Humility–C

So. It’s been a while since I have written anything or collected anything from other women to contribute. As my last post in August reflected, I relapsed after two continuous years of sobriety, which is the biggest reason I have been staying away from the blog.

I feel totally different this time around than when I did first coming in. I feel beaten down, like I don’t deserve recovery and I don’t really want to make the effort to recover. I don’t want to drink or more to the point–I don’t want to be stupid, selfish, violent, sick, and suicidal–which is who I become when I drink. I also want to have the gifts of recovery that I know are out there and that I had a taste of before. The healthy, wonderful relationships, the ability to suit up and show up for a job I love, the blessing of being in graduate school and fulfilling my career dreams, and more importantly–an inner peace and connectedness to God, others, and the world. I want all this and everything else I know that is out there waiting for me if I stay sober. But I just feel like I lost my excitement. I haven’t lost my willingness necessarily, but I’ve lost that spark that I had before.

And here’s the truth people–recovery isn’t always glamorous. I guess what I am realizing is sometimes you have to get knocked down before you can really be raised up. I recently had a conversation with a preacher friend who told me that he believes that sometimes God challenges us, or puts hardships in our lives, because we get too prideful and think we don’t need Him anymore. I don’t know if that’s true but I can definitely relate to that idea. I had a lot of things in my program before–honesty, love, pride, compassion, determination, confidence, willingness, eagerness, and so much more but I was missing what I now see is maybe the most essential thing to recovery.

Humility.

Maybe in some ways I was humble in my recovery before. I surrendered myself, I gave of myself to others, I was honest and forthcoming. But I don’t think I was completely humbled. I think when I came in, though I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I had had it pretty easy. I was done with the bullshit I was creating but I think in some ways I think I was looking for glory and attention in my recovery program rather than being totally willing to sacrifice my uniqueness and be a worker among workers, as low and as high as everyone else sitting in the chairs around me. Lovely but not special. Just like you. I still wanted to be unique. “A snowflake distinct among snowflakes,” rather than “a functioning cog in some great machine.” (Thanks, Fleet Foxes.) My story had OOMPH. I did some shit, man. Some bad things happened to me, man. You would not believe it. I am sharing in every meeting because I really have it hard. OR I’m the chair of a meeting! I’m making a recovery blog! I’m gonna talk to every newcomer and share at every meeting not because I am following our twelfth step and being of service but because I can help people. I have invaluable things to share that if they don’t hear they will be MISSING OUT. I am an asset and this group would not function without me.

Best yet–I am going to be sober for the rest of my life. In 50 years I will be speaking at the National Convention and everyone will say, “Wow, she’s incredible! I want my program to look like hers!” I got this locked in no matter what.

It’s not like those things were constantly running through my brain. I did honestly do a lot of the things in the program out of love and service and because I genuinely sought the gifts of the program. But I don’t think I ever completely humbled myself. I think I still thought I was “terminally unique” and somehow I was different, however that may be. I think one aspect of true humility is looking around you and honestly saying, I am no less or more than everyone here. We are all beautiful and equal in the eyes of God.

So the flipside of humility, of being truly humble before others and God, is humiliation. Feeling stripped of that ego and pride and feeling beaten down. Humiliation is not the same as humility but maybe sometimes we have to feel humiliated to realize how prideful and self-seeking we were being before. And basking in that humiliation, sitting on a pity-pot is a cousin of pride. “Woe is me” is just as bad as “I’m the best!” So maybe it’s time for me to own my lot in life and just move forward. Acceptance, I’ve heard, is the answer.

I relapsed. It sucks. It’s hard to get back in the middle of things and there’s nothing wrong acknowledging that. But the longer I let my disease which is speaking through shame, guilt, and my PRIDE talk me out of doing the things I know are right for me–prayer, fellowship, service, step work, 90 in 90, etc–the further down I will get dragged.

