too of the losses that puncture our world. Maybe our own emptiness or black holes that envelope our bodies might actually become places to see? To see through to God. That which tears open our souls- that with which we believe we cannot go on living without, may actually become the thin open places that make it possible to see through the mess of this place… to the heart-aching beauty beyond. How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for contagious joy, or self-focus for empathy?
Some of us choose to live with our hands clenched tight! I know I do. We white-knuckle through life. We’re just going through the motions of the day so that we can finally fall in bed in hopes to see yet another rising sun. Why do I sometimes have to live in this sense of “missing out”? Why do I have to give up the pleasure of drinking to make my family happy? Am I really so full of ingratitude? What a sin! Losses can tear holes in the canvas of the world. One life-loss can affect the whole of another one’s life! Forever! Our sight can become scattered with black voids. And now it seems everywhere we look, we only see all that ISN’T…the lack thereof…deficiency!
I read somewhere that “life is a gentle teacher”. SHE wants to help us learn. It’s frustrating to be in the midst of learning. It’s like sitting in a college math class, listening to a teacher explaining a subject that is completely beyond my comprehension. It may feel like someone is torturing us with messages that we will never understand. We strain to see the greater good. We become angry, frustrated, confused! Finally, in despair, we turn away and want to give up. Later, maybe days, months, or years later…while taking a quiet walk or mind-clearing run…we have a break through! Quietly, the gift of understanding has reached that deepest place in us. The fog has cleared. We understand. We have learned. The next day (in class, at work, or in the grocery store) it’s hard for us to imagine not knowing, or hard to imagine the misery we put ourselves through. It seems so EASY…NOW! Life is a gentle teacher. She will keep repeating the lesson until we learn. It’s okay to be frustrated, angry, hurt…and then…it is okay to walk away and allow the breakthrough to come. It shall!
The greatest GIFT to come from my sobriety so far is the opportunity to just sit with myself and not feel the need to run! I can now see my life through clear eyes, peace of mind, and pure vulnerability!
It’s okay to be me. I do not have to be in love with myself, but if I can accept my personal defects and be able to live along side them, self-hatred loosens its grip on me. I no longer need to be the dumbest, the shyest, or any other “est”. It’s OK to just be ME. Humility and self-respect are key!
Real feelings of love! Real feelings of joy! Real guttural bellows of laughter! Even real sadness! I am finally “living in the moment” with clarity! With peace of mind, and with a VOICE! My real voice! Mornings were always the moments where my husband and I would assess the damage done the night before. What would HE have to cover up? What would WE have to clean up? What apologies would I have to make THIS time.? No more guilt and no more shame! Mornings are now absolutely unbelievable- no more hangovers! I’m living again, day by day, as best I can. It’s not perfect! As I always say- Life is a BEAUTIFUL struggle! Today is just another day- Day 366…Breathe…life’s journey never ends!!!!
To FULLY LIVE- to DARE TO LIVE a fuller life…to LIVE FULL OF GRACE….to LIVE FULLY ALIVE…what do I need to do? What do I need to change? What do I need to give up? These are questions we should all ask ourselves!
Thank you for listening!
P.S. Just ignore the endless pictures of myself! My need for attention and my abundance of insecurity will never change! #pleasestrokemyego #shesovain