Posts Tagged ‘getting sober’

When I was still drinking alcohol and January rolled around, I’d get really depressed.  The holidays being over meant that people were going back to their normal lives, no more parties, no more days off, no more excuses to drink all day. Not that I needed an excuse to drink, but the fact that other people were letting loose over the Holidays was a great way for me to be ‘inebriated incognito’.

Though flying under the radar didn’t last long, soon people noticed that while they might have a few drinks at the office party or with the Holiday dinner, I often looked like a possessed baby calf, with bloodshot eyes and legs splayed awkwardly in opposite directions trying to find a foot hold. I’d spend the time stumbling around spouting funny one liners (or so I thought) only to be told the next day that I really should call so-and-so to apologize.

The truth is I know I’ve managed to ruin quite a few Holiday get-togethers.  Sometimes, not even making it to the party at all, deciding instead to have a drink while getting ready. Somewhere along the line, the bottle would end up in the bathroom with me and I’d pass out on the floor with my husband banging on the door.  Although being a no-show was often better than ruining the entire evening for people which is what happened one New Years. After renting a condo in the mountains and having friends drive all the way up from Denver to bring in the New Year, I managed to piss off  my closest friends to a point where they turned around and drove all the way back to Denver that same night. Of course, my response was what the hell was their problem?

In fact, the first time a friend actually said to me that they thought I had a drinking problem was after that New Year’s Eve. This was the first time someone had said this – to my face anyway – and I acted as though I was mortally wounded.  How dare she say such a thing? What a bitch she was! I’d have to get her out of my life, I certainly didn’t need that kind of negativity. So I avoided her and coincidentally people started avoiding me.  As my alcoholism progressed, it wasn’t long before I didn’t get invited out anymore, or I had no inclination to go out anyway. The husband left, the friends stopped calling and at the time that was just fine with me, they all got in the way of drinking anyway.

Unfortunately, it would be many more wasted years before I was able to admit to myself that I did have a drinking problem and I wanted to stop. And if you find yourself in a place where you want to stop drinking, this is as good a time as any to get sober. Sure, people who over indulged during the Holidays will make it their New Year resolution to cut down and if they are normal drinkers they will succeed. But if you are like me, and have tried every trick in the book to control your drinking, there is no going back.

And if you can’t go back, don’t stay stuck – try going forward. A good way to do that is to find a recovery meeting and get your ass there. And if you have ideas surrounding A.A. like I did, such as it’s full of fucked up people, who are full of fucked up ideas, it might help to keep in mind the New Year saying, “Out With The Old and In With The New’ – it just might change your life. Happy New Year.

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giftI’d hear people talk about the ‘gift’ of desperation in recovery meetings and wonder what the fuck they were talking about.  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter what I tried, whether it was a few days in detox, a month in rehab or 9 months on Antabuse. It didn’t matter what I did, inevitably, I would get drunk. Over a period of four years I tried everything to stop, eventually I took a handful of pills, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up, instead I woke up in restraints in the ER covered in bruises from apparently fighting off the doctors and nurse who were trying to help me. I spent a few days in the psych ward in a bed opposite a lady who barely made an indent in the bed, there was nothing left of her, except a hollow expression and loose orange skin that made her look old, way beyond her thirty some years. Liver failure will do that to you. That was it, I was scared straight and vowed I’d never drink again. A week later I was back in detox.

I’ve said this before, but no one decides to walk into the rooms of AA, NA, detox or the psych ward because it looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon. Circumstances take us there, some of us are there because we’re trying to save a marriage, our family has given us an ultimatum or the courts have ordered it. That was my story for a while, I was there because other people wanted me sober and I found that while that reason worked in the short term, it never lasted longer than a few months.

When I finally wanted sobriety for myself, there were no more ultimatums, because there were no more people. I’d succeeded in driving them all away and I was completely broken. I knew I was fucked and that was when I became willing to do anything to stop drinking. Sure, I had sat in AA meetings before, cynically watching these ‘fakes’ pretend to be happy, but I had never got off my opinionated ass and asked for help. I just assumed that no one could help me because my alcoholism was different and they couldn’t possibly understand where I was coming from. Something had changed though; I was completely beaten and somehow that spurned me into action. I asked for help, got a sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  I did what was suggested – even if I thought it was crap (and I often did).

