“I’m in recovery.”
Two statements that very often get interchanged. If you think they mean the same thing, think again. There is a distinct difference. Being sober is very different from being in recovery. You can be one or the other…or you can be both.
What Is Sobriety?
When you have eliminated alcohol from your life you are deemed “sober,” and although sobriety is part of recovery, sobriety alone is often a temporary and fragile state. Think of the terms “white knuckling it” and “dry drunk”.
White knuckling your sobriety means you are trying to manage your addiction without help. You are using your will power or trying to fix yourself with your mind.
A “dry drunk” is someone who is sober but is struggling with the emotional and psychological issues that led them to have a problem with alcohol in the first place.
Just because you no longer live under the influence of alcohol it doesn’t mean that other unhealthy aspects of your life have changed. For example, you may still have poor or damaged relationships, behavioral health issues, mental health issues, or emotional issues that need to be addressed.
Sobriety is considered to be the natural state of a human being at birth. A person in a state of sobriety is considered sober.
What Is Recovery?
There is no “standard” definition of “recovery” in the addiction community, and part of the reason why is because everyone’s recovery journey is unique. 🙌🏼
According to SAMHSA, recovery is “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”
A person in recovery is continually making an effort to work through the issues that caused the alcohol abuse to occur in the first place.
In recovery is a powerful period because beyond everything else, it signifies that you know you have a problem and you are trying to fix it. Recovery allows you to make positive changes and deeply examine your feelings, beliefs and behaviors. Recovery does not mean you fix your issues right away. It means you recognize something is wrong, which is the first step and a critical part of getting help.
People in recovery have the greatest chance of maintaining long-term sobriety. Better yet, they have the opportunity to live a happy and productive life that is free from addiction.
I love this list that Odette shared on the podcast, episode 316…titled the same as this blog…”Sober” VS “In Recovery”.
When you are in Recovery, you:
- Feel a kinship to those who are also in Recovery. (SO true!)
- Make decisions based on how it could impact your Recovery. (“My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last.”)
- Adjust friendships and relationships based on how they could affect Recovery. (BOUNDARIES!!)
- Never let down your guard. (I don’t got this!)
So, can you be sober and not be in recovery? Absolutely! And although you can achieve a state of sobriety with simply abstaining from alcohol, with time, you will come to find that the life you want comes not just from being sober but from entering into the recovery mindset. 🧠
And you know what the cool thing is? You don’t have to be an alcoholic to live in this mindset. 🤯 The mindset that allows you to grow and develop your self awareness, the mindset that allows you to see beyond the surface and question many things in life like relationships and boundaries. That mindset is for everyone.
Once I got past the early days of sobriety I started thinking of my sobriety journey as my recovery journey. I realized that it was about SO much more than just ditching the booze. That the recovery process is one of ongoing healing and that there is no part of my life that my recovery doesn’t touch.
I also learned that it is rarely accomplished alone. I wanted to be around others ‘in recovery’. Not just because they were sober and could relate to that part of my life. But because they want to grow, want to learn, want to be better.
Transitioning from sobriety to recovery takes both commitment and action.
If you are a grey area drinker or someone who doesn’t even know if they belong here because you are not alcoholic enough…I hope you know that recovery is for EVERYBODY.
E V E R Y B O D Y.
You have your seat at this table, no matter what.
Until next time, be well.
Kerri Mac 🤟🏼
I stopped making New Year Resolutions a few years ago. As positive, excited and motivated they would make me feel at the start of the year…oftentimes those very same resolutions would bring me down later in the year. It wouldn’t be long and I would feel like a failure for not following through. I would start thinking of myself as someone who just abandons their hopes and dreams. “Kerri, you suck.”, would play on repeat in my mind.
Counterproductive, to say the least.
Then a couple years ago, instead of making resolutions, I tried doing what I was seeing a lot of other people do. I would choose a word for the year. The chosen word wasn’t a resolution or a goal. It was more like a prayer or mantra, and I used it to help guide me in the daily actions and decisions (both large and small) I had to make. It was as if the word was a lighthouse helping to show me the way to a better version of myself.
As 2020 was coming to an end I started thinking about what my word for 2021 would be. I took me a little longer than it had in the previous years to decide on one. 2020 was strange, scary, hard, filled with uncertainty, unfamiliarity and loss. I kept hearing and reading posts and comments from people that just couldn’t wait to move past 2020, that it was a year they wanted to forget. Sorry to burst your bubble if you are in that camp…2020 is a year that will never be forgotten.
For me, if I were to pick a word to describe 2020 it would be WEIRD. And that was ALMOST going to be my word for 2021. Maybe that will be next year’s word. 🤪
This year my word is PEACE. 🕊
Remember…this word is like a prayer or a mantra…I am using it to guide me. I want to create more peace in my life. I want to be more at peace with myself. It doesn’t mean I can just sit back, chant ‘peace’ over and over…and everything will change. I still have to do the work. Below are some of the things that I’m doing to help create and bring more PEACE into my life.
- Clear the clutter! Unclutter your living space, your work space, your mind. Ask yourself, does it bring you peace? If the answer ISN’T a HARD YES…then…get…rid…of…it! If it’s not serving you…get…rid…of…it! Clutter in your physical space, and in your mental space, creates chaos. Chaos is the opposite of peace. That is not what we want my friends.
I cleaned out my pantry and found spices that expired in 2003!! If it’s old and expired…get…rid…of…it!
2. Relax. Find a relaxation technique that works for you. A way to release and to recharge. It could be meditation, breathwork, long walks, yoga, running, music. For me it’s meditation, music and dancing…first thing in the morning. Find what works and do it.
3. Gratitude Changes Everything Every week during 2020 a dear friend of mine wrote down 1 good thing that had happened that week. She wrote it on a little strip of paper and tossed it in a jar. On New Years she read all those little strips of paper. I thought…what a cool idea! She admits that some weeks it was hard to come up with something. I mean think about it…we just lived through our first pandemic. I think that makes the exercise that much more powerful. Find something to be grateful for every week (I challenge you to do it daily.). I’m already looking forward to reading all my weekly strips of paper on New Years 2022!