Maybe some of this blog was prideful. I think posting my name or other people’s names might be. I think writing about horrendous things in detail because I know other people are reading it might be. I think glorifying how much time I have or someone else has might be. But I think writing my own experience, strength, and hope (when I have strength and hope) and sharing other women’s experience, strength, and hope with the goal of possibly touching other people in recovery is a kind of service. Hopefully I can be humble enough to truly serve and be served by others.

God, I offer myself to Thee. To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always.

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Relapse Is a Part of Recovery–C

On July 20, 2015, I celebrated two years of continuous sobriety. A few days after, I had a huge celebration with nearly thirty people. My family was there, my boyfriend and his family were there, and so many wonderful friends from my program of recovery were there to celebrate with me the fact that for two years I have been doing the seemingly impossible thing—being a sober alcoholic. A fact that has made my life, which was once peppered with drunken mistakes, failed attempts at living happily, and the burning desire to escape, a life worth living. A life filled with new possibilities and beautiful relationships. A life filled with peace and forgiveness and joy.

Yesterday, on August 9, 2015, around 12:30 in the afternoon, I went to the CVS near my house, bought four mini bottles of cheap wine and drank them by myself in a parking lot.

Why did I do this? My mind was boggled. I feel ashamed. I feel remorse. I feel like I threw away the only worthwhile thing in my life. No, the very thing itself that makes my life worthwhile.

Feeling almost immediately like I made a mistake, and like I didn’t want to make matters worse by killing myself or another human being by driving drunk, I texted a few friends. Two friends, one from my program of recovery and one not, came to be with me. They listened to me cry. They fed me. They took me to two meetings. (Going to a meeting drunk was an interesting experience and not one I necessarily recommend…) And they said it’s going to be okay.

I returned home still feeling shameful and full of grief and remorse and like I ruined my life. My boyfriend (who should be canonized) reminds me, “relapse is a part of recovery.” I know that relapse isn’t a part of everyone’s story but now it is a part of mine. In the scheme of things, this wasn’t so bad. I didn’t drive drunk, I didn’t go on a week-long bender, I didn’t get alcohol poisoning, and I reached out. Maybe I reached out four drinks too late but I reached out nonetheless. I heard yesterday from my boyfriend and from reassuring sober friends at the meeting I attended, just because I had a slip, it doesn’t un-do all the work I have done. It doesn’t turn me back into the person I was before I found sobriety. It just means I made a mistake.

It’s important to think about why I made this mistake. Well, I don’t know. My life is pretty damn good. But if we look at all the factors, here’s what we have: Stress from grad school work, stress from screwing up my schedule of grad school and finding out I have one more semester than originally planned, stress and sadness due to the recent death of a sober friend, stress and anxiety from living with my wonderful mother who shares a loving but often tense and slightly codependent relationship with me, stress from being in a long-distance relationship that will involve me moving to another city within a year or now maybe less, anxiety and sadness and confusion at pervasive thoughts of a past addiction that makes me feel isolated and afraid. It all starts to pile up.

But it was there before. Stress, sadness, fear—they’re often a part of life. I have had to deal with them pre-sobriety and during sobriety. Since I have found sobriety and a program that works for me, I deal with them by praying, relying on sober women to hold me up when I can’t hold myself up, reading recovery literature, sharing in meetings, and everything else I need to do to maintain my spiritual condition.

As alcoholics, what we are given is (to quote a favorite book of mine) “a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” I guess my spiritual condition was in a lot worse shape than I knew and instead of taking care of it, I drank. I didn’t pray. I didn’t pick up the phone. I didn’t go to a meeting. I drank. And I drank because I am an alcoholic.

Telling an alcoholic to maintain their spiritual condition is like telling a fish that what he needs to do to survive is get up and walk across the desert. Praying doesn’t come second nature to me. Reaching out doesn’t come second nature to me. Sharing my deepest fears and sadnesses with other people, sometimes strangers, doesn’t come second nature to me. Though I know the answer and the key to my survival is in that desert, it occasionally feels like it would be much easier to jump right back in the ocean and yesterday, I went for a swim.

