I am approaching three years of sobriety. Recently, I have been distracted enough to not consider the convoluted emotions which typically accompany my sobriety date.
Not a day goes by when I am not authentically grateful for the disease of alcoholism; along with the unexpected gifts in recovery.
Lately my world has been in a constant state of cerebral dysfunction, with the long overdue separation of my youngest daughter and the societal expectation of public school.
Meanwhile, I feel I cannot possibly take on another role, yet find myself with three new sponsees. What in THE hell is my HP thinking? Does the universe not SEE that I am falling on my ass on a daily basis? My OWN ass. How do I have the mental capacity to guide three adult-type people through the early stages of recovery?
One night, while lonesome, I found myself momentarily missing a remarkably unhealthy relationship, for the mere fact that it offered companionship. Lost in thought, I found myself romanticizing that toxic union just as I would a glass of merlot; the familiar allure of poison.
A newcomer calling for guidance. I had just met her at her very first AA meeting.
The triumphant laughter of the universe, cloaked in a shout, when a suggestive whisper didn’t resonate. Jolting me back to reality and out of the very unnecessary abyss of that maladjusted union.
I recently also offered to sponsor another young woman. She shared some thoughts with me that made our short time together completely worthwhile.
We were reading the big book together, accompanied by a few pages of dreaded, yet reliable, homework. I suggested that she try to settle on a task and with humble willingness, she would start to feel better.
She concurred with insight of a different view, as she woefully spoke:
“I feel fear better.
I feel anger better.
I feel anxiety better.
I feel sadness better.
I feel everything fucking better.”
Truth. This is reality of sobriety.
I shared with this newcomer some of my ongoing struggles, and the recent ebb and flow of grief. Recounted the moment I was crying to my doctor, hoping for some Xanax, admitting to my new naturopath, “I don’t want to feel this…” Prior to hitting my bottom, I had been over-medicated in the care of an over-zealous practitioner with Xanax, Klonopin, and Celexa.
What was my new doctor’s remedy, instead of firing off a cryptic prescription or two?
She alerted me to my words that day, ” I don’t want to feel…” and reminded me that I haven’t allowed myself to feel anything except detachment for the past 20 years.
She recommended I sit through these damned emotions, wallow through the despair, allow the waves of grief to flow, until I could…
Written by Kellie Ideson from Pure Life Recovery
I suddenly find myself three years sober. I’ve been contemplating how to write about this milestone for weeks. Recently distracted and shamelessly overwhelmed with life events, to a degree that I actually did not over analyze this past year in recovery. It just “happened.” Odd how the days amass when conducting myself like a palpable, functioning adult.
Life evolved this year. My godmother died. I said my final farewell to my amazing dad. I went through a tumultuous and extended break up; my first one sober. My eldest daughter graduated from high school, while we opted to pull my youngest daughter out of public school to embark on a home school scenario. Most recently, I resigned from a reliable job to engage in this new, unfamiliar path of educating my child.
That’s a lot of shit. A whole lot.
My therapist asked me to imagine a scenario: What if you had been told one year ago, or even six months ago, that all of these life events would materialize? Leading me into absolutely uncharted territory, a real transformation in my sobriety.
I would not have believed it. Nor would I have welcomed it. Any of it.
However, my gratitude abounds. Exhausted and somewhat anxious? Unquestionably. Waiting for the next move to be revealed, I do so without any evident amount of dread.
Three years ago I was paralyzed by dread on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. For me, dread is not fear. It is an emotion characterized by boredom, lethargy, laziness, selfishness, non existent self esteem, and yes…fear. Dread was the contrived outcome of my lack of human authenticity. An unrealistic, inner dialog with myself, that I would be “found out.” That I was an emotional adolescent, masquerading as an adult.
My list of dread was as follows:
Hurting my children
Loving my children
I recognize a plethora of self imposed imbalance on that list (accompanied by a dozen more blog ideas). Dread of pain and joy. Just and unjust. I once suggested that my addiction eased some of this dread; pain. A suggestion of delusion.
Drinking obliterated legitimate coping skills. It diluted raw and pure emotions, and diverted my responsiveness to life.