4. Follow Your Bliss Before you can follow your bliss…you need to know your bliss. What makes you happy? Brings you joy? Brings you PEACE? Listen to your inner guide and take action on what brings happiness and joy into your life. The door to peace and contentment will open. My recent houseplant hobby is opening that door for me.
5. These things here could all be listed all on their own…but I wanted to give you more things you can start doing today to bring inner peace into your life.
- Set limits, boundaries
- Accept and let go
- Slow down
- Be 10 minutes early so you don’t have to rush
- Instead of guessing…ask, we are not mind readers
- Get outside
- Escape for a while – read a book, binge on Netflix
- Disconnect – screens off
- Laugh 😂
Start with one thing and build on it over time. You can do this. We can do this.
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Wishing you more happiness and PEACE.☮️
Until next time, be well.
Kerri Mac 🤟🏽
👋🏽 Hi, my name is Kerri Mac. Some of you may know me, but I’m betting that most of you don’t. I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog, my very first blog.
How did I end up here, writing a blog for Recovery Elevator? Well, I like to think of it as though I graduated. Two years ago I started writing the show notes for the podcast. And now, here I am…writing blogs. I have been a member of Café RE for over 2.5 years and that has changed my life. But that’s enough about me, for now. 😉
I want to talk about the benefits of quitting drinking. And not the obvious ones, like the health benefits or the money and calories saved. No, I want to go a little deeper, and more niche…and I want to make a list…because who doesn’t like a list?
Let’s call our list, The Top 10 Benefits of Quitting Drinking. Catchy, right?!
Here we go…
1 – Your authentic self will begin to emerge. I say begin, because this isn’t a one and done thing, and it takes time. That’s what recovery is, recovering the person you were meant to be and giving the inner child permission to come out and play again. This authentic self fully recognizes that the mind makes life out to be way more serious than it actually is. In fact, don’t forget Rule 22, lighten up and never take yourself too seriously. When you ditch the booze there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself rolling sideways down grassy hills.
2 – You’ll have the chance, the opportunity, to find out why you’re using alcohol to dull that internal discomfort. We’re talking about getting at the roots of this discomfort. No quick fixes or fads, but doing some serious soul work where we make that long journey from living in the head to the heart. This one isn’t so much a benefit, but a life mission and why we’re here.
3 – You’ll begin to find out who you aren’t. Ahhh, you thought I was going to say find out who you are, didn’t you? Nope. And in terms of finding out who you are, I encourage you to rid yourself of this lifelong pursuit because when we quit drinking, the opposite happens. We find out who we are by a series of finding out who we aren’t. Do you dig? Does that make sense? The “who we are” will organically be uncovered by a sequence of revelations of who we aren’t. For example, I’m not a girl who likes to stay up until 2 am and sleep in late, quiet early mornings are my favorite. It’s more common, than not, to find me awake at 4:00 AM…journaling or meditating. You’ll learn you’re a strong person, deeply rooted in this world, who doesn’t need an external substance to feel good internally. Those days will be gone. Hasta la vista, baby! ✌🏽
4 – You’re open to signs from the universe. Whether you believe they are coming from God, Allah, galaxies, the willow tree in your front yard, or your neighbor Tim, you won’t miss them because you’re drunk or hungover the next day. Hooray! 🤸🏽♀️🤸🏽♀️
5- You can see the insanity of the mind. The Hindus called the natural dysfunction of the mind Dukkha, Buddhists call it maya and Christians call it original sin. You’ll also be able to take a step back, become the observer of the mind, and recognize this insanity. Here is what you’ll be able to see. Studies also show that of the 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts we have a day, 90% of them are equal or the same as the day before. 💭
- It’s these repetitive thoughts that always drive you to make the same decisions.
- It’s these familiar decisions that always lead to the same actions.
- It’s these familiar actions that always result in the same outcomes
- It’s these same outcomes that constantly result in the same emotions
- And these familiar emotions give you those familiar feelings.
- And it’s these feelings that always lead to the same thoughts – thereby completing the cycle. You can now recognize this and will be empowered to change your thinking.
6- Your brain will start to produce regular amounts of Melatonin again. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and simply lets your body know that it is night-time so you can relax and fall asleep. There’s an important word in there. It helps us RELAX when our outer environment says it’s time to relax. Studies show that regular alcohol intake drastically reduces the amount of natural melatonin the body produces which, as you can imagine, does a number on your sleep! 💤
7 – Welcome back Oxytocin, or the connection molecule. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. It may also have benefits as a treatment for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety and intestinal problems. This is the molecule that allows us to build altruistic relationships with other human beings. When oxytocin is present in the body, we are living more in the heart area and less in the thinking mind. Studies show that pregnant women who have higher levels of oxytocin bond more strongly with their babies after they are born according to a 2007 study in the journal Psychological Science.
8 – You’re part of something MUCH bigger. We all want to feel like we’re contributing to something, that we are adding to a project or goal and making this world a better place. People are ditching the booze more than ever these days and this global movement takes warriors like you. The bigger picture is that we are no longer looking externally for inner comfort. That’s really what is taking place, and you’re a big part of raising the consciousness on the planet. In fact, when we struggle with addiction we think we are in the back of the line in terms of success and achievement, but in reality, we are the ones who are forced to look within and make HUGE life changes. We are paving the way for others.
9 – You stop hoping. Yep, hope is the problem. When we are hoping for something to change, be it our inner emotional state, the weather, or whatever…then we stop denying what is. This incessant hoping for something to be different drives addiction and is doing a number on humanity. The Buddha noticed this 2500 years ago in Lumbini, now modern day Nepal, when he links all human suffering to craving or hoping for something to be different. That guy was so far ahead of his time.