But much like the fish who has gotten used to the desert sun and the way it feels to stretch its legs, the water didn’t comfort me anymore. I felt lonely and despairing and quite frankly $0.99 wine from CVS is just kinda gross. My fins had dried out and my legs wanted to walk and I found that I was no longer content swimming. And so, this is me, jumping back out to walk across the desert where I belong.

Why did I drink? I drank because of stress. I drank because I had been isolating myself and not sharing my problems with and relying on my network or God. I drank because I had not been maintaining my spiritual condition which needs daily TLC. But mostly, I drank because I am an alcoholic. But despite that fact and in spite of that fact, I believe I can use the tools that my program has given me to get back to living the good sober life that I crave.

Gratitude in Action–P

In my opinion, GRATITUDE is an action and GRATEFUL is a feeling. As a sober woman, my perceptions have been altered. Overall, my new insights have changed me as a human being and a woman. I cannot tell you when the change occurred, but I can tell you that every moment in my life has generously contributed to the transformation. And it continues today.

GRATITUDE has grown to be a lifeline, especially through adversity and the uncomfortability of life, but the joys of my existence are also important. My behaviors are centered in the mantra of “pay it forward”, at least 75% of the time- let’s be honest, a human being is imperfect. I attempt to make a difference in the lives of others, regardless if it’s a stranger. How? A smile, holding a door open, giving up my seat (i.e. a senior citizen etc.), letting someone in line go ahead of me because they have fewer items, or a kind word. These are only a few examples of GRATITUDE. I make a conscious choice to lift others up, with the hope that they may “pay it forward”, and because a part of my spirit becomes closer to my Higher Power.

Speaking of Higher Power: Higher can mean greater, better or superior, and Power can mean energy, strength or influence. So, let’s say it is a greater strength than ourselves. The times I feel weak, alone and fearful, I turn to this greater strength to raise my consciousness of reality and to give me courage. What is my part in it? What action do I need to take? What behavior do I need to change? The situations when I feel passionate and elated, it is harder to remind myself that this greater strength celebrates and revels with me because I am worthy, beautiful, loved, and cherished.

What does “pay it forward” mean? Giving it away to keep it. When I first got sober, this phrase or concept, was very obscure to me. ‘If I give it away, then I don’t have it anymore’ is literally what I thought. The more I listened, observed, shared and read, plus actively working the 12 Steps of AA, the revelation came to me. When I am of service to another human being it builds upon my sobriety and spirituality… it is the 12th Step of AA, which says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”   The more I do, the more I get. I take action to stay sober for 24 hours, to become closer to my greater strength and carry the message by ‘attraction rather than promotion’. I embrace the ability to step out of self and embrace the spiritual principles of AA. I create my own reality of chaos and turmoil, which continues to restrain me, at times, from doing the next right thing. It is grace ‘unmerited divine intervention’ from my greater strength that helps me to relieve the bondage of self and journey onward, regardless of the struggle every day. GRATITUDE is an action.

Today, I am GRATEFUL. This emotion is not tangible, yet it is coupled with GRATITUDE. We drank and used to not feel, to escape, to fit in, to be courageous, and uninhibited. Feeling GRATEFUL is amazingly peaceful in mind, body, and soul. There is a moment when I am overcome with a sense of serenity; sometimes it is but an instant and sometimes it embraces me for an extended period of time, but nonetheless, I am able to feel without fear as a sober woman.

Early in sobriety, one of my assignments was to journal what I was GRATEFUL for. In other words, the people, places, things and situations that provokes a feeling that cannot be described other than GRATEFUL. I wrote every night before I prayed, then I went to sleep. The list was long and short, depending upon the day, my fears and self-centeredness. For example, I would list: my Higher Power (greater strength), sobriety, fellowship, family, friends, a roof over my head, food on the table, clothes on my back, employment, hugs, relationships, a second chance, my health, the sunrise, the sunset, flowers, the sand between my toes, and the list goes on and on. Each day I seek reasons to feel GRATEFUL. There are days when the struggle of life on life’s terms is deeply painful, and I am unable to find the feeling within me to even move forward. It is on those days that I lean on my sponsor and the fellowship. My sponsor helps calm my soul, relieve the chaos of my mind, and gives me the opportunity to make my own choices through her suggestions and working me through the 12 Steps of AA. The women in my network are there for me, with open arms, to walk the journey with me. If there are women who have gone through the hardships I am experiencing, it is their experience, strength and hope that guide me.