When I was in early sobriety, I did not see this desperation as a gift – it was more like a curse – but today, I realize that had I not felt as hopeless as I did, I might never have got off my ass and on the road to recovery. 

 

bottomI can’t recall the amount of people who asked me this, but I do remember being pissed off at the question. Of course I was done, I was sitting in a f**king recovery meeting wasn’t I?

My indignant attitude usually lasted between 2-3 months or until I’d start to feel better. Once I’d got a new place to live or a new job, things didn’t look nearly as bad as it was before. That’s when I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t done and that I might just have to do a little more ‘research’. And so it would begin again and I’d lose that new job, get tossed out of my new home and find myself in detox, dazed and confused, wondering why this could possibly happen again.

I learned a lot of from each and every bottom that I had, most importantly I learned that I was very lucky not to ‘get dead’ before I ‘got done’ with alcohol. There are a lot of people who think that they’ll go out and drink or use just one more time and unfortunately that one time, becomes the last time because they never wake up.

I also learned that while I could tell people what I thought they wanted to hear and tell them I was ready to quit drinking, the truth really was that I wasn’t done until I was done. When I finally admitted to myself that I was beaten and that I’d truly had enough was when I became willing to go to ANY lengths to stop drinking and stay stopped. That’s when I started to listen to the suggestions of the people who had some time in recovery – the ones who had been waiting until I could get honest with myself and admit that I was well and truly beaten – until I was done.   

toolkit As a newcomer, I recall sitting in a recovery meeting and hearing someone say, “No matter what  happens, you don’t have to pick up a drink or drug today.”

 I remember thinking to myself ‘Why don’t you go and shove that golden nugget of wisdom up your ass.’ I  couldn’t understand how someone could say that, I was a total mess, physically, mentally, spritually and financially and the way I looked at it, my life couldn’t possibly suck anymore than it already did and if it got any worse there was no way I could not pick up a drink. This person was full of bullshit as far as I was concerned and obviously not a real alcoholic.

As with many of my opinions and observations in early recovery, I was proved wrong as I spoke with the person who said these words after the meeting. They told me a little bit about their drinking career, how far down they had gone and what happened. They told me when they came into recovery and the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous; they had been given a set of tools to use and suggestions from people who’d been where they were at. And now, when the going got rough, instead of picking up a drink or drug, they picked up their tools.

So, what were these tools? (I was thinking a hammer had to be one of them, that way I could bash my hands with it so I’d be physically unable to pick up the drink.) Again, my line of thinking proved to be a little skewed as this person went on to explain that the set of tools they were referring to were the Twelve-Steps of Recovery. Working on these Steps allowed them to live a life free from booze and drugs, but they didn’t stop with the Steps, they also had a Sponsor, a home group, went to regular recovery meetings, were developing a relationship with a Higher Power and also volunteered to do service work within the Twelve Step community.  All these things combined gave them a solid recovery foundation that was not easily shaken by the stresses of day to day life and of living clean and sober.

Up until this point, I had been staying sober using willpower, so I took this person’s advice and I got a sponsor, began working on the Twelve Steps and went to lots of meetings. I also volunteered to make coffee at a recovery group that I liked which later became my home group.  When things got rough in early recovery, I turned to these tools like my life depended on it (because it did) and miraculously on a day to day basis I didn’t pick up a drink. As I continue one day at a time in sobriety, I still have these tools and when I hear someone say that there’s no need to pick up a drink or drug today, I don’t respond angrily anymore, because I’ve got a glimpse of what they are talking about.

If you would like more information on Twelve-Step Recovery Groups, click here

breakfast As we fast approach the morning after the biggest party night of the year, I was thinking about the  one thing that I will certainly not miss and that is the massive hangover, complete waste of a day  throwing up and the ultimate feeling of self-loathing that came from another night on the booze.  As I have said before, it didn’t matter if it was New Year’s Eve or any day of the week, it was just  another night on the booze for this drunk and it never ended well.  