10 – You’ve got a chance to work on the one big lesson you signed up for in this lifetime. There’s a theory that you’re supposed to work on one major issue in this lifetime. Mine is connection. For others this can be letting things go, loving yourself, standing up for yourself, showing unconditional love to others, forgiveness, self-sabotage, facing fear, patience, shame, regret, and the list goes on. When our veins are flowing with alcohol, there’s no chance we’ll build the internal circuits around these issues. And there’s another theory, that if we don’t get to it in this lifetime, then well, you’ll start again next life. So why not get started now and start tackling the number one thing that is holding us back.
These types of lists are hard. It could easily be the top 100 benefits of sobriety. I challenge you to create your own list and then another one when you hit another milestone. Go back and see how they have changed. The first time I did a list like this, most of mine were external, now they are mostly internal. We are constantly evolving and changing as we walk this journey.
Until next time, be well.
I’d like to zoom out a bit and talk about the journey for a moment. There is no one size fits all approach to ditching the booze, but I think most of us can agree, there can by trying times. You often hear on the Recovery Elevator podcast from myself and interviewees how incredible a life without alcohol can be, which I can attest to. Still, the pathway can be complicated at times, and for reasons unknown, more challenging for some.
There is a comfort knowing you’re not alone. That you’re not the only person on the planet, who struggles with alcohol, which is how I felt when I first began my journey early last decade. There is also a comfort knowing that collectively, people find this pathway hard. The pains and painful moments are all part of it, and you’re not alone. Keep in mind, of the roughly 100,000 genes we inherit, not of them is the addiction gene, and you can reverse this progression.
Right now, since you’re reading this, it places you in the ring. You’re an active participant in the game of life. You’re in the center of the ring, and not up in the grandstands observing. And you’re an absolute badass, for purposefully placing yourself in this ring where there’s a good chance, almost certain chance, you’re going to get dirty. Smacked, kicked, punched, rolled over on, and a lot of other unpleasant things. This isn’t you saying, well, I’m open to failing, it’s you saying, I’m going to fail as many times as I need to be successful.
I admire each and every one of you for consciously choosing the enter the ring. Seriously. It’s impressive. I applaud all of you for continuing to listen to the podcast even if the message hasn’t quite “hit home” yet.
Now, to be fair, by electing to be here, living life on planet earth places you in the ring, so everyone is more or less in the ring. But your decision to move forward in life without alcohol, to address what’s holding you back in life, places you in the center of the ring and not way up in the upper decks as an observer. Your conscious decision to depart from the booze, from what provided relief, from what used to make your job, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, winter, your neighbor Tom, and individual relationships bearable places you front and center of the ring.
You might be saying, “wait a second Paul, I haven’t told anyone about my decision to quit drinking.” Well, even if the only ship you’ve burnt is with yourself, which is where it starts, you’ve still taken the most essential step in your life. This is what makes you brave… courageous… valiant… daring… vulnerable… adventurous… and a bold leader.
Now you may have heard courageous and vulnerable in the same sentence, and that’s no coincidence because they are the same damn thing. And Deep down, you know, the only way out is through. And to go through, you get cracked open, in the most beautiful of ways. It’s almost like a vulnerable sandwich. First, we must be courageous enough to be vulnerable. Then we must be courageous again to address the vulnerable parts. The vulnerability sandwich. I like it, I will personally be adding some horseradish mayo or honey mustards. I’m a huge sauce guy.
Now let me describe what the ring looks like… Imagine a bull ring from Spain. One that Ernest Hemingway would write about in the “Sun Also Rises.” When you stop running, turn, and face your fears, you just made the conscious decision to place yourself in the center of the ring. Now, as I said before, everyone is in the ring, but you just came down from row 55, which is near the top and are now inside the ring. You can still get shoved around while sitting in the top row of the stands, and there’s a slim possibility you’ll to confront a bull, but by sitting way up there, you’re well in the comfort of your comfort zone.
Apart from the occasional shirt getting launched up there from a t-shirt cannon, not much happens. It’s a bunch of people who are living behind screens which have mighty thumbs and can type whatever they want. Up there, where you used to be, It’s called the sidelines of life. Where all you have is talk, inaction, and empty goals. How does that saying go? Talk is inexpensive? Talk is a bargain? Talk is of lesser quality… Talk is cheap. Got it.
So here you are, inside the ring. You look down to find your shoes are covered in dust. You suddenly feel smaller. Things don’t smell quite right. And you see large bulls running around. You see swords, bows, and arrows, spears, dinner parties where alcohol is flowing freely, your best friend Aaron is offering you a vodka cranberry. You don’t have things figured out. You recognize it’s only a matter of time before you get your ass kicked.
As I mentioned last episode, it’s not about avoiding these ass-kickings in life; it’s about getting up and back into the ring. I think I’ve done a fair job of accurately describing what this journey will be like. I cover this specifically in episode 250 titled “Is Sobriety all Unicorns and Rainbows.” Sure, after alcohol, a new life awaits, one without crushing hangovers and self-loathing, but when in the ring, there will be challenging days. Moments you don’t think, keyword think, you’ll be triumphant, but you are. You find the strength because it’s there. I know it’s there. It always has been.
Let me read one of my favorite quotes of all time for you. One that I had framed and hung up on my wall before the very FIRST episode of Recovery Elevator podcast dropped on February 25th, 2015. I remember looking up at the framed quote on the wall, them uploading episode 001 to iTunes and then said to myself, “Oh shit, here we go.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt.
I think Teddy does a damn good job of summarizing just what level of Ninja status you’re at. You’re in the ring, which is all that matters. Now the thing you’re probably saying to yourself is this. “Teddy’s right. I don’t care what others think about me.” Say it to yourself, it sounds good. It feels good. But how come when we get criticism, it usually stirs up a whirlwind of emotions in some part of the body? You’re like hang on, I just told myself, I don’t care what others think about me, but how come there’s a knot the size of a grapefruit in my solar plexus? It’s because we’re wired as human beings to care.
We are genetically hardwired to care what others think about us. The reason why is we need a tribe. We need a community to survive. Okay, so here’s where I can add comfort. Criticism is normal. In fact, it can be a barometer knowing you’re on the right path. How does it go? Haters gonna hate, hurt people hurt people… Blah to them. We’ve covered countless ways on this podcast to stay grounded, to no let others affect your energy, but let’s be honest, some of it still hurts. It always will, and that’s alright. Allow yourself to feel it, and I can promise you with a capital P, alcohol will only create another, more ferocious critic.
