We all hear the stories of alcoholics who almost completely ruin their lives before getting sober. They are secretly chugging bottles of vodka, crashing cars, getting arrested, and continuously putting themselves into incredibly dangerous situations. I have addicts like this in my family, and I greatly sympathize with them. I am so proud of them when they finally do hit bottom and get sober. But do we have to experience such acute pain? Is there such a thing as a high bottom drunk?
But what about the alcoholics who have “high bottoms”? These are the people who, from an external view, seem to have a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol. Rather than continuing to speak in general terms, let me touch on my own relationship with alcohol and having a high bottom. I was a binge drinker from the age 17 until I was about 21. The first time I ever got drunk, I fell in love with what alcohol did to me. I went from being the shy and uncomfortable girl to being the witty and charismatic life of the party. Whenever I got drunk I fell in love with the people around me and kept the night going until I was the last person standing. Around age 21 I got my sh*t together, so to speak. I hit a rock bottom at this age, and it became apparent that I had to cut down on my drinking (if you are interested, I speak about some of my bottoms around this age on episode 99 of Recovery Elevator). I quit drinking for a month, and completely reevaluated my relationship with alcohol. Although at the time, I knew I was an addict, I convinced myself that I could continue drinking if I could implement moderation. I valued drinking so much that I forced myself to do this.
Surprisingly enough, I got really good at moderating alcohol. I credit a lot of this to the hangovers. I get incredibly bad hangovers after having only 3 or 4 drinks. The hangovers have become so bad, that as much as I love getting buzzed, even when I am 3 drinks in I often can’t justify having a fourth because I know too well how I will feel the next day. The bad hangovers have been enough to keep me in check with my drinking over the past few years.
I am 24 and although I spent two months at the start of this year sober, I have been continuously drinking for the past 3 years, until recently. During this time I have consistently worked, traveled around the world, paid all of my bills on time, and built and maintained some amazing friendships. I have been able to appear like your typical young adult. A lot of my friends have been in the advertising industry and we worked long hours during the week and spent our weekends partying on rooftops, often ending up at someone’s apartment where we would talk until 3 am about life! (you know the alcohol infused conversations that can miraculously jump from global warming to the illuminati to art, then to the Kardashians, and end up all the way back at the meaning of life?).
Even though everything seemed “fine”, I have continued to return back to this idea of sobriety. I don’t know how to describe it other than by saying there is a part of me that I keep deep inside that just knows I will live a better life sober. I am reminded of this come Sunday morning when I spend the day doing absolutely nothing other than nursing a hangover. I am reminded of this when I look in the mirror and see that my eyes have been drained of any spark they may have. I am reminded by this when I spend a few weeks sober, and notice that my body just starts to glow when I am not making it process alcohol. I am reminded of this when I wake up at 3 am and feel the dread and anxiety that comes after my wine buzz has faded. I am reminded of this when after a night out I awake and feel deeply unlovable. I am reminded of this when I realize I rely on alcohol to make me feel worthy of great relationships. I am reminded of this by all the subtle ways alcohol makes my life a bit darker.
Just as the ways drinking negatively affected my life were somewhat subtle, the ways sobriety impacts my life are also subtle. So far sobriety has not made me lose 20 pounds or get an amazing job or find an amazing life partner. For me sobriety looks like me spending 15 minutes every night stretching while listening to music I love. It’s being able to make plans on both weekend days because I no longer have to have one reserved for nursing a hangover. It’s allowing myself to sit with feelings like loneliness or sadness, without immediately trying to cover them up with a drunken night out. It’s finding the time to exercise 4-5 times a week, something I never had the energy to maintain while drinking. It’s money I’m saving. It’s going to bed knowing I will wake up and be myself, not the exhausted zombie alcohol makes me become.
As my days of sobriety tick by I start to flirt with the idea of drinking again. I justify this by reminding myself that I wasn’t an “out of control drunk”. I have a feeling that other people with high bottoms may do the same. All I can say is that in these moments, you must let these feelings come and go without acting on them. And then in the moments when you do feel good, really let yourself feel that and it will remind you why you are staying sober.
I am 24 days sober, and the reason why I stopped drinking this time is not because I hit a low. It’s because I am sick and tired of living a mediocre life. I am tired of being a “functional” alcoholic. I don’t want to go through life just simply functioning through it all- barely squeaking by. I want a life that is good, or possibly, maybe, even great. And I am fully aware that when I am drinking, I’m just not going to push for that. When I am drinking, I am fine settling for mediocre, as long as it means I can order another round.
I’ve been journaling a lot lately, and I recently wrote a love letter to my high bottom. I thanked it for allowing me to have to take responsibility for my sobriety. I am not choosing sobriety because things got so bad they couldn’t get any worse. I am not choosing sobriety to make a partner or my parents feel relieved. I am choosing sobriety because I believe it will lead to a better life. When you get sober at a high bottom, it means you are truly listening to yourself. You aren’t getting sober because the world is telling you to, it’s because you want to, and that is the fuel that will keep going.