There is one action that couples GRATITUDE and feeling GRATEFUL….. asking for help. You can go to a meeting (or many meetings), share where you are, pick up the phone and call someone, step out of yourself to help another person–remember, you may be the only Big Book a newcomer encounters . It is my experience that no matter how awful I feel before a meeting, I feel amazingly GRATEFUL after the meeting. When I take action I am helping myself, helping another person and I “pay it forward”. Isn’t a blessing that everything is a domino effect based on our choices and actions? Feel GRATEFUL today by showing your GRATITUDE. Remember that you are worthy, beautiful, loved, and cherished. Take care of you and know that there is a greater strength than yourself. You are never alone.

Lifting the Veil of Denial–T

My first surrender was more about realizing I needed help.  I didn’t necessarily realize I was an alcoholic or an addict, but after a good friend boldly and flatly laid out to me what she saw in me, that sinking feeling she was right crept over me and I was tired of trying to convince everyone including myself that I was okay.  At the time she confronted me, I was sick and tired of not feeling mentally or emotionally healthy and I was tired of fighting.  I knew I could not go on living life the way I was (e.g. completely hooked on prescription pills for anxiety and sleep) and compulsively organizing my life to try to squeeze out any type of happiness I could manage only to lose myself further in the process. After years of trying to kick the pills myself all the while increasing the dose and just trying other combinations, I was shrinking into a shell of my former self; my loneliness, despair and constant pain and self-centered fear were at an all time high. Everyone kept wondering what happened to the “old me”; friends were distancing themselves, relationships ending, and I could barely recognize myself anymore. My antics when drinking where so awful but I had no idea it was all related or that it was the disease of alcoholism and addiction at play. I didn’t know what was wrong but finally I had the willingness to admit that something was. Then I went to Kolmac and just kept doing what they said- which, thank GOD, was to go to meetings.
I can’t say when I surrendered exactly to being an alcoholic or that I had the disease of addiction but essentially it was when I started to go to a lot of meetings and I was basically like “Ohhhhhhh, shit, I have this thing.”  I grappled with definitions and got in my head about things for a couple weeks or so, but deep down I knew I could not and had never drunk normally.  Ever the intellectual self sufficient, I did enough research on alcoholism and addiction to realize I was right where I needed to be. Now, I wonder how in the world I could ever have questioned it.  But that is this disease, cunning, baffling, and powerful. Since that time, and to this day, I have never heard a story I cannot relate to.
In sum, it took a lot of emotional pain, alienation, and struggling for me to reach the point where I admitted personal powerlessness and could see I needed help because my life was unmanageable.  But, I want to say it took me about two to three months of AA to fully “get it” but because I had fully surrendered to do whatever they told me to do at the rehab clinic, I kept going to meetings and finally it sunk in to the point where I had enough recovery in me to lift the veil of denial the disease had over me.

First Flight–M

As I approach two years of sobriety, it gets harder and harder for me to define the moment that I realized I was powerless.  It seems to be a collection of moments that chipped away at a stubborn layer of lead paint on my exterior.  Many mornings I would wake up and immediately say, “Never again,” only to find myself making the same choices as the night prior.  It took me a year of experimenting with various combinations of attending meetings (or not), working the steps (or not), utilizing the fellowship (or not), working with a sponsor (or not), and abstaining from alcohol (or not).  In that first year, I never took the suggestion of doing it all.  The phrase, “Half measures availed us nothing,” comes to mind.