Now, who’s the critic? Who’s the person saying you’re not worth it, or you don’t deserve this, or don’t even try because you’ll never make it? It’s not who we think it is. Stick with me for a second here.
The spectator, or the critic we’re thinking about, the one we imagine sitting in the stands, heckling from above, in the comfort of their seat, is mostly quiet. Why? The spectator respects you, admires you, is almost envious of you… for your decision to be the most authentic version of yourself because deep down, they want the same. They want you to succeed. Sure, you may get the occasional cackle or low blow from above, but even they are saying, “go, go, get back up and get it, girl. DO it. Show us how. Lead the way.” They all want you to find traction on this journey.
The loudest critic
So who is the critic when you’re in the ring grappling with alcohol? Who is the one that places the most seemingly impenetrable walls on your path? Wait for it… It’s you. I’m 99.99% sure the worst critic is you. The constant voice hurling those vitriolic painful volleys and insults is coming from you, or the voice inside your head.
So this is good news. You can’t control disapproval from the outside, and well, you can’t really control the thinking on the inside either, but with awareness, you start to rewire this inner critic to be your inner cheerleader. Your biggest fan. A coach when you need it most.
The way you do this is becoming more conscious than ever of the unconscious self, and when thoughts come across the mind that says, “Michelle, let’s not even try, we won’t make it.” Say, “thank you for your input,” That’s it. That’s the equivalent of a tomahawk throw into an opponent in the ring. With awareness, and one departure from those unhealthy thoughts at a time, you begin to tune out this critic, you stand tall. You move forward in life without the poison called alcohol.
You can do this, I know you can. You’ve been doing the heavy lifting for quite some time now. You are up to this task, I know you are. Come on, we both know you are. Being in the ring is scary at first, terrifying, but with time, you’ll find comfort there. Even enjoy it. Welcome it. All of it.
Keep in mind, you’re the one with dust on your face, or for us, sometimes with puke in your hair. It’s you that’s in the ring, not the external critic. You’re the relevant one.
Keep trying, you’re so close
Check out this video of this you gal who can’t be more than 4,5 or 6 trying to jump up onto a block. She keeps trying and keeps failing. This block is hitting her in the chin, she’s falling over, but she keeps getting back up into the ring. And then, after heaps of jumps, she gets it. Just like you will.
I got the idea for this episode after I got a couple of emails from listeners who were ready to give up. To accept defeat and exit the ring entirely and surrender to a life of drinking and misery. HANG WITH ME. I’m going to ask the readers a question.
Was there ever a moment when you could have sent that same email when you were ready to quit? Hang on,,, okay, every single reader who has ditched the booze or is in the process just nodded their head. SO, if this is how you’re feeling at the moment, know it’s completely normal, some call it the dark night of the soul. Which means you’re so close. So promise me to stay in the ring, for as long as it takes. Do you know who else is in the ring with you? Me, and let me tell you, the other side… is much closer than you think.
June 28, 2017
In an effort to get my story down on paper this is my attempt. This burning desire has stirred inside me for quite some time. I think more ever over the past 6 months as I have been listening to others on the recovery elevator podcasts. Also with my own year of sobriety this week. Where to start is so difficult so I will try my best not to jump around too terribly much.
I am 41 years old, live in Hewitt, TX, have been married for 10 years and have 2 children that are 6 & 9. I was born in New Orleans and lived there for 25 years. I do not have to tell anyone that in this particular culture alcohol is the norm of the day complete with .25 martini lunch specials.
I grew up with 2 teetotaler parents. Mom never was quiet about letting me know that she grew up with an alcoholic father (her reason for not drinking) who has passed before I was born. She often recounted how wonderful he was without alcohol and what a tyrant he turned into when he drank. She also used to talk about how grateful she was during lent as he would abstain from it for those 40 days and how peaceful and happy her house was during that time. My dad on the other hand did not touch the stuff probably it is my opinion because he was such a control freak. He was your stereo typical military man and mom was the enabler of his controlling personality.
My only sibling is 9 years older than me, so essentially though a brother was more of my ‘partner in crime’. He was a very late bloomer. But boy, when he bloomed he was out of the gate and off to the races. More on that later. But back to me. With the brief description of my home life above I think the recipe was there for me to be the rebellious child that I turned out to be. I don’t remember my first drink but remember getting drunk at 12 with the Wild Turkey in my parents’, barely, if ever touched liquor cabinet. I came of age in the time of hair bands and fell in love with the whole image portrayed in all the music videos. II fell for the image hook, line and sinker as I was very impressionable by way of lyrics and video- very deep like that lol…. The NKOTB and boy band girls, well in my mind, they were just the goody-goodies in my all girls Catholic school. From that time on, my ‘drinking career’ began and my school days were filled with planning the weekend escapades always centered on the need to get drunk. While there was some pot and acid during the high school years, later a bit of cocaine, alcohol was always my drug of choice. I was the one who always drank unto complete obliteration and was sloppy from the beginning. During that time my brother was also involved with a woman who worked at a ‘dance club’ in the French Quarter. I remember it being so cool to go see her in these clubs, drinking at the bar getting men to buy drinks and getting to know the dancer’s, I mean what other 15 year olds get to do that? For some reason I romanticized their life choices, so different from my typical upper middle class suburbia life. I also recall going to Lollapalooza at the UNO Lakefront being passed out before it started due to my gatorade/vodka concoction. I mean that gets you drunk super fast right? I remember even now the ‘far off’ voices as people passed pointing me out while I was passed out on the grass. There were many, many times of episodes like these which eventually led to my mom telling my dad that I needed counseling. He was not super keen on this idea as his ‘ship’ was absolutely fine in his mind, after all I went to an upstanding school and my grades were good so what else could matter. The counseling was most likely a good move as we (my mom included) learned a lot about our family. The counselor characterized my dad as a ‘dry alcoholic’, which explained his propensity to fly off the handle and be emotionally abusive without the need of substance fuel. It explained how my mom just went from one dysfunctional alcoholic home and just so easily walked into a similar life with my dad. The counselor did at that time put me on an anti depressant at around 16. I think this is important to mention because I am not sure, but think this may have to do with why mostly all of my drinking was ‘black out’ drinking and/or a contributing factor. As I write this, I am pained because I realize more and more that every important event during my ‘formative years’ were in an alcohol induced haze. This is so fundamentally opposite from everything I hope and pray for my own children. I will also mention just I never did go to a high school- school dance, was never asked, nor did I ask anyone. Looking back I see was due to a non existent self esteem and never feeling liked/loved by my father. The male in the family who is typically the one who molds a girls view of herself and relationship with the opposite sex. With my dad being gone now, that is hard to say but I really felt that way. He did a great job as being the ‘family provider’ and I do believe he did the best he know how to do, but was emotionally absent as a father. More of the same continued with my senior year presenting some more poor life choices and lessons. One being on the day before of my senior year reflection ‘retreat’, I snuck out and took my parents car. It was closing night of a popular local bar and I just couldn’t miss. I proceeded to get drunk, drive and receive my first DUI at 17. (those charges were reduced as I was a minor and never did follow me) Hence, I was in a holding cell while my peers were at the retreat and my parents could not get me out. My dad’s pride got in the way as going to get his own daughter out of jail would be an epic failure. So my brother’s lady friend came to get me out later that day. There were also some other life changing poor choices I made that year which were the indirect results of alcohol. For the sake of not setting out to write a book, I am just trying to highlight some of the things that are really painful to think about and for the most part I like to leave in the recesses of my mind.
