This blog post is special. Incredibly special. Today, my big sister celebrates a monumental milestone. Today, she is three years sober. One thousand, ninety-five days of a new life. A life where she chooses faith, love, joy, happiness and her health, to name a few. In honor of this milestone, I boldly asked if I could dive deep into her Recovery with a few questions. I worried she might say no. I worried she might hesitate. But she accepted. As she has accepted each day for the past three years-with a beautiful, courageous, open heart. Her story inspires me daily. May it touch the hearts of many…
Q1: What would you say are some common misconceptions when it comes to alcohol and Alcoholism?
I think the biggest is that most people think you have an “on and off” switch. And it isn’t. You have a choice. You can choose today, tomorrow, a week from now to put that glass of wine, that shot of whiskey down. You don’t need another one. Whether it’s binge drinking and you’re having 10, an afternoon 5 o’clock drink, to all of a sudden, the worst case-a five in the morning start It is a conscience decision that you are making. We are escaping the world.
And with Alcoholism, it’s a vicious cycle.
You wake up feeling shame and guilt because of what you have the night before when you drank. You possibly embarrassed your family, you possibly said some things that were inappropriate, or you were not actually completely there- at a family event, or a conversation, or a one-on-one. Your mind has been altered, and its not you. And so you drink because you drink, you wake up and feel guilt and shame, you don’t want to face the people you’ve disappointed. And to escape that, you drink more. Because you want to be numb. You don’t want to see those people’s faces, you don’t want to see the mirror they are holding up. You don’t want to see that reflection of yourself. So you drink again. And every day you tell yourself, “I’m not going to do it…” but you can’t live without it. It’s your best friend. Later in life, you see it’s your worst enemy. But it’s your best friend..it’s the only friend you have. And you’re alone…you’re alone in this world…and it’s very sad. It’s a very sad drug.
When people reach alcoholism to a certain extent, they have to have it in their body. It’s just a chemical need. It is a real disease, it’s been proven that by Science. When you cannot fathom ever NOT drinking again, it’s a problem. You need to really self-reflect on that.
We just think differently, too. We can’t see how someone would ever just have one glass of wine. We think its pointless, a calorie waste- if you’re just going to have a glass at dinner ( at least I do)…We think “why aren’t you getting a buzz from it?” And later in life you’re always chasing that buzz feeling and that party feeling. And as you continue the progression of Alcoholism, you never really ever get that fun, happy feeling you had years ago. You have it for a minute. Then, it just drowns into sadness. You just go into an abyss, and that’s when you know it has consumed your life. It’s not fun anymore. You keep telling yourself it’s fun, you keep chasing that high, but it’s just not fun. Alcoholism is just a crutch- it is escaping reality. It’s a terrible disease that effects so many in this world. And a lot of people are never going to admit it. We live in a party party life- there are beer commercials everywhere. It’s just not good…
Q2: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges in your Recovery?
The biggest challenge is that alcohol is everywhere. It’s at your local corner, it’s at Walgreens, it’s everywhere. There’s commercials about it. I live in Florida, everybody drinks on boats, everybody drinks on the beach. It’s paradise. It’s a vacation spot. So, it was very hard to get used to that- the availability of it. The temptation of it. That’s probably the biggest. In the beginning, it is unfathomable that you will never be able to drink again. You just can’t imagine that…it is just eternity. But, you take it one day at a time.
“Today I’m not drinking.”
“Today I am sober.”
Another part is that many people ostracize you, or look down upon you-you have a problem… and you are in Recovery. And you’re different…and you are kind of below the level of Humanity…you’re kind of a mess-up…and you’re broken… and a lot of people don’t even want to deal with that. Whether it’s dating, in my case, or just false friends. That’s hard.
And you also have to get peace of mind. You have to have more of a resting mind. And you have to learn how to deal with emotions. Emotions were covered up before…you have all these emotions and you don’t know how to deal with them. You want to be angry, you want to cry, you want to be truly happy…but you don’t know how to deal with them…
No one has taught you. And basically, you’re a teenager, in my case. I started drinking at 16…15…and I’m a little kid. And I’m struggling. It’s all new to me, when I first stopped. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but you learn to deal with it. You really do. You learn a lot about yourself. And you can do it. You can have peace of mind. It’s okay to be sad. It feels good to be sad. It’s okay to be angry, And you’re human. And you are growing up. Everybody has bad days. You don’t need to go search for a bottle…You have to just start living life. As most people have done for years…that’s probably the hardest.
Q3: On the flip-side of that, what are some of the most rewarding aspects of your Recovery?