A major turning point in my recovery came after a three day bender just days before I was to pick up my four month chip, my longest period of consecutive sobriety in over a decade.  While on vacation in the Outer Banks, I declared myself to be a recovered alcoholic, in the sense that I was an alcoholic, but not anymore!  Well, it only took a few days to hit a further bottom than I had hit the last time, a feat that I once thought impossible.  Now, I know that there is always a lower bottom for me to hit, but I do not need to accept that as my destiny.  I once heard someone say, “At the end, I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.”

I only had one real solution that fateful morning- I asked my dad for a ride to a meeting.  We drove about 30 minutes to a volunteer fire house, where I stood up and shared my story of relapse.  I could hardly see through my tears that morning as I spoke about my shame and disgust.  I received nothing but love and warmth from the group.  On my drive home, we passed the site where the Wright brothers first took flight in Kill Devil Hills, something that I had not noticed before.  I recalled a formerly meaningless passage from the Big Book.  “The Wright brothers’ almost childish faith that they could build a machine which would fly was the mainspring of their accomplishment…When others showed us that “God-sufficiency” worked with them, we began to feel like those who had insisted the Wrights would never fly” (p 52).  This profound moment gave me the fuel to keep coming back, to start working the steps, and to finally let go and find a higher power of my understanding.
Today, I think about the days that culminated to create that moment for me- complete with despair, shame, disgust, and fear.  I can now see that it wasn’t all bad.  There was a colossal amount of love from my Higher Power, but just like I couldn’t appreciate the Wright brothers’ monument through my tears, I couldn’t appreciate the good in my life through the booze.  Through the collection of moments of powerlessness, I was able to find this incredible program, as well as realize the incredible love that my Higher Power has for me.

Sweet Surrender

I asked a variety of sober women when the moment was that they knew they were powerless over alcohol and wanted to stop fighting and start living. Maybe it was when they finally admitted to themselves they were an alcoholic, when they first stepped into a meeting, when they asked someone else for help, or when they decided to put down the bottle and try a new way of life. The admission of powerlessness and the surrender to a new and better way of life looks different for everyone but it is what ultimately leads us to put down the drink and begin our journey of sobriety and healing. Here are a few answers from strong, inspiring, sober women:

“I was certain I was an alcoholic when I tried to stop and couldn’t despite how miserable it made me and how miserable I felt. It no longer mattered how high or low my bottom was, whether or not I had a DUI, ruined a marriage, was institutionalized, or went to jail. It was clear I could not stop drinking by myself and needed help.”

“I knew I had surrendered when I understood what ‘one was too many and a thousand was never enough’ meant. I knew I could never drink again–I was powerless.”

“Right before I got sober, my mother-in-law, who is not an alcoholic but likes to have a glass (or 1/2 glass … who does that?) of wine at night, was in town. She was pouring herself a glass, and the whole time I watched her I was saying in my head over and over, I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to drink. After she poured herself one, she asked if I would like a glass. I said yes. I was dumbfounded. I could NOT say no. I knew to my core I was powerless over the pull of alcohol.”

For me, I had been trying to slow down, cut back, and drink normally for a long time and failed each time I tried. I had been introduced to AA by a friend but didn’t believe I fit the requirements. Plus, I didn’t really want to stop drinking and let go of alcohol—I just didn’t want to be doing the things that alcohol made me do. A real conundrum. After one night of heavy drinking (a night where I had not been planning on drinking AT ALL but somehow ended up shitfaced, embarrassed, morose, and injured) I fell up a flight of stairs with a wine glass in my hand. I cut my hand pretty badly and my friend bandaged it up. The next morning, I woke up hungover, sad, confused, and all those other familiar feelings. I remembered falling and cutting my hand but didn’t think it was that bad. I looked down at my arm and realized that there was not only the cut I remembered getting but that there were still little shards of glass in my arm and scrapes all over from where I fell. The fact that I was so obliterated that I went to bed with glass in my arm when I didn’t even intend to pick up the first drink, really hit me where it hurt. I found the little yellow Where and When that my friend had given me a few months before and called Intergroup. I told the man who answered my call what happened, how I felt, and that I thought I needed help. He said I called the right place and that he would have a sober woman call me back. A few minutes later the phone rang and that woman took me to a meeting the next day. Though unfortunately that was not my last drink, I can honestly say that it was the first time I made the admission that I was powerless and my life was becoming unmanageable. It took me a couple more months to finally give up the ghost and find my sobriety date, but I am thankful for that morning and the realization that I needed more help than I could give myself.