I proceeded to get thru college doing the bare minimum and skated on by with a Bachelor in Business. These days I wonder what I could have/would have done if I had applied myself. I think I would have pursued veterinary science which is my passion. During these years I worked in the restaurant industry in New Orleans and like every good server, had a great shift, proceeded on to the bar down the street and close it down always tipping extraordinarily well. And as was my MO I was extremely generous, buying everyone in the bar and bartenders shots even helping them clean up at daybreak as this is New Orleans as there is no 2 am closing time. Not sure how I ever made rent during this time as I am pretty sure I circulated every penny back into the local economy by way of my bar tab. I cannot say how many ‘next day’ visits I had to go back to the bar and retrieve my lost credit cards. Also I can recount how my hand would shake while serving guests for their work lunch and how I would profusely sweat out the alcohol. I am not sure how people did not complain and I was not fired from smelling like liquor, though many of my motley crew at the restaurant probably gave off the same aroma. Now I realize also that I was most likely still drunk during those lunch shifts. That was pretty ‘par for the course’ for me. A time during this period I think is worth high lighting that was a ‘I could have been dead’ is an evening I had been drinking with my roommates and decided to go off by myself. I went to a French Quarter dive and drank until they closed. I then went to my car and passed out. I was awakened by a thug in the passenger’s seat. He said he had a knife and told me to drive. In my dazed state I did as he said and only remember I kept pointing to the fraternal order of police sticker I had on my front window. I kept telling him my dad was a cop (not true) and he would not get away with anything. While I had to stop at a light he must have been spooked by my ramblings as he took my keys out of the ignition and ran. At this time a transvestite (I kid you not) came to me as I screamed and went after him under the bridge. A short time later he/she (an angel to me) came back with my keys! Wow….. He/she asked me for a ride. So shaken up I agreed. I took them a short distance and because they saw how traumatized I was, they got out and asked the car in front of me to lead me to the interstate so I could get home! Just writing this gives me chills and I have never waned on my gratitude for this angel nor lost the knowledge I could have easily have been dead during that whole ordeal.
When I was 25, a job opportunity sent me to Austin, TX. The only thing that changed in my ‘drinking career’ was I became a bit more ‘refined’ in way of what I drank. Good red wines, Bombay gin, and Grey Goose were the name of my game. I was a young ‘professional’ now. So my life would consist of working and stopping on the way home for a bottle of wine. My golden retriever Teddy and I would sit and listen to music and I would pretend to learn to play my Takamine guitar on the balcony. Then I would finish that bottle and head to the store nice and buzzed with my loyal Teddy to get another bottle. So essentially 2 BIG bottles of wine were essentially normal during these days along with many drunk calls to family and friends. I would also, always ‘clean up’ my apartment really well in a blackout before I stumbled in bed. This was mainly because I did not want to awake in the mornings and see or feel the ‘shame’ of my behavior. If the wine bottles and glasses were gone I could ‘pretend’ it never happened. Never mind the sometime urine soaked sheets or sickening and agonizing headaches.! Gosh I hate to think about all this, but this was my life for so long. My first ‘official’ adult DUI came during this time at age 29 in 2004 on one of my ‘second runs’ to the store for wine and a drunken stop to Jack in the Box. Thankfully Teddy did not come along on that ride. I had over negotiated a turn and ran off the road thankfully only wrecking my car. Here is one of the many insanity stories. I was so drunk, I went into a bar less than a block away. I told the bartender I needed one more drink as I knew the police would be looking for me and I would be going to jail. Smart guy or gal did not give me a drink, the cops did come in, and I went to jail- in my pajamas……
I hate to ‘skip around’, but I did not mention a couple of important things. First I haven’t said much about it, but throughout this journey there were several failed relationships. Kind of a no brainer they would not succeed as either the counterparts were also alcoholics or if they weren’t the alcohol would cause its demise. I also did ‘know’ in the back of my head I had a problem, doing all of the you may be an alcoholic if quizzes etc.. I also read books written about recovery, mostly while I was drunk! One in particular I recommend to this day as it resonated on so many levels with me, it is Drinking: A Love Story by Carolyn Knapp. I loved that book and read it multiple times. I would call my mom drunk and read it to her. She was my confidant and always knew I needed help and reminded me it was ‘in our genes’. I also was managing a restaurant where a lovely man named Patrick Wilson Blue worked. I knew Patrick went to AA and got sober with Stevie Ray Vaughan. They would have been about the same age. I asked him about AA and he took me to my first meeting off of S. Congress in Austin. I remember feeling at home and thinking wow, cool sober people who would’ve thought it?….. I did hang around those rooms and go to daily meetings, eventually stringing together 6 months I know for sure and it could have been some change too, I cannot exactly remember. I worked all of my steps, making amends and met with my sponsor regulary. I was agnostic for the most part, but eventually came to accept some sort of HP had been keeping me alive for some reason (today a complete 360 on that topic). I did stop going to meetings and ‘thought I could now handle it’. This specifically thinking back had to do with when I started dating a normie, and thought I could drink like him. At first I did ok, but obviously not for long as on I went to the DUI.