This year I’ll be taking my son downtown to watch the fireworks, sip hot chocolate, eat a great meal, see a movie and then  go to bed probably listening to the sound of people still partying. That’s ok though because I’m looking forward to sipping my coffee in the morning with a clear head, a healthy appetite and digging into a plate of bacon with fried eggs (a little runny), toast and whatever else I can manage before I go to the park and throw the frisbee with my son. These are the days that I cherish and now I get to remember them too, no more blackouts and broken promises.

What a difference sobriety makes. I never thought I’d say this but I really don’t miss being out there, in the thick of it and I definitely don’t miss those hangovers one bit.

Happy New Year!

smileWhen I was new to recovery, I absolutely, without a doubt thought there was no way I could be sober and happy, in fact I thought it was an oxymoron.

My life was a mess and had been for a long time. I’d been trying to get sober for four years and every time I tried, it went the same way. At first I’d be committed because the memory of my last drinking debacle was very fresh and clear in my mind (as clear as it could be for a blackout drunk) and I felt physically weak and mentally beaten. Surely I couldn’t keep putting myself through this hell again? This time would be different, I was done for good and my willpower and the memory of how bad it was would get me through.

My resolve would usually last anything from one day to three months. Sometimes all it took was one day and I’d be right back at the bottle and sometimes I’d white knuckle it for three months until I broke. During this time, one thing stayed the same, I was miserable beyond belief. I was a dry drunk, angry, depressed and exhibiting all the signs of alcoholism without actually having the alcohol in my system. This was no way to live and if this was what being sober meant, then I didn’t want it, I’d rather drink and be miserable than be sober and just as miserable. Thank God, I was able to find another way or else I really think I’d be dead by now, either from the drink itself or from suicide, because every time I drank I wanted to kill myself and it was only a matter of time until I’d succeed.

I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, the last stop on the block, the end of the road and the place I’d been avoiding for years. Sure, I’d been to a few meetings during my many attempts at sobering up, but I’d decided that I hated it and that the people there were brainwashed and bible thumping weirdos. I’d heard other people say the same thing and read a bunch of stuff on the internet too, but I was at a point where I would try ANYTHING and if it meant sitting around with a group of cult members, then I’d at least try it for a while before I ran for the hills.

I didn’t get it at first, the people in the meetings seemed ‘too happy’ – it had to be fake, but I was scared enough and desperate enough to stick around. In the first few months, I drank a few times and relapsed some more, but I did the one thing they told me to do – I kept coming back. Each time, I’d get some more clarity, each time something else they said would sink in and before I knew it, I had a Sponsor and I was working through the steps. Somewhere along the line, I had a day where I didn’t think about alcohol at all and once in a while I’d have a day where I actually felt, dare I say it? Happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suddenly this glowing, gushing poster child for AA. I was still a scared, defensive drunk, but I had taken a leap of faith. I’d decided to listen to some of the suggestions of the people I’d met in recovery. I’d got a Sponsor and I’d started working on the Twelve Steps and somehow, I’d been given a daily reprieve from the hell of my alcoholism. This was something I’d never experienced previously, when I’d tried sobriety on my terms. So I stuck around and listened to what these people who were all alcoholics and addicts had to say. They’d live through the hell of addiction and knew firsthand what I was going through and here they were, willing to help me

In the beginning, I’m sorry to say that I had nothing but contempt for these people of AA and their way of life, but I tried it anyway because I was at a point where I had nothing to lose as I had already lost everything. I’d found myself in a position where I asked myself this question – does it really matter how I get sober as long as I get there? Can trying a recovery program be any worse than it is now? I’d been avoiding the Twelve-Step Program option for years because of my preconceived ideas and it got me nowhere and almost killed me.  Now I’m thankful to be in a place where I’m not only living sober, but on occasion, I’m actually happy and that’s a miracle for this drunk and I owe a great deal of that to the people I met in the rooms of recovery.  

More information on Twelve-Step Programs can be found here