I received so many great responses to this question of surrender, a few that were too long for this compilation post, so for the next few days I am going to post more reflections on this theme. Keep coming back to read these wonderful women’s stories!

What Kept Her Sober– A

The best advice I got when I first got sober was no major changes in the first year. My life had turned upside down within two months of first being sober. My husband admitted to an affair, my mother was checked into a hospital for an addiction to oxycotin and I was still a relatively new mother with a two year old trying to figure out how to handle life on life’s terms. Had I not received that advice, I probably would have divorced my husband, and made a bunch of other rash decisions that I would regret. Today I have a loving marriage that has lasted almost 23 years (in two short months), a beautiful, sensitive and funny 15-year-old boy, and a life beyond my dreams — truly. I worked the third step with my marriage … turning it over to the care of HP. My husband, not an alcoholic, stopped drinking to support me, and loves AA and often goes with me just because it enjoys it so much. My mother, still not totally well, is no longer addicted to oxycotin. But more importantly, I’ve gotten better at letting her HP handle her, and just being the best sober woman I can day to day.

A Reflection on My Car–C

I’m sorry that this post is late-coming. I realized that posting daily is probably an unrealistic thing to promise. But I do promise a few posts a week, at least. So here you go:

I have been driving my car since I was seventeen years old. I learned to drive in this car when it was my mother’s. A few years later when she purchased a new shinier one, the car became “mine.” This car, fondly nicknamed “GDubs” has been with me through college, on various road trips, to work and back, graduate school and back, and many other places. It’s been my baby for the past eight years. But it’s just not the same as it used to be—the brakes don’t work very well, the AC doesn’t work at all, there’s something wrong with the engine, and it has just become a money pit of problem upon problem. So it is a wise decision to move on to a more functional and safe vehicle. Even so, a few days ago when the decision was made to buy a new car and sell my old one, it felt like I was losing a little piece of myself. Saying goodbye to an old and dear friend. And weirdly enough, it got me thinking about the journey that this car has taken me on—particularly that of my alcoholism and sobriety.

As I said, I’ve had this car since I was seventeen. I didn’t start drinking until I was eighteen and I didn’t start drinking alcoholically until I was twenty or twenty-one but GDubs certainly played a huge role in my drinking career. I remember stocking the trunk full of more alcohol than my few friends and I could drink in one night (or so I thought) because I was only nineteen and somehow found someone who was twenty-one and would talk to me. I wasn’t sure how long this hot senior’s offer of buying us geeky sophomores alcohol would stand so I carried home vodka, rum, schnapps, and two cases of Heineken that night. I remember (and don’t remember) driving drunk. Squinting one eye so I could better see the road. The one time when I told myself I was perfectly fine to drive after a night of drinking only to get home and realize I hadn’t had my headlights on the whole time. I remember one night when I pissed myself while driving and another morning when I threw up all over my steering wheel and myself because I was so hungover. I remember drinking in parking lots of clubs and one time actually drinking while driving, hoping that if a cop noticed he would think it was a soda can and not beer. I remember making other drunk friends who “weren’t as drunk as me” drive my car home so I could lay down in the backseat. I remember getting in a car accident on the Wilson bridge coming home from Thanksgiving. At the time, I blamed it on the rain and the stop-and-go traffic but when I got sober, I realized that it probably had something to do with the fact that I drank an entire bottle of $4 Sutter Home White Zinfndel (my jam in college) the night before and only got three hours of sleep. I was hungover, or possibly still a little drunk and that was the reason for my slow reflexes—but it’s easier to blame it on the rain, right, GDubs?

