I may be suffering from a different kind of hangover this morning, a vulnerability hangover. I don’t feel a moment of regret for what I did yesterday, but even after a night of sleep I am still pretty wiped out. Yesterday was very powerful, not only did I have one month of sobriety to be grateful for and so many incredible comments sent my way here and from the Twitter recovery tribe (thank you all, from the bottom of my heart), but I also took a tremendous leap. Since about two weeks into my sobriety, I’ve had this deep need to open up about it to all the people that know me. I’ve mentioned before that I keep another blog, one that I haven’t written in much because I knew I couldn’t tell my full truth given how open it was to everyone. It is in that space that I decided once I hit a month of sobriety I would write about my alcohol problem – and that is exactly what I did. I even went a step further and linked the post on my Facebook page for all to see. I realize that this may seem a bit much to some people but, for me, I’ve been battling with this for so long and I’ve worked so hard on myself in many ways, that my putting it out to the world was my way of letting people finally see me. It was definitely the right decision.
I truly thought my post would get a few looks and that most people would skim right over it the way it usually goes, but that is not at all what happened. The comments of support and love kept pouring in, friends continued to reach out to me all day through every method you can think of to praise me for my courage and to thank me for being so open about it. It wasn’t even just people from my close circle, I heard from so many people that I haven’t talked to in years, and every single one remarked about how it touched them in some way. I had several people tell me that they had also been questioning their own drinking, one admitted that she had secretly quit and that is why she had gone silent for the past year in an effort to avoid other drinkers. I had beautiful and emotional conversations throughout the day and they continue even this morning. I had no idea that people actually did care that much and I am at a loss for words to describe how deeply this has touched me.
So now, everyone knows. My friends, my in-laws, my distant relatives, everyone. I’m not planning on leaving this blog and moving to the other space, not everyone knows everything else that I write here. But, I am proud of what I put out there yesterday. Something tremendous shifted in my life and the power of it definitely wiped me out, but it may be one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever gone through.
I wanted to share with all of you what I wrote there. I started it much like I had in this space yesterday morning, in fact, it was my one-month post that prompted me to get this out on the page. I immediately turned to writing this after that post and after asking my husband to take a peek first, I didn’t give it another thought and out to the world it went. Thank you, all, for following my journey here. I value each and every one of you.
Why I Choose Sobriety
Today is one month. One month free from the shadow that covered my heart and blurred my mind. One month that I’ve been able to take on the world without the devil dancing at my side. One month that I’ve had the courage to stand on my own two feet.
I am sober.
When I started this blog, I dove in with intentions of talking through some of my history with an addict for a father. I wanted to share the stories of what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic and how that impacted me, but the entire time I had a nagging feeling about my own alcohol use. For a while, I thought it was perfectly normal to question the amount or frequency I was drinking, who wouldn’t examine their own behaviors when they’ve experienced life with someone with such a severe problem? But the voice inside that kept up the questioning grew much louder over time, until I could no longer ignore it.
Most of you reading this would have no idea that I have a problem with alcohol. It’s commonplace for every social event and activity with friends to involve drinking. We all do it, and I’m usually one of the least likely folks to be viewed as out of control. In fact, even when I’ve been outright drunk most people tell me that they had no idea. My having a problem with alcohol doesn’t mean I had to be blotto and stumbling or slurring every day. It doesn’t mean that I am the worn out old lady falling off of the bar stool or passed out on someone’s front lawn. What it does mean is that I cannot control my drinking. I was drinking every single day and have been doing so for what has probably been most of my adult life. The amounts in recent years were slowly increasing. What used to be one glass of wine or beer a day was turning into three or four, and sometimes with a martini or whiskey night cap just for good measure. The weekend amounts went well above this in many cases. I tried to moderate time and time again, setting rules for myself such as no drinking during the week, or no drinking when I’m alone. But none of that ever worked. Other than a brief 30-day dry challenge about three years ago that turned into something more like 20 days, I don’t think I ever made it more than two days without a drink.
I could say that therapy was a big eye-opener for me, but even there I went months denying that I was using anything as a coping mechanism. I didn’t want to see it – I couldn’t see it – but alcohol was my go-to for coping with just about anything. Childhood trauma, social anxiety, bad days at work, stubbing my toe, you name it and there was a reason to drink that followed right behind it. It’s been a way to numb out for far too long and I’ve grown far too tired of it. The only way for me to move forward was to draw a hard line in the sand. My sobriety is no longer just a short-term test, this is forever.
So, why am I putting this all out there for anyone to read? Because I am not ashamed. Sobriety is one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through. It isn’t easy for someone like me to just stop drinking and a common theme that I’ve picked up on from other folks in recovery is that there is a stigma or shame associated with this. It’s unfortunate that this remains the case, but it is true that while society pushes alcohol on you as the cure for everything that is going wrong with your day, that same society looks down on you if that cure should turn into a problem. I’m not saying that everyone is looking down on those in recovery, that certainly isn’t the case, but the reality is that it does happen often and that is why many people end up afraid to talk about it. I am not proud that I developed a problem, but I am proud of the changes I am making, and I don’t feel the need to hide it. I want people to know me, to see who I really am and who I am becoming. If I don’t share this tremendous shift in my life, then I may as well go back into the shadows that alcohol created for me.
I am still in the very early stages of my sobriety, and while one month is a huge accomplishment (those first couple of weeks were brutal), I have a long way to go. For what it’s worth, my sobriety doesn’t mean that anyone else needs to change their behaviors around me, I don’t expect others to stop drinking or tip toe around me because I choose not to. I’ll admit, it’s a very strange position for me to be in and I’m still figuring it all out, but I’m sure there are parallel concerns on the other side, too. The bottom line is this, don’t feel the need to treat me any differently. Don’t worry about how to act around the sober woman, I assure you, I will be just fine. If I do cut a night short sometimes, it might just be that cravings are setting in and I need to take care of myself, but in no way should you be offended or worry that you did anything wrong.
While staying sober generally sucks sometimes (eloquent, I know), I feel incredibly lucky to have found this path. There is no longer any doubt or question in my mind about what the right thing to do is because I am right here doing it. I am sober. I am living.