Clear mind. Clear conscience. You are present. You see things. You experience things. You just see the world differently. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful world…
And you’re happy…that you can see your nieces grow up. You’re happy …that you can have a conversation….about politics, religion, weather, history. And you are making sense. You realize you are intelligent. You’re not hiding behind a mask…it’s just nice to just be present.
It’s nice that you work through The Steps, and you let go of the guilt and shame. You let it go. And as you let it go, doing the steps, you are free-er and free-er and happier and happier. You just let the past be the past. And accept that things were done, and its okay. It is okay… you made mistakes, but that was another you. This is a different you, and this is the real you, and this is a better you. Its all not consuming you. It’s amazing- you just let it go. Like a confession to a priest… you just let everything go. I can say that’s one of the best things about it.
Every once in a while, I’ll be driving in the car, and I’ll think of something I did when I was 23, and I do have a moment of “ooooo, that was awful…” but then I keep laughing. And it was a stupid thing I did, but it’s over.
Q4: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is in the early stages of Recovery or may be stuck in the trenches of active addiction?
Kudos… to those who are in the early stages of their recovery. It’s overwhelming, it’s super hard. But it’s also so exciting. They call it the “pink cloud”- the early stages. It’s when everything…you’re on this high. And it’s a natural high, and you’re so happy. And it’s just seeing the world as a different place.
That high will end…and it’s not a sad thing or anything..but that’s when you learn and take in and absorb people who have been in the program. Those who have been sober, clean for years upon years. And you latch on to them, and you learn more and more how you can do this every single day. I mean, it is a daily struggle. But you CAN do it. You’re through the hardest part- putting that last drink down, the last drug down.
For those who, sadly, haven’t give up the control… or seen that it IS controlling you-I wish you could, maybe, try to surround yourself with people that have. Go to a meeting, pick up the phone, ask for help. You are crying out for help. You are not happy anymore, You tell yourself that you are happy, but you’re not. Your life is either in shambles right now, or it’s headed for rock bottom. And if it’s rock bottom, there’s still a further bottom. And it’s unfathomable, and it’s crazy, and life just keeps getting worse and worse. And eventually, the worst thing that could happen is you die. You say you want that, but you don’t. Reach out, form those words…that you need help. You cannot do this alone. You have a problem. And as much as that is so frightening, it’s freeing. It’s really freeing. Just…choose that for today. Choose help. Choose for someone to take your hand. Choose… “I choose me.” And your higher power, there is a higher power. Whether it be to God, to the trees, a candy bar…and you will get through this with that higher power. You are here for a reason. And you slowly see that. And you have faith. And just keep progressing. A lot of people think sober people, that it’s a cult. That we’re trying to get other people into sobriety. But it’s because we want to help you. We want you to have what we have. And it’s a very surreal thing- that it’s achievable. But it is-100%. It’s just one day at a time. Just only think one day at a time. Don’t think about tomorrow. Don’t think about a year from now. Don’t think that this best friend is being taken away from you.
Just think: “today I choose not to pick up.”
“Today I choose not to pick up.:”
“Today I choose not to pick up.”
That’s all you need to keep saying to yourself.
Q5: Was there an actual “it’s time” moment that ignited your Recovery?
…I had been crying out for months and months. I knew I had a problem, years ago. But I didn’t know there was a solution. And I think finally, it was when people realized I needed help, that I couldn’t do it alone. And I was fortunate, very fortunate my family was there to help me. And I didn’t have to live this life anymore. I had a problem, but I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I was sick of being sad. I wanted to die. I wanted to die so badly. But I didn’t want to die…I couldn’t take that next step. But I felt just so sad and alone. And I was sick of it. Again, I finally had a little bit of help. People saw I was crying out for help. I fought it a little bit. But then I embraced it. I thought I would try…try to get better. I would try rehabilitation. Because the other choice, the other option, was to continue in this abyss, this sadness. So I wanted to try. And thankfully, for me, it worked the first time. I am a magical unicorn, in the sense that it doesn’t happen very often- I beat the odds. It worked. I am so blessed that it did. But I took everything in like a sponge. I was defeated. I was absolutely defeated, and the disease had won. And I saw that it was no longer my best friend. I wasn’t happy. And I needed a change. And like I said, I was at the bottom. Death was the only option. Well…death or help.
And I chose help.
My dear, sweet sister,
I will never forget when I heard you laugh again…after all those years. I’ve always known it was there, deep inside, waiting patiently to be set free.
I love you more than you will ever know. Thank you for opening your heart to me, our family, our friends and strangers. Your journey is one that has encouraged many . I am so thankful you chose help. So thankful you chose life.