What a year 2015 has been in this Unbuzzed life!
Here I record the significant events that added richness to my 4th year of sobriety.
- I left a job after 26 years and transitioned to a career that is soul-soothing instead of soul-sucking
- Turned 60
- Went on two retreats with sober women friends
- Attended a workshop and made a deer hide frame drum
- Took up lake kayaking as a minor obsession
- Made new friends
- Co-hosted a bridal shower and attended a wedding for a niece
- Volunteered at an annual Walk for Recovery
- Represented the face of recovery on the big screen at a major league baseball game while raising our team flag
- Traveled alone to attend the first ever Unite to Face Addiction rally and concert in Washington, DC
- Grew my little sober jewelry business
Every day, I was grateful for being sober. Without that, none of this would have been possible. Every day, I did my best to do the right thing. I have learned about the tools offered by AA as I attend my weekly fellowship meetings. I’ve continued to read about the unique paths of others in recovery, and as much as I’m able, support those who still struggle.
What was missing from 2015? Anger, resentment, judgement, jealousy, fear.
To think that it all began 4 years ago with a simple but terribly difficult decision to put away the bottle for good and begin the work of exploring life on life’s terms – one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.
Today I will face each of the challenges and opportunities that come my way, and I will not drink, no matter what.
Christmas Eve 2011 – I check my bank account balance on my phone before the liquor store closes early. I have about $11. Should I get a pint of whiskey or brandy? What if that’s not enough? It needs to last for two days until the liquor store opens again. Maybe wine, which is totally appropriate to drink at home on Christmas eve while opening presents with the family. One bottle for sure won’t be enough, but I don’t have enough money for two. I’ll go with the cheap wine in a 1.5 litre bottle for $9.99. As I pay for my purchase I’m acutely aware that I’m a slave to this bottle. I wonder if the clerk knows. Don’t be silly – it’s totally normal to buy a big bottle of wine on December 24. I walk out, clutching that big bottle in a paper bag, feeling ashamed. That night, I drink alone as I sit with my husband and son.
Christmas Eve 2014 – I’m not thinking about my bank account or liquor store hours. I’ve got some extra money from a little sober hobby I started. Some of that money I’ve used to buy a gift for a special friend. I was assigned this year to be JJ’s recovery coach, and our relationship has blossomed into one of mutual support and admiration. At 2 pm I’ll stop by to drop off her gift. There hasn’t been any alcohol brought into the house by me or my husband for 3 years now. We have plenty of sparkling water, juices, coffee and soda. I feel at peace. Our sons will come over; we’ll have a fire, food, gifts and a movie. I am free from the obsession to move through the evening with a drink in hand.
Life is good!
Last week I completed an important step toward becoming an advocate and coach for others in recovery. The seeds were planted here.
I attended a Peer Recovery Coach Academy sponsored by a local non-profit recovery advocacy organization. I got to know twelve amazing people with the common goal of helping others achieve and maintain the freedom we’ve found. We were led by expert trainers who generously shared their passion and knowledge.
Let me just say that, as grateful as I was for this opportunity, it came at a most inconvenient time. In the wake of my mom’s death I’ve been working through a steady onslaught of family issues, and I’ve missed a lot of work. Fortunately, in recovery I’ve developed the ability to establish priorities and keep promises, even when it’s uncomfortable. This was a promise I made to myself last year and I’m so happy I honored it.
At the end of the week, each of us presented our “elevator” speeches. These are statements we learned to create describing who we are in relation to long-term recovery. This is the current version of mine:
“My name is Ginny and I’m a person in long-term recovery, which means that I haven’t had a drink since December 24, 2011. My dad modeled long-term recovery for me. I’m now able to be a role model for my three sons and other family members, and enjoy a mutually supportive marriage. Recovery has taught me that it’s never too late to build a more meaningful life, and the capacity for change lives in everyone. I’m inspired to carry on my mom’s legacy of service to others. For me, that means supporting people like me who seek change and better lives through recovery.”
One of my classmates shared that in another group she was offered the title of I.T.E., which stands for “I’m The Evidence”. I’m grateful beyond words to have had the opportunity to get to know L.K. and all the others at the Academy. The world has just gained a small army of people equipped to venture forth and present evidence of hope to those in need.
Inspired by Christy and her theme-word at Running on Sober, at the beginning of January I chose a theme-phrase for 2014: Letting Go.
I chose it to guide me in building an open attitude to new possibilities. Embracing the new often means letting go of what no longer works.
One month ago today I had to let go in a way I hadn’t imagined. My mom died after a very brief and sudden illness. Gathered in a hospital room with close family, I was forced to say good-bye to the woman who has been my hero, my mentor, my friend.
I’ll never stop missing her, but I’m allowing gratitude to overpower wishes and regrets.
Near the top of my gratitude list is the fact that my mom knew about my sobriety and was proud of me.