When I got kicked out of my housing senior year of college, largely due to the fact that I had been drinking excessively, I was splitting my time between home (a little more than an hour away from my college) and sleeping on my friend’s floor. I spent a lot of time in my car those three and a half weeks, and at times, essentially felt like I was living in there. I slept in there, studied in there, and cried in there because I felt so apart from everything. But GDubs kept me company with my scratchy mixed CDs and the warm YooHoo I stored under my seat. Even as fucked up, alone, and trapped as I felt, I could get in my car and escape.

Now I am coming up on two years of sobriety, and GDubs has played a large part in that too. I remember driving to meetings, and sometimes getting a little lost going to new ones. I remember conversations with new friends who I picked up for coffee. I remember picking up newcomers or giving rides to people I had just met but already had so much in common with. I remember the six months that I rode to meetings with my now good friend who didn’t have her license at the time as a consequence of her alcoholism. I remember sitting in parking lots or outside my house talking with my sponsor or friends in the program. I remember getting in my car feeling nervous to go to a meeting and getting back in my car feeling energized and empowered. I remember during early sobriety feeling afraid of free time and the temptation to drink, so I would park my car outside a meeting and sit for upwards of an hour sometimes, just waiting, knowing I needed to get my ass in that seat. I remember keeping a Where and When in my glove compartment and my most recent chip on the dashboard. I remember the one time when my car got towed from a sober friend’s house and though unhappily surprised, I was able to remain calm and present and be there for my friend who was going through a hard time. The strength and serenity I received in that moment came from my HP for sure and I realized that being present for her was way more important than freaking out about my car. I remember that a sober friend was the one to come pick me up that night to retrieve my car. I remember paying almost $2000 of maintenance on my car and ten minutes later, smashing into another car in a parking lot. I remember immediately going to a meeting and crying and saying “I am so fucking frustrated and want to drink.” I remember the rides and support I was given after that. And I didn’t drink. I remember road trips to North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and other places. Being able to be sober and present for the people who I visited or whose weddings I attended or for my boyfriend (usually the one accompanying me on said road trips) who has NEVER seen me drunk. I remember my car taking me to a job I loved and received a promotion in, to graduate school courses working towards a degree for a career I love, to baby showers, birthday parties, sobriety celebrations, funerals, weddings, and so many other events that I was able to be sober, present, and serene for. I remember working the program in my car.

My car has been through a lot. Like a true friend, it stuck with me through the ups and downs. I drove it some bad places but it took me some pretty great places, too. But now, as is the case with so many things in life, it is time to say goodbye. To the good and the bad. To the stained seat covers and the scraped paint. To the squeaky brakes and the broken AC. To the memories, filled with pain and joy. It’s time to continue on to a new car, a new way of life, and new memories. Here’s hoping this new friend sees less vomit, drunk driving, and blurry-eyed fender benders but instead witnesses just the beginning of a lifetime of working the program.

Four Years Sober–S

The pain was too much to bear.

The anxiety was paralyzing.

The feeling of being lost and alone overwhelmed me.

So I drank.

I drank just like every other 20-something who partied on weekends. And the weekdays. And got too drunk on dates. And peed their pants. And tore holes in their families. And got arrested.

Maybe I was different….

July 1st, 2011

I set down my gin and tonic too gently. I didn’t want to break the glass. I had given it to my dad for Father’s Day or his birthday or something like that and after all the damage I had done tonight I didn’t want to give him one more reason to be angry at me. I knew it was my last drink. The ice and the lime and the tiny bubbles and the orange straw stared back at me. I’d miss my old friend.

July 2nd, 2012

“I’m Sage and I’m an alcoholic. Today I am celebrating one year of sobriety.” The room erupts in applause, cheers, hoots, hollers, and tears. I am surrounded by people who are nothing like me. They are older or younger. They are richer or poorer. They are tattooed and raggedy or clean cut and polished. They are strangers but they are my best friends.