In the past year I have embraced the “undread.” Welcoming the concept that feeling anxious and occasionally fearful is typical. To truly live is to let go of dread and the unrealistic expectation that life is painless. Realizing that our best laid plans are not truly of our making at all. There is a power greater than ourselves that releases us from the responsibility of dread and morose repercussions.
Life for me is not easier in recovery, not by a long shot. Yet I am amazingly content, mostly serene, and able to accept that my worst day sober is far more acceptable than my best day drunk.
Embracing the journey. One day, one moment, one new trail at a time.
Written by Kellie Ideson from Pure Recovery
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a local women’s group, the subject was “Overcoming Our Struggles.”
For three weeks prior to this event, I wrote and rewrote countless versions of what I would say. I have told my story before, always to a group of other recovering alcoholics; never to a room full of “normies.” I vacillated with being 100% transparent about my addiction, or toning it down.
Finally, the night prior to the event, as I started yet another vain attempt at writing my thoughts on paper, I realized I was using an old notebook as a sturdy surface to write upon. When I opened this tablet, the first few pages were filled with the words that follow, written at 6 months of sobriety.
It was exactly what I had been longing to find, to share with this group of local moms. It was an exercise I had done during my first of 12 steps for my AA sponsor: How I came to realize I was powerless over alcohol.
“How did alcohol, my addiction, render me powerless? When exactly did it take over?
It is odd, the irony. Initially the drink gave me pseudo power when I never felt I was enough. Power to gain popularity. Power to use my often intimidated voice. Power to boldly walk in front of my peers; not filled with fear. Alcohol truly served as my personal wolf in sheep’s clothing. This magic elixir, a cure all for my plentiful emotional ailments. My perceived social faux pas and devoted mask to face my biggest foe; self-imposed social scrutiny.
In time, through trial, error and immense pain, this myth of power (lending itself to miscalculated confidence) became my terrifying reality; spiritual chaos.
- I denied myself any amount of genuine success through self-sabotaging; jobs, relationships, and life in general.
- I was full of self-loathing and self-deception.
- My desire to drink overcame and replaced my ideals of love and personal well-being.
- Deprivation of self-care became apparent; directly affecting my self-esteem, my children, jobs, and love relationships.
- Preoccupation with my addiction misguided me through all of my life experiences; hobbies, social interactions, and employment all had to adjust to suit my needs to drink. I would only dine out where there was a diverse selection of beer and wine on the menu.
- Neglect of my children and their life experiences, due to my lack of honest engagement, consistency, and meaningful family moments.
- I became reckless, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. Ignored my declining liver function and high blood pressure, and began to drive while intoxicated.
- Inconsistent thinking led to irrational decisions about my declining marriage and subsequent failed partnerships post-divorce.
I experienced the death of my life power when I ceased to enjoy my relationships; familial, spiritual, and romantic. When I started not giving a damn if I could recall and celebrate important milestones. When I simply would rather “sleep” under a blanket, behind closed blinds, all day rather than behave like a functioning adult.
The most profound loss of power happened during the last two years of my drinking. When I continued to indulge my addiction, realizing that I would likely die if I didn’t stop. I continued to validate my reasons for doing so. Each day, I would gaze at my reflection, through yellow watering eyes, longing to see someone I recognized. I would often pray for God to just take me, as I would have welcomed death over the lifeless existence I was suffering through. With each morning sunbeam, I realized the disappointment of having to endure another day with the bottle.
Finally, I relinquished all of my life power when I admitted to my own children that I didn’t want to live anymore. In a terrifying moment, they saved me. The two loves of my life, thrust into a situation only the worst nightmares can offer. I made my intentions clear as I held a bottle of pills in my hand.
This was the final surrender; my rock bottom.
The bittersweet dichotomy:
While I felt powerless, finally giving in with a suicidal admission, I gained a miniscule amount of power back with the exhausted abandonment of my addiction.”
I am grateful today to have survived that bottoming out over two years ago; life is amazing. Sobriety is certainly not perfect, without struggle or void of pain. Life is real. I feel everything, as a living human should. Now worthy of experiencing situations in a lucid state of mind and sitting through feelings I pushed into a corner for far too many years.
My reflection now seems more familiar; I appreciate the person looking back at me with hopeful eyes and frequent serenity in her heart.