As we gathered to write my mom’s obituary, highlighting her many years of volunteer service, I was aware of a looming deadline. On the day of her memorial service, my Recovery Coach Academy application was due.
I submitted the application, went to the interview, and I’ve been accepted. I’m going to become a volunteer Peer Recovery Coach. I welcome the opportunity to honor my mom and her legacy of service in this way.
I’ve missed a lot of work during this month of grieving, funeral planning, estate activities, attending to siblings’ needs, and subsequent illness. More letting go, letting it be what it is, doing what needs to be done, letting others step in when I need them.
Through it all, I’m sober. I’m putting one foot in front of the other, and I’m seeing clearly the next right thing to do. It’s not easy. But facing the feelings is so much better than looking for relief at the bottom of a bottle.
Today it’s been 2 years, 2 months and 22 days since my last drink.
I’ve cut back on the bloggy world lately. I haven’t been reading as much or writing because other activities have taken priority.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Along with my siblings, I helped her process this information and find a good medical team. She had surgery. We’re waiting to see what’s next.
My mom is a unique, strong, smart, progressive, independent, caring woman. In a word, amazing. At 83, she accomplishes more in a typical week than most who are half her age. She’s had to deal with more than her fair share of medical issues in the last decade, but she carries on with determination and a positive attitude. All 90 lbs of her.
She’s going to make it through this challenge, and I’m so happy that I get the opportunity to be on her survival team.
I’m especially grateful for sobriety during the tough times. I’m not hiding. I’m facing things one at a time. Aware. Calm. Capable. Grateful.
My mom never talked to me about my drinking, but I know she was uncomfortable with it. (If my alcoholism is genetic, it didn’t come from her side of the family.) I recently told her that I quit drinking almost two years ago. She was surprised, and happy.
Whatever comes next, I’ll get through it. Without drinking. Without regrets.
Maybe someday I’ll look back and realize I’ve lived an amazing life. Like my mom.
Today I dredged up the first post from my first sober blog, written over 4 years ago, and I present it to you here with all of its raw attitude:
Monday, September 21, 2009
My name is Ginny and ok, fine, so I’m an alcoholic
Today I’m not going to drink and I’m kind of pissed off about it.
[Hubby] has been hounding me to quit/cut way back for a long time.
I’ve been digging my heels in the sand because I refuse to quit for HIM. He thinks I’m wrong about everything. Almost everything I do is criticized and nothing is appreciated. Reason enough to reach for another drink. Or two. Make that one a double.
I’m sick of the conversation. With him. And in my own head.
I’ll quit, but on my terms. I’ll do it for ME, not him.
These are MY 12 reasons for not drinking alcohol today:
- Save my long-term health. I intend to live to 95 and enjoy an active life with my grandkids. Dying of liver disease or cancer at 60 would not allow that, would it?
- Control my destiny. I don’t like the fact that it has such a hold on me that I can’t say no to it when I know I should. Fuck you, Windsor. You are not the boss of me.
- Set a better example for my kids who are all prone to this disease. I just saw an up-close and dangerous example of the perils when son #1 passed out in public on a trip to another city. This is not ok.
- Fewer daily calories. I want to lose the belly fat and no amount of healthy eating or exercising helps while I load up on alcohol each night.
- Ability to face each new day with more clarity and energy. I’m more functional and productive than most sober people, but I could be even better without the cloud.
- More time and attention for other evening activities. I can go more places if I’m not drinking, read more books, play more games, take on hobbies, start running. And more.
- Less time with head in the sand. Procrastination, ignoring taxes, bills, not being organized (“la-la-la-la I can’t hear you”) is having serious consequences.
- Heightened consciousness about the state of my marriage. The ability to figure out once and for all if he’s the crazy one or if I am.
- To show [Hubby] that I can do it. He thinks that he’s stronger than me because he cut back to beer and wine? Watch me. I can stop altogether.
- Save money – probably $25/week. In a year I can have that leather sofa I want.
- Avoid those unexpected changes in attitude that turn me into a nasty bitch. No one likes her.
- Give me a feeling of pride so I don’t have to work 3 jobs for personal validation.
This was the start of one of my more successful runs at sobriety. It lasted over 30 days and I was doing really well until I decided that, well, maybe I wasn’t really an alcoholic after all, and, um, maybe I’d just take a break from blogging. Yeah.
I spent another two years figuring out that I needed to quit. Maybe my denial was so strong that even 40 years of dysfunctional behavior wasn’t quite enough to convince me. I had to get back in the saddle and get bucked around for another couple of years before I’d let reality sink in.
Now, after almost 2 years sober I wonder, “Who was that crabby drunk?”
I’m a different person, for sure. Defiance has turned to humility and compassion. All of my hopes for sobriety came true, and then some.
If you’ve tried and failed, you’re not alone. Never quit quitting. Freedom awaits, and it’s so worth it.