So the cycle continued, I knew where to go this time as I had to do something. I went back to AA and made it a year sober. You see I am the epitome of the having an obsession I can one day drink like a normal person. I managed this time to gain a year and get my chip. Life was always so good in sobriety that looking back I don’t remember anything specifically that ‘triggered’ the drinking again. Rather it was just that obsession. Because this time again it was ‘oh I think I am ok’, went on dating a normie and then thinking I could drink with/like that person. In late 2005 I was ‘out’ again and met my husband. I had been keeping my drinking ‘in check’ during this time. He knew the bare bones minimum in terms of my drinking problem. He is a normie, but I had/have never seen him drunk. He is not one of those people that get drunk every now and then, but rather really enjoys beer. And I mean like in a way I could never understand. He really just drinks 1 or 2 beers a couple of times a week. How crazy is that. We dated for a year, got engaged and married 7 months later. He helped ‘keep me in check’ that entire time which I mean not allow me to drink much when the occasions arose which were not often. In fact, the only time we did argue in our relationship was when I had 1 or 2 and wanted MORE. It would make me soooo very angry, ‘how dare he tell me I can’t’. Well thankfully I didn’t and that worked for a time. Then 3 months after our wedding I was pregnant. We were in a hurry being over 30 and all. Well I was thrilled! My husband was on his 24 hour shift so I called a girlfriend for dinner. I knew I could only be 2 or 3 weeks and rationalized in my head that most people wouldn’t even know at this point. So this was the start of my alcoholic thinking…… I remember thinking about another friend of mine who was in Ireland not realizing she was pregnant and drinking like a fish. Well I knew that baby was fine, and certainly no harm could be done so early in the pregnancy. So onward with the celebration! I drank that evening, trying to drink as I always had, though it had been a long time since those days. I remember my friend having to go home and me wanting to continue on. That was also my ‘MO’ in earlier days, never wanting the party to end. But it did and I drove home. I drove home and proceeded to rear end a car. Again, thankful not to hurt anyone. There was no damage to my vehicle, no air bag pop, so I did what every good drunk would do and continued on until there were sirens in my rearview. I blew a .24 that evening. I just remember being in the holding cell just so utterly disgusted with myself and knowing how disgusted and disappointed my husband would be with me. I remember meeting with the bail bond lady that morning and asking how upset my husband was?, and her response to me was it was the first time anyone had ever asked about how someone else was feeling….. He did forgive me, we moved through all the motions of outpatient therapy, back to AA, classes etc. etc.. The most embarrassing thing was that my in laws drove and picked me up from work every day and when I could drive I had to use the interlock. As a bank manager this was as you can imagine was a very humbling experience on many levels. Nobody would ever during this time think I had a problem as this particular circle of people including my in laws never knew all of my previous struggles. It wasn’t until I was 7 months pregnant that the case finally went to court. The DA somehow managed to find my minor record from LA during this time too, which put this as technically my 3rd DUI though legally 2nd. The woman I hit got up on the stand, not knowing anything about me, and said how ‘unfit’ of a mother I would be. I cannot find a word for how deeply that cut to the core. It ended with the judge in Williamson county, a notoriously tough county for drunk drivers, saying I deserved jail time but due to me in ‘my state’ (7 months pregnant and huge) he would not sentence me, but give me probation. Wow! This is the specific reason 2 months later we named our daughter Grace. My life was forever changed when I became a mom at 32. My son came along 2 ½ years later. My life was more fulfilling than ever and happier then it ever had been as well.
I wish I could say that I didn’t drink at all during that time, but I can’t. There was maybe 2 times in a period of 8 years I did and did get drunk. They were both when I rode in Mardi Gras parades and didn’t try to control it, and I guess got a ‘pass’ from my husband because it was a rare experience. Then one year ago is when for me it was my ‘bottom’. Though to many reading this, they may read and say what? , you weren’t low enough before?…. Well here it is, my in laws rented a beach house in Galveston for us to spend the week. We went shopping for groceries and my husband asked if I wanted anything to drink. I thought sure bloody mary’s sound good. Well later that evening while the rest of the family went out, I went to town with the entire bottle of grey goose. I enjoyed shooting pool, listening to music etc.. Then when everyone got back I was a blabbering heap of mess. I let out all of my ‘deep dark secrets’ to my sister in law, talking old days to my niece and nephew. All and all they had never seen or known me to be like that so they were I’m sure taken quite aback, and my husband none to happy. I woke up just disgusted and with a hang over I still a year this week fresh in my mind as it was that crushing of a blow. It blew my ego, pride, and everything else. I made a fool of myself in front of a group of people that did not ‘know’ that side of me. My in laws had thought the one DUI they knew about, was just a fluke. Even today they don’t know ‘my story’. My kids until this point had never seen me drink (I don’t really think they knew the difference, but I did). This was THE MOST disturbing thing to me. II was ashamed, but this time I have so much more to live for, so much more ‘on the line’ (2 little ones to be exact) and just surrendered it all- I am absolutely an alcoholic- one is too many and 100 is not enough…..