My presentation went well. There were moments of old self-doubt, when I was positive I was not connecting with any of these new faces looking back at me. After the event, four women approached me with stories of their own; each with varying degrees of struggle, recovery, and hope.
Use your voice, keep your life power.
Grief: The Most Sobering Emotion of My Sobriety
By Kellie Ideson
My dad died. On December 20th, 2016 he passed away peacefully in the care of his wife, my sister, and my brother, three short weeks after I left him in a Las Vegas hospital with a hug and “I love you” as I made my way back to Montana.
That day, I knew he was going to leave us soon. I could see it in his eyes and felt that sinking feeling of grief, already settling into my stomach. This shift in perspective, as I boarded a plane, knowing in my heart that last embrace, truly was the final contact of our relationship here on earth.
I wrote down my thoughts, as follow, as soon as I buckled in and tuned out the flight attendant’s redundant emergency training dialog. These feelings raw and of the purest form, the true grit of sobriety; feeling everything. I experienced emotions on a level that is at once uncomfortable, yet so necessary to move through the rest of my life on these new and still obscure terms:
“His jovial eyes are nearing a void, twinkling only with the prospect of a nap or of going home.
Yet, he barely remembers home. For 49 years he has been my home. Without his memories of us, I feel like an orphan fumbling to find my way through the welcoming threshold of all that is pure and true.
I have faltered through the years, yet he remains my truth. Never judging me. Or maybe he has, but in a patient silence, allowing me growth through my errors.
Truth. Where is that now? Truth for him is in 5 minute increments, as that is as much capacity this wretched disease allows.
God loving and honest, he has lived within the golden rule. Today he swears, flips the finger, stomps his feet, his eyes often brim with tears, as he apologizes. For he knows, he is behaving out of character. Knows he is being stripped of his existence, and is still thankful after he completes a dreaded task. The goodness of this man lies deep within. Along with the knowledge that he makes mistakes, asks questions, and feels senseless.
I told him stories of my youth and the things we did. All that he has afforded us with his sensible and generous spirit. Lessons in all realms; emotional, physical, and spiritual.
On my knees today at the base of his wheelchair, I promised him he is going home in two hours as I board a flight to Montana and the life I have been unable to show him. I told him he is a good man. The best father a girl/woman can ask for, thanked him for all he’s done for me, how he raised me to be a good person, how he affected my life and how thankful I am and will always be. I asked him not to forget that…he said he would not forget it. In one last gesture, I showed him a photo of us from 6 years ago, his response, “You are beautiful, pretty, pretty, pretty…I love you honey.”
He, with one foot in this world we know, and a reluctant toe in the next.”
These thoughts of mine still seem random and scattered as my grief is in the mode of ebb and flow. There is a blessing here, enclosed in my sadness. I see the gift of my sobriety. It allowed me to be 100% present for those concluding moments with him. It gave me the capacity to devote a last week with him; this once would not have been a possibility. It gave my family the confidence to ask me to join them, to aid in the strategy to make his last days here as calm as possible. They WANTED me there. I WANTED to be there. And, I was THERE.
Not with my gaze in the bottom of a carafe, the obsession of my ensuing drink. The inertia of yet another hangover. The selfishness of wanting the symptoms of my own progressive disease to be nullified with another glass of something…anything. I was patient, present, and able to be…just be.
Be still with my dad, with sincerity in his presence. Retelling him the tales of my youth, now that my memories are uncluttered; real. Our time together, during his near final decline, are now some of my most beloved moments. I am sober; what a gift.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I had a mental list of reasons I would allow myself to again imbibe, no matter what. The top of that list; the death of a parent. I mean, really…who WOULDN’T expect me to drink over this? No one could possibly judge me for it. This was definitely a reason to find solace with that old friend of mine, shiraz or merlot. In fact, my dad and I shared many glasses of wine together, many cheers over beers. He certainly wouldn’t be ashamed of me…
Truth: I haven’t had a drink. I haven’t had a craving. I haven’t wanted to disappear from this despair.
I would know. I would be ashamed. I expect more of me.
And this is the gift of sobriety.
I was on the floor in my closet, inconsolable, two nights after he died. Crouched in the dark, crying like I never fathomed was possible.