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.
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.
I was in my first 72 hours of sobriety when Paul threw out the stat that only 5 percent of those who want to get sober will make it to 90 days. Of those 5 percent, only 5 percent will make it to 2 years without drinking alcohol. Let’s see… Okay, for every 1000 people who desire to get sober, 2.5 of them will be sober in two years. I’m not shaking anymore, but the acute effects of withdrawal have not left. My mind is in a fog, my skin has pinpricks running throughout, and I have not strung together more than a few hours of sleep in three days. By the time I hear this depressing stat, I realize that the easy fix to my discomfort would be to have a few drinks… and apparently, 1,997.5 people wouldn’t blame me. I’m not getting to sleep anytime soon. Maybe I’ll just keep listening.
I think we all know that hyper-vigilant friend who attaches themselves to a cause. There is the one who can string together why shopping at Wal-Mart is akin to feeding “The Corporate Antichrist”. They are loaded with information about the 6 Wal-Mart heirs making more money than the lowest 42 percent of the population combined. They’ll make a great case for corporation not paying living wages or providing decent healthcare and in turn, how our taxes subsidize government benefits, the services that could be provided by billionaires. If that didn’t get you, they’ll pepper you with the working conditions of the children in Polynesia so that you know the true cost of your three dollar Duck Dynasty tank top. They are not wrong. They have done their homework. In fact, you are persuaded to the point that you feel ashamed, stop shopping at Wal-Mart for a few days, and maybe even clumsily repeat the stats to a non-intellectual so as to stroke your newfound sense of self-righteousness. Problem is, within days those facts went fleeting. While appalled, you were not as committed as your friend. Your habits did not include the same degree of rigorous study, and in a moment of consumer relapse, you’re pulling once again to the parking lot ready to make an offering to the “Temple of Social Injustice”. You deny your first impulse to think it through. You certainly do not want to call your friend so he can feed you additional information. Let’s not ruin the day by feeling bad about making the easy choice. Besides, the sun is out and your guns are gonna look sweet in that tank top.
Yes, I am taking a dig at Wal-Mart. Pick any cause though… If we put the effort into learning about factory farming and the mistreatment of animals that are our food source, we would cringe and give pause to the effects of our consumption. Find out a few more facts about the mortality rates of the workers who assemble our smartphones and we are confronted with moral choices. The truth is, when it comes to these issues, we shop, consume, use, and abuse as a means to survive. We use the littlest amount of thought to procure the food, clothing, and technology to communicate. It is the basis for survival and we let the lizard portion of the brain do the thinking. Ease and value compete against taking a more difficult, long term approach that benefits everybody.
Now let’s be honest. How many of those inspirational, uncompromised, hyper-vigilant, cause oriented, intellectually sound, unwavering social renegades do we know? Not that many. Most of us slowly go the way of the buffalo which makes the impassioned moral minority pretty easy to spot. That minority friend, whatever their cause, is the rare bird that continually absorbs information, which in turn, informs their actions.
I was pretty discourage with that statistic that Paul relayed over my headset that night. I had no false sense that I was going to be in that minority of the first 5 percent, let alone in the second 5%. If I was involved in this human experiment called sobriety, there was no indicator from the last 10 years of alcohol abuse that I would succeed. I was all impulse and little intellect when it came to using alcohol.
I am close to 40 days sober. I have just gotten current with Recovery Elevator podcasts at episode 99. I started at Episode 00 and listened throughout the 40 days straight through. I am so thankful for the wealth of information and experiences that have been shared on the podcast. There is such a diverse amount of helpful experience in sobriety on the show. As I reflect on what might be the common source of success in everyone’s personal recovery program, it’s that the sober alcoholic is continually feeding the executive center of their brain. The AA attendant gets information and advice from a group share or a big book. The self-employed travels in a car with a podcast in the background. A mom finds a group to confide in and have a source reminder of a difficult past. Someone struggles with temptation, they get immediate advice from a Facebook Forum. In quiet times the recovering alcoholic finds books, websites and blogs. Information.
I do not have a rigid program for sobriety. My goals are to be 100% honest with my wife and accept her help, insight, and accountability. Second, it is to reprogram my doublemindedness with helpful and encouraging information daily. If the lizard portion of my brain is the quickest to respond and tell me that I need a drink to survive, I want the part of my brain that controls reason, behavior, and executive decision making to be full and ready. I think it takes community and positive information.
At my core, I know who I am. I shop at Wal-Mart. I eat fast food. I own an IPhone. I am an alcoholic.
Ultimately, I want to be that annoying, hyper-vigilant friend when it comes to my alcoholism, but I now understand why so few will make it. The same impulse to eat, commune, and provide shelter the easiest way possible is the same impulse that beckons me to take that first drink. The difference today is, I understand that drinking is not a means for survival. It wants to destroy my future.