That morning became day one of the rest of my life and I prayed to my higher power that this insanity must stop. So as today and each day I take it one day at a time, being diligent about doing an inventory at the end of each day. Today biggest thing I do differently is that rather than put it in the ‘back of my mind’ I put it at the forefront. What I mean by that, I think from reading above you can tell there is A LOT I do not want to or care to think about, but alcohol is not one of them. I wake up every day and thank the good Lord for my sobriety, I run every day and it serves as my me time keeping me sane in the world of being mom, I listen regularly to Recovery Elevator/ SHAIR podcasts. . I have read the Big Book so much in my life that it sticks with me. Something that I always think about is the guy that had many years of sobriety and I think it say something to the effect that once he retired ‘his slippers and bottle’ came out. I think about that and know that- that is me. I can pick up right where I left off as I have proved that. Today I choose not to drink. I am under no illusions that I can one day drink like a ‘normie’. This is what has put me in and out of sobriety each time- insanity. I have never understood anyone that would want just one or two, that will always boggle my mind. My prayer has been that I can be of service to others. I am not sure where that will put me, but it has been on my heart to put this story on paper, and this is my beginning. While I do not go to AA today the thought of returning has been on my mind, not so much for what it can do for me. Rather when I walked into those rooms, I was looking for ‘that person’ meaning the one I am today and that just maybe can help another woman that just needed to ‘see’ the face of hope..
Life has not been all roses as I am still held accountable and reminded of consequences even now. The most vivid heartbreaking event was when I went to drive for my daughter’s kindergarten field trip and the principal pulled me aside. She informed me I could drive my child, but not any of the others. It seems my driving record results came back and I would not allow for that and she was ‘very sorry’. Wow talk about my pride and motherhood taking a massive assault! Embarrassment and tears filled my face as I ran out to call my husband and come drive as my daughter was confused as to why we couldn’t bring her friends who were anxiously standing next to her. My secret was out and I felt so much shame. This was a group of people that never would have dreamed I had an alcohol problem. My alcoholic reaction was to say the heck with it and drink, but I did not! Funny that wasn’t when I did drink again, rather it was the sneaky, everything is ok and maybe I can drink normally ‘obsession’ that got me. So this along with not being able to be a substitute teacher because of my ‘driving record’, these are things that are in my life today and I handle them on life’s terms. I think this is the first year where I will legally be able to drive my kids and their friends at school as it will be 10 years after the DUI, hence things can get better.
Yesterday, I eclipsed my first thirty days of sobriety in over twelve years. I stopped drinking on December 5th, 2016 and have remained sober using close accountability and honesty with my wife and listening to 90 RE Podcasts in 30 days. The support, encouragement, and connection with you and your interviewees of this last 30 days have been an immeasurable reminder of the depths I have slipped to at times, but more importantly, the hope of a limitless future without the pull and dependence of alcohol.
Like many, I probably should have hit what others would have viewed as a “bottom” a long time ago.
I am 41 years old and began drinking at age 12. I had the normal occasional weekend parties of going out with friends, finding alcohol, and using in that fashion through high school. This was normal within our social structure and I never questioned alcohol as a problem. I most certainly would have never predicted alcoholism in my future, as I spent the next 10 years only having the occasional beer/s on Thanksgiving, Super Bowls, camping etc.…
After high school, in 1993, I married young at age 18, and alcohol simply did not follow me into the responsibilities of young adulthood. At age 18, I acquired a low end job at an affiliate of the University in my hometown that focused on biology research. I was soon entrusted with lab and research responsibilities that that included genetic research on Downs Syndrome, ALS, and The Human Genome Project. In a ten year stretch, non-college educated, I was an author on three pier reviewed research publications. Professionally, paralleling this at home, I was involved in our local church as a staff Youth Pastor and developing my own small commercial business in the evenings. I was busy.
My wife developed Lupus in her early twenties and her condition was chronic and fairly severe. We had a child when I was 25 and a lot of his care, Dad and Mom duties, were directed to me. Normal life stuff, but by age 28/29 in 2004/2005 I had a wife and child in a big house in an affluent Denver suburb. Multiple income streams, including a growing small business. Little to no drinking… holidays, birthdays, a 6-pack of beer could sit in my fridge for months.
As we settled into our ideal home, in the ideal neighborhood, we really started connecting with our neighbors. Weekend drinking, sitting out in lawn chairs, listening to music, watching the kids play started to become the norm. I loved it. My “responsibility bank” was overdrawn and I absolutely loved getting to the end of the week and winding down with friends and neighbors.
In 2007, a handful of us went down to a bar fairly close to home. We were celebrating a friend’s promotion. We had a designated driver, but she began drinking. Me, being the “caretaker” of all things, business, church, family, and now friends, I elected myself to drive us home. This was my first DUI.
Following the legal gymnastics of getting through the DUI process, I did not feel like I had an alcohol problem. In the secrecy of like company, you find out that a lot of people get DUI’s. In fact, the same prominent person who received the promotion, of whom we were celebrating, pulled me aside the next day and told me that he had gotten a DUI, and if his company did not bury it in a drawer, he would not have gotten his promotion. Normal, everyday people got DUIs. The court systems feed off of the DUI revenue…etc.
With my commercial cleaning business thriving, and the difficulties of taking care of everything I was juggling (family, business, and legal). I chose to quit working for the University and stop my research career, something I absolutely loved. I began to realize that just being a small business owner, a janitor, was a tad less fulfilling and weekend drinking in the neighborhood started to bleed into the weekday nights.
In 2008/2009, my 16 year marriage had run its course. I say this somewhat casually, but it was so difficult. I know people would probably assume that drinking played a big role in this divorce, but I can honestly take inventory and say that it didn’t. My wife felt like she had missed out on her younger years, said she felt like she was “35 going on 25”, and wanted new, more youthful experiences. There was infidelity discovered. I was devastated. I am the classic co-dependent, who finds his value in taking care of everybody else, my wife, my clients, my son, and my friends. I was highly functional and admired by everyone, yet all my efforts felt meaningless when publicly your marriage, something you hold dear, is dissolving. It felt like a moral failing. My elevator was about to start go down quickly.