I have raged at my family. Angry with God, not with them. I apologized.
I sat through Christmas morning, sad. Sober. Present.
Almost immediately, I found solace in putting the holiday décor in storage.
I am feeling all of this in its entirety. There is no heartbreak that compares. There is no way to prepare for this. I’m not handling grief flawlessly.
I am doing it.
I want to feel this now. I need to know how to grieve. And, grieve I am. Every sadness that has been sheepishly pushed in a corner for my entire life, is now reintroduced for me to handle. Sort it out. Talk it out. Pray. Meditate.
Much of my life as a child, adolescent, and young adult is now bubbling to the surface for me to evaluate, absorb, and let go.
It’s time. Thank God.
I miss my dad and wish I had many more years with him. If there are gifts to be had in the longing for someone and the natural and convoluted process of grief, it is that I have a new opportunity to do this thing called life.
Once upon a time I was a young girl, perched at my favorite window, nestled in my coziest corner, pencil and paper in hand. I had grand fantasies in my head poised to weave into stories. The wind would rush in as the corn stalks swayed in the fields that surrounded my house. Many a youthful summer day was spent writing my thoughts down and releasing ideas to make room for new poetic dreams. I wanted to be a writer. Always. Except when I thought I wanted to be a librarian. Still…words. Always words. On paper, either of my own design or those of someone else.
What happened to that innocence? To the flowing creativity, the exceptional wonder of my adolescence?
This is when the once upon a bottle begins.
I have heard countless times in my sobriety, “we are so glad you are back, we missed you, you are finally with us again.” Truth be told, I’m not back. Not the person my disease portrayed to society for 20 odd years. Not at all. I am not back because I have never been my authentic self. Those around me can see a fire finally ignited in my soul. The cold bitter sorrow slowly dissipating. They are welcoming back a Kellie that was never gone and meeting the woman that hadn’t yet been revealed.
The first time I actually heard this exclamation of my being “back” was a few months after my divorce. I did exude (I suppose) a sense of freedom that would have been perceived as a rebirth. While my marriage was nothing terrible, it did lack a sense of intimacy. For years I felt a disconnect that perhaps I blamed on my nuptials, I would tend to drink those feelings into deep submission. Yes, for a few months’ post-divorce I was acting differently, more at ease in my own skin. I didn’t realize that a sense of a new self still hid the underlying issues that would eventually lead to my spiritual and sober demise.
Six years went by before I hit the bottom of my disease. What I thought were the darkest days during my divorce and life as a single, mostly unskilled, mother, were shadows compared to the depth of what I was about to entertain as the beginning of my sobriety.
So began the excavation of my life. Digging, trudging, through years of anxiety and fear that I had buried in cabernet and eventually, benzos. Heaps of emotions carried inside, buried so deep that even I had forgotten who I was meant to be. Those dreams of being a writer, story teller, or at the very least, librarian succumbed to the depths of my illness.
I recall looking in the mirror for months near the end, not seeing myself at all. How could I, when it was through the eyes of a stranger that I glimpsed my own reflection. I would glare in those yellow, bloodshot eyes and wonder who I was supposed to be. How did I even get here? Drunk, scared, alone, and a miserable wretch of a mom, sister, daughter, and friend. The woman I struggled to see was the me whom I had abandoned years ago.
At about eight months of sobriety this all started to make sense. That phrase of “You are back…” became somewhat offensive. Back? What did they mean? I don’t even know who I am now or what I once was, how can they claim to know I am back? My discomfort in these thoughts I kept to myself while I started pondering my current situation as a sober, 46-year-old woman. Who the hell am I? Who am I supposed to be now? What do I do?
Guess what? I can do ANYTHING. I can be ANYONE. I can shape my life into exactly what I want to be. It’s the sincerest second chance. I remember sitting on the shore of the river, tears streaming down my face as I realized that I don’t need to be welcomed back into society as the person I once presented myself to be. I am a clean slate. An open book and in my sobriety I intend to fill those pages with a brand new story.
The refreshing thing is I’ve only just begun; the prologue has been started. There is a new higher power dictating my story and directing my pencil. If I listen, I will finally be exactly as I was originally intended to be.