One thousand days, part II – the journey to Unbuzzed

The first year was all about learning to survive without the crutch of alcohol.

This is what I wrote when I reached one year of sobriety:

December, 2012

How did I feel as a drinker?
Guilty, foggy, forgetful, overcompensating, anxious, resentful, ashamed, judgmental, trapped, hopeless, weak, dependent, depressed.

How do I feel one year after making the decision to stop the madness?
Confident, clear, empowered, calm, able, grateful, humble, optimistic, compassionate, strong.

My life isn’t perfect. I’m still a work in progress. I’m not happy every day, but I’ve learned to tolerate the down times without seeking artificial relief. There isn’t a solution for every problem, and that’s just life. I walk through it and breathe through it.

Life is good anyway.

I’ve had a range of experiences in 2012 that have challenged me.
No matter what, I didn’t drink.

I maintained two jobs, attended two weddings and an out-of-state funeral, held my beloved dog as she was euthanized, agonized over chemical use issues with my teen child, assisted two adult sons through times of unemployment and relocation. I really wanted the comfort of alcohol during those times.

No matter what, I didn’t drink.

With the time and energy I gained from not drinking, I improved my life. I lost weight, read books, completed a duathlon, made home improvements, kept up with bills, went on a road trip and began building a more loving marriage with a husband who inspired my sobriety with his own.

I met and was inspired by some amazing people in an online support group. My life was reflected back to me as I read about theirs. I learned that “one drink is too many and one hundred is not enough”. I learned that massive action is needed to successfully battle the alcoholic voice. I learned that it’s easier to stay sober than to get sober.

So I continued to not drink, no matter what.

Amazingly enough, I’ve begun year two of sobriety. I’m a different person in many ways. I’m also the same person, but better.

Life is better.

As I moved through my 2nd year, my focus began to shift outward. I wrote these posts to my online forum mates:

September, 2013

Alcohol remains the dominant “go-to” in times of stress because you haven’t had enough sober time to build up the muscles it takes to cope by facing things head-on. Speaking from experience, it doesn’t happen overnight, but you can eventually get there if you reject alcohol at every turn no matter what. It may feel overwhelming right now, but it will not always be this way. Trust me on this.

This leads to the other topic at hand: AA vs. doing it on your own.

I don’t believe that most people can beat the addiction to alcohol completely on their own. I only did it after YEARS of failing. My way was slow and painful. Something about this forum and the wonderful role models I found here finally clicked for me, and I am beyond grateful for that.

However, if I had to give advice to my younger self, I would tell her to get her ass to an AA meeting or another in-person organization and cut out years of bullshit.

November, 2013

An update on my AA experience: I’ve gone to 3 weekly meetings with the same women’s group. It’s soooo good to be in the same room with people who understand. Just like being with you folks, but we can talk face to face. I read along in the 12 Steps/12 Traditions book but haven’t started any step work on my own yet, nor have I approached someone to be a sponsor.

My plan is to continue going to this meeting and also explore other in-person group options: other AA meetings, Women for Sobriety, and a Zen Center 12 Step meeting.

What I realize is that I like associating with alcoholics!

Let me rephrase that: I like spending time with thoughtful people who have used their alcoholic experiences to grow as human beings.

Into my 3rd year, this:

February, 2014

My AV/She-Devil/Wolfie is in deep hibernation, but I KNOW that just one drink can awaken the f*cker. Not gonna risk it. Not after getting to a place in life where I finally LIKE myself. There is a lot of living to do and I guarantee, dear readers, that it is worth every moment of struggle to get to freedom.

Life is good.

Now

I continue to grow in recovery by making connections in real life. After a year I’m still going to weekly AA meetings. The women in that group inspire me daily. I’ve found opportunities to help other people through a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that promotes many pathways to recovery. I’m enriched by my experience as a peer coach.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Life is full.


Faces, voices, and holding hands with strangers

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As I’ve embraced a life that revolves around recovery, I’ve suspected that I’m missing something by not connecting in person with others who are doing the same.

I decided yesterday to look up a meeting. There are so many available.  I selected one close to home (though not the one at the end of the block, which feels too close) and I chose one that is for women only, thinking it may feel a bit less intimidating for my first visit.

I’ve read a lot of AA literature and testimonials, and I had an idea of what to expect, but I was nervous as I pulled tentatively into the church parking lot. There were a few other cars parked and I watched a couple of women walk into a side door of this building that I’d never entered.   I followed, staying close enough not to lose sight of them as they made their way to the “fireside room”.

As I walked in, the woman who turned out to be the meeting chair asked if I was new and we introduced ourselves. I took a seat on a chair set up in a circle. This could have been a Tupperware party in a neighbor’s living room. It felt cozy and familiar as a dozen or so women filtered in and took their seats.

The discussion was organized but not formal. The topic was the 12th Step – reaching out to others and being of service. A couple of women did readings and then one by one, each person made comments.

One voice at a time, I heard bravery, sincerity, humility, maturity, faith, and loving kindness. Each face was like a textured canvas painted with subtle colors, inviting me to take notice of the nuances and enter an open landscape. Then I spoke, and the eyes around me responded. They knew me.

The voices and the faces. In real time. That’s what I’ve been missing.

The meeting opened and closed with us standing in a circle, holding hands, reciting the Serenity Prayer. Then came the hugs, and the “welcomes” and “glad you’re heres” and “come backs”.

I didn’t turn to AA to get sober 22 months ago.

I haven’t relied on the 12 Steps to stay sober.

But I think I’m going to include the program and fellowship of AA to grow in my recovery.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll come back”.


Step by step

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On Saturday I joined hundreds of other people for an annual 3-mile Recovery Walk, one of many such events held nationwide as September is recognized as Recovery Month.

It was a beautiful morning for walking, the turnout was great, and the city lake where the event was held is just 15 minutes from my home.

I went alone, walked alone, and didn’t really “connect” with anyone, but that was ok. I’m still dipping my toes into this pool of real life sober people. As a participant/observer, I felt completely at ease and fully present if somewhat invisible.

As I walked quietly alongside groups and pairs, I took in a couple of memorable slices of conversation.

“I used to think I had so many small problems in life, until I figured out that I really just had one big problem.” Yeah. I can relate to that.

Members of the “honor guard” wore purple sashes with numbers attached representing 10 or more years of recovery:  36, 28, 11, 15, etc.

A younger woman congratulated an older woman on her 10-year achievement, adding, “I would have had 6 years, but I messed up.”

The woman in the purple sash replied, “You didn’t mess up, sweetie. You just needed to go back and do some more research.”  “No”, said the young one. “I really MESSED UP. I’m looking at doing 5-10 years now.”  A poignant reminder of how serious this can be.

The variety of participants represented a true cross-section of our community. These were people I would expect to see at the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, the county fair; normal people, living every day in recovery, coming together with friends and strangers on this day to honor the journey and show their faces.

I had my photo taken in a Fun Photo Booth labeled “Show The Faces of Recovery”, and I’ve posted it on my About Me page. Yes, I’m still hiding behind sunglasses, and I’m still a work in progress, but one baby step at a time, without fanfare, I’m getting out there – sharing myself, my face and my story of recovery.

Recovery works, and I’m living proof.