In 2009, I had majority custody of my 8 year old son. My business, consisting of mostly evening work had to be fully staffed, so that I could be home with my son. I dialed everything in responsibility wise to maintain our home, business, and parenting. I had a lot of free time combined with a lot of self-pity. Woe is me, the guy who cares about everyone else, but just gets shit on. My night drinking bled into morning drinking to take the edge off a hangover and by the end of 2010 I was medicating day and night with alcohol just to feel normal. At the end of December 30th of 2010, I had wrapped up the end of month/year accounting for my business and I was going to celebrate at a bar in town. This was “going out” for me, and a rare occurrence. I did my drinking at home.
By the end of this evening, I knew I was too drunk to drive home. I called my cousin to see if she could pick me up. She came into the bar and, not to my knowledge, was already under the influence. I know she had a few more drinks at the bar, but she was my ride home and my only concern was that I was not putting myself in the situation of getting a DUI. Simply, on the way home, my cousin missed a turn and drove us into large rock barrier. I was transported by ambulance with a broken hip, femur, nose, 3 fingers, and torn ligaments in my neck. Hours later at the hospital my BAC was .36. I get it. This was supposed to be my bottom. Your friends and family standing over you in the hospital, your secret is out. Might as well admit you have a problem? My problem, as I saw it, were my first thoughts when I woke up in that trauma unit. “Shit, I’m still here?” I didn’t care if I did or did not have a problem. This is how I was going to get through the pains of life and other people and circumstances did not get to determine how I was going to live it. I was about to undergo serious physical rehabilitation and alcohol was going to help.
It didn’t. In the spring of 2011, just a few months later, I received my second DUI. I was going to pick up my son from school.
So, I know this was supposed to be “my bottom”, but I’d like to make an observation that I have not encountered on any of the Recovery Elevator Podcasts:
When you get a DUI, it can exacerbate drinking. The shame, the anxiety of an uncertain future / jail time, the stigma, the logistics of not driving, the piss tests, court ordered classes, forced AA, community service… Your whole world revolves around fixing this mistake and that mistake is ever-present before you. Second, and we all know this now, no one can make this decision to “How Can I Stop Drinking Alcohol” for you. So, at every turn, within the DUI process the authorities telling you not to do something, you are going to be obstinate. Forced quitting is counter opposed to an alcoholic’s pride.
I am thankful for the second DUI in so many ways. It forced moderation and I needed that, but I was an adult. I take care of my son, my bills, and my clients. I am functioning on a high level, and in a sick way, I liked the obstacles of the court system… I used to juggle so much more… I can juggle this too.
On July 4th of that same year, one day before I was to have my driving privileges revoked, I met my current wife at a 4th of July BBQ. I hesitated in giving her my phone number because I knew the journey I was about to undergo with all of the legal difficulties and lack of driving. I was embarrassed and ashamed and was content with putting my head in the sand and getting through it. That said, she called a week later, and I was transparent about what I was up against. We went through it together. We were married that following 4th of July, 2012. In many ways, I was able to hit the reset button. Legal problems aside, I looked like a normal drinker again, only because the court requirements, random tests, and eventually car breathalyzer demanded it. You probably know where this is going, but the further I got away from the legal restrictions, the more opportunities I/(now we) had to indulge in drinking more. –ISM (incredibly short memory) Ugh.
The drinking from 2013 – 2016 followed so many predictable patterns that I hear about on your show. We’d make rules and then break them. Only drinking on the weekends… broken. Only spending so much money a week on alcohol… broken. Only drinking at normal social events or holidays… broken. Geographical change (we moved up to a small mountain community) where we could reduce stress, business demands and of course, drink less… nope.
The best part of my story, is that I think I get to be a “high bottom”. It suits my pride to think so.
December 5th, for the most part, is my first attempt to quit drinking. Even with all of the difficulties described above, I never really had an interest in giving alcohol up. This is who I was, it was part of me and I would take the good with the bad.
My “Ah ha!” moment hit me at the end of July in 2016. My wife’s daughter had severe, multiple strokes from complications due to a car accident. I don’t know what it was, but it was the first time in my 40 years that I’d seen someone suffer like that. She was covered in more machines and apparatuses than you could see of her body. She was on blood thinners so that blood could get to her brain. Subsequently, the blood seeped from her mouth and nose. The doctors gave her a 5% chance of making it through the night. She suffered. The people around her suffered watching, especially her Mom.
I guess I had a lot of sober think time over those initial days, combined with an undoubtedly “Higher Power” experience in the hospital. The takeaway was that I could not imagine purposely putting myself in that situation where other people were standing around me. Watching me suffer from the effects of alcoholism and me, in turn, knowing that I had let the people down who loved me the most … especially, for something I should be able to control.
For the first time above all the other reasons that I should have quit earlier, this preview into my future was my moment. I had a conversation with my wife on the grass of the hospital about the way I was feeling, my drinking, how I wanted to have a better and healthier life. How I didn’t want alcohol to be the end of our story. My wife’s daughter recovered with all of the painstaking aftercare that went along with it.
Drinking was cut back considerably in the fall of 2016, but I have to be honest, the mental obsession with when, where, how much… etc. were all there. If there was an event approaching the drinking would start early and end late… I mean days late, you know?
On Sunday, December 4th I had my last drink. No fireworks, no DUIs, no drunken outburst, just a 3 day fog of drinking coming to the end and an honest understanding that I am unable to control alcohol.
Monday, December 5th, I talked to my wife about alcohol and the extent to which my brain was broke. I was not fearful of her lack of understanding or support, just fearful of being the guy who can accomplish anything, but just can’t seem to accomplish finding the breaks once I start drinking.
Again, thank you Paul. I curled up those first 24 hours sick and ashamed. I searched for Podcasts and found RE. I listened to 5 or 6 to get me through the day, and 90 episodes over the last 30 days. You have no doubt been in peoples ears while they tremor. Your interviewees have encouraged someone when skin was like a pincushion and sleep was nowhere to be found. Your voice landed tips in the right moments at the right times during the holidays. For people who cannot get to meetings, you have brought the meetings to them.
Many Blessings to you and the RE team for 2017. “We can do this.”