People hear the word alcoholic and assume it is some hobo living under a bridge. And, well, maybe it is. But in this room, these alcoholics are some of the most incredible people I have ever known. They picked me up and carried me when I couldn’t find my way. Breathed for me when I couldn’t breathe. Saw what I couldn’t see. And loved me until I learned to love myself.

This year I experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life. I completed all 12 steps, in order, with a sponsor. I had a home group and a service position and an incredible fellowship and a group of sober friends. I found a Higher Power that made sense to me and worked to become connected to that Higher Power and explore spirituality. I began to repair relationships with my family and friends. I adored meetings, meditations, yoga, and nature.

July 2nd, 2013

“I’m Sage and I’m an alcoholic. Today I am celebrating two years of sobriety.” My mom is on my left and my fiancé of 5 months is on my right. Our wedding is in 2 months on the one year anniversary of our first date. I switched sponsors this year and began the steps again but didn’t finish. I still like yoga and nature. I get to about 2 meetings a week. I rarely meditate and I am drifting from my Higher Power. I can’t connect the way I used to and crave that emotional high.

July 2nd, 2014

“I’m Sage and I’m an alcoholic. Today I am celebrating three years of sobriety.” My 6 week old daughter is asleep on my chest in the baby carrier. We live in the suburbs now and drove 45 minutes to get to this meeting. I can’t wait to get out of here. This year I, once again, switched sponsors and began the steps but didn’t finish. I have tried out new meetings near our home but can’t find quite the right fit. The struggles of early motherhood are setting in and I often crave “just one” glass of wine at the end of the day. I’m looking forward to getting back to meetings, yoga, and nature but right now is just not the right time.

 

July 2nd, 2015

I haven’t been to a meeting in months. I’m not sure if I’ll go today. I could get a sitter to watch my now 13 month old and go pick up my chip but I would rather do something else… anything else. I am so far from my Higher Power and the fellowship of the program that meetings are painfully difficult for me to sit through. I miss yoga and nature and quiet, reflective meditations. I feel lost in my seemingly perfect life. I crave the sense of serenity and strength I once knew. That high so high I could run my fingers through those pink clouds. I had it once and let it slip away. The only way I know how to get it back is by doing the work of the program. But, you know… I’m busy. As I type, my daughter looks up at me with her gummy smile and crinkles up her sweet little nose. I realize I have all I’ve ever wanted. And I don’t want to lose it.

“I’m Sage and I’m an alcoholic. Today I am celebrating four years of sobriety.”

Words to Keep Us Sober

Happy July!

When we first try to get sober, we’re all bombarded with advice. We hear things that help us immensely and that we never forget. Some of these words carry us through our first days while we struggle to start anew. I asked several women what wise words stuck with them when they were first trying to get sober. Here are some of their responses.

“Don’t drink. No matter what.”

“If you want self-esteem, do esteem-able things.”

“My sponsor told me to call at least three women in the program every day when I started. It really helped me to establish my network of sober friends and find my place in the fellowship. I truly believe having good, like-minded sober friends is why I stayed sober.”

“The grouchy old men who got me sober kept it simple: ‘Don’t drink, go to meetings, and pray like hell.’”

“Think the drink all the way through.”

“You hit bottom whenever you stop digging.”

“‘It’s not always about you.’ That freed me up from a lot of resentments.”

“I was doing a 90 in 90 after rehab and I heard someone say ‘Meeting Makers Make It.’ It really meant a lot to me—and I found out it’s true! Going to meetings is a big part of my sobriety.”

What great words! For me, it was one of my first meetings back after trying to get sober repeatedly, stringing together five or six weeks and then inevitably going back out. I shared how scared I was and how I felt like it was impossible to get past that six week mark. This wonderful woman who I have now come to know and love dearly came up to me after the meeting and said “Girlfriend, don’t worry about six weeks! Take it one day at a time.” I’ll never forget that. And one day at a time, I’ve racked up quite a bit more than six weeks and hope to continue to do so.

Hope some of these wise words helped you today. Keep coming back!