Seven truths revealed to me in my first year of sobriety
Today is my Soberversary! One year down in the books!
First, I'd like to give you a brief history of my story, as I still haven't quite delved into my past in this forum. There are a lot of details that I always feel like I have to explain in order for people to understand my story, but I'm working on being descriptive and to the point as I grow in my writing.
Growing up in my family, alcohol was always around. Wine with dinner, beer on a hot summer day or when family or friends came over and of course after dinner shots (or aperitifs if you want to be classy about it). I remember the first time I drank enough to give me that warm feeling inside… I was a pre-teen. I felt like a weight was removed from my soul when I drank. I felt like I could be anyone; I could do anything. I didn't feel sad or bad about myself when I drank. It was soon that I began sneaking around and hiding the fact that I was drinking. As I got older, all my friends were going out drinking, so I didn't feel like as much of a loner anymore. Now I could go out and be with friends and meet new ones and let go of all my worries and pain that I dragged around with me during the day and just let loose at night. Friday nights were what I looked forward to all week… then I heard about Thirsty Thursdays… and pretty soon I drank only on days that ended in a Y, and I didn't always wait until 5:00pm. Alcohol covered up all my feelings of desperation. Alcohol made me someone new and, quite often, someone new every night.
Maybe people can't relate to how I grew up in a cult or the effects of being brainwashed or all of the little intricacies that went hand in hand with being shut out from the rest of the world. I grew up isolated from everything that even my own feelings were "wrong." Maybe people can't relate to my mother trying to kick me out when I was three and then successfully kicking me out when I was seventeen. The years of emotional and physical abuse I endured that were a projection of her own personal hurt and unfathomable childhood. But what I do know now, is that people can relate to the feelings of hatred I have for myself, not feeling good enough, not feeling loved, constantly feeling judged and shameful for the choices that I made (whether good or bad). What people can relate to are these human emotions; feelings that I was not allowed to understand or relate to for so many years. And no one taught me how to fix that when I got older, so I drown myself with alcohol.
A year ago, I made the decision to break up with alcohol. This was a snap decision I made one night, but it was really the outcome of some serious soul-searching (and therapy) that was years in the making. I didn't see myself as an alcoholic, in all honesty I still don't. But my relationship with alcohol was destructive and only getting worse with time. For years, I found myself pointing the finger rather than looking at myself in the mirror."I'm not THAT bad!" "I don't have to drink when I wake up." "At least I don't have the shakes." "I still go to work every day, albeit hung-over, I'm still there." "Well, I'm not drinking while I work." "I can stop when I want to, I just don't want to." I found myself surrounded by others that I considered to be worse off than I was when it came to drinking. Somehow in my twisted brain, this made me feel better. But I hid my truth, my actions, my true destructive drinking habits from most of the world… including lying to myself about it. The couple years preceding April 24th, 2015 were just a nutty whirlwind of events mostly outside of my control, some of my own doing, but it brought me to a place I just never imagined I would be. Getting restraining orders against ex's, going to funerals for overdose victims, bringing loved ones to rehab, and losing friendships that lasted decades. I found myself so lost and what I felt was beyond repair that I literally was scared to drink. I was afraid if I drank, I wouldn't be able to stop. And I knew that I wouldn't be around much longer if that was the case. Once I had that realization, it was still about four months of me trying to moderate my drinking before I finally just said enough. And that's when recovery truly began.
So here is my list of 7 truths that have been revealed to me in my first year of recovery:
1: I have broken parts, and that's ok.
I used to feel so sad for all the time wasted not walking a better path, not being where I wanted to be or having made more of myself. Today, I'm grateful for every choice I've made and every broken part of me, because it's brought me to this amazing place that I never expected. A year ago I'd be crying into a drink saying "poor me" whereas today I cry tears of joy, tears of feeling grace and tears of gratefulness. Recovery has become my home where I know it's ok to be broken, and in fact, I embrace it.
2. Fear was running my life.
Recently I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This didn't mean I was just anxious a lot. It means "having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months (or more). Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue," and in my case panic attacks as well. When I realized that my anxiety was literally making me sick, I began searching for answers. Fear was the underlying cause for almost every single anxious moment I felt. Here's a short and most definitely incomplete list of my fears: being rejected, failing, not being liked, being alone, being wrong, being made fun of, intimacy, change… you get the picture right? With help and much research, I have begun to be with my fear, understand it and work through it. I am a perfectly imperfect work in progress.
3. My self-worth is not dependent on what other people think of me.
To some, this may sound so obvious, and I'm sure I've said this to many of my friends… but to truly take the words to heart and live it as truth is a different story. I can tell you this is probably my deepest rooted issue and one that saturates so many aspects of my life. It's a daily issue, but one that I am working on vigilantly.
4. I can give it 100%, and it might still not work out the way I expected, and that's ok.
I used to think that as long as I tried hard enough, I would succeed. I'd get that job, or the man, or the grade, etc. I know now that there is a reason for everything. I may give it all I have and not get what I expected as an end result because it's not what's right or best for me right now. Instead of considering myself a failure or not good enough and beating myself up, now I look for the lesson I can learn and if all else still leaves me feeling worthless, I just find gratefulness for the opportunity or situation.
5. I don't have to be ashamed of my feelings.
Brené Brown says: "I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous… I believe that if we want meaningful, lasting change we need to get clear on the differences between shame and guilt and call for an end to shame as tool for change. That also means moving away from labeling." Stop shame, start healing. Boom.
6. I am human.
I know, again, this may sound simple, but when my therapist told me this, it was a life changer. My entire life I was stuck in a perfection mindset, trying to be someone I couldn't possibly become. Being human allows me to experience feelings, make mistakes, forgive myself, learn and grow.
7. I love God and God loves me, and that's ok.
I spent a good two decades denying my own spirituality and relationship with God, because of two reasons. One, the cult I was raised in told me because I wasn’t in that religion anymore, I was doomed. And two, I felt doomed. It wasn't until experiencing time at 12 step meetings where I encountered the Higher Power aspect of recovery. I kept an open mind, and I spoke with my therapist, and one day, I actually broke down and prayed. And I cried. Because I knew that He was there the whole time. I don't have to be afraid (see points 2, 3 and 5)… but yet my relationship with God is honestly the number one thing I'm fearful of people knowing. But again, it's new to me and with time, and His help, I know that everything will be ok.
If you've made it this far, thank you for being here with me. This is my sacred place of honesty and transparency, and I'm still learning how to tell my story in a cohesive manner. I am here to just tell my truth and hope that it may help or inspire others to be strong, stay the course and do the right thing. This world of sobriety and recovery I have been a part of for the past year has truly been enlightening and a surprising journey.
I'll leave you with this: Paul of BUZZKILL Pod stated it quite perfectly when he said: "This whole journey, this whole thing of self-discovery that we do, this is recovery. This is not abstinence. This is recovery, because I get to see this stuff. And I get to look at it, examine it, put it in my hands, squish it around and realize that this is part of the journey and I'll get through this."