Nel, with over 1 year since her last drink, shares her story…
Drinking is more than the average habit. To reduce our problems with alcohol to a “bad habit” is missing the bigger picture. We drink for a variety of reasons.. for example: to cope, to ignore, to numb, to hide.
Digging ourselves out of alcohol dependency actually requires the changing or removal of several habits. We need to change the way we relax. We need to change the way we deal with difficult emotions. We need to become more conscious, aware, and in the moment. We have to slowly remember the version of us that didn’t need anything to be okay. We have to change everything.
When one finds themselves in the grips of alcohol, it probably takes more time, effort, and patience to return to our emotional center than it did to lose it. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are many lessons to be learned along the way, but with patience, persistence, self-love and an open mind, we can find ourselves looking back on our time with alcohol as a distant and remote dream.
[11:40] Paul Introduces Nel.
Nel is 52 years old, from Shannon, Mississippi. She now lives in New York. She’s married. She’s a personal trainer that loves sports, particularly fantasy football. Dolphins are her favorite sea animal.
[15:05] Give us a little background about your drinking.
She started around 16. Her parents died when she was young. She had a chaotic upbringing. She could never relax. She started drinking after her parents died. It helped her relax and she loved it. She drank mostly on the weekends with the intention to get drunk. She went on to college and started drinking a lot more. She met her first husband her senior year of college. He helped her finish school. She was already beginning to drink a lot. She always knew that she drank more than other people. All of her friends drank. She has alcoholism in her family. She partied a lot in her 20s. She worked and took care of herself. Drinking remained a lower priority. She divorced her first husband in her early 30s. She moved back to Mississippi to be with her sister and help with her family. She felt happier generally, but was always managing her alcohol. She met her second husband at 35. She moved to New York. Her new husband was a normal drinker, and it made her realize how much she drank. It caught up to her, and began to experience physical symptoms and tried to switch to marijuana. She smoked pot “like she always wanted to drink”. She knew in her heart that she was making bad choices. She continued to function despite how she felt. She would blackout multiple times. She would experience “brownouts” after a few drinks.
[22:47] Did you experience a rock bottom moment?
She realized that she couldn’t trust herself anymore. She would get stoned and pick up her nephew from school and she realized she was going down the wrong path.
[25:28] Talk more about what it meant to lose trust in yourself.
She was frightened. Her biggest pillar of safety in life was her ability to self-regulate, and once she began to lose that she became extremely worried. She was negotiating with herself, and never winning. After the first line was crossed, the progression sped up because the anxiety kicked into overdrive.
[27:35] Did the drinking help you with the fact that you were flying solo in life?
She was trying to quiet the voices in her head and the anxiety and fear. She used it as a coping mechanism, as medicine.
[29:10] How did you end up making the change and finding your way out?
She wants to live a life that her family members can look up to, as an example. She realized she was off course. She didn’t want to go out like her parents. The next step was to put smoking and drinking down. Ever since then, she believes that God has been helping her. She began to do research about alcoholism and realized she had a problem, and that she wasn’t alone.
She is on the podcast because she wants to shed the shame. She didn’t know many in recovery before. She wants to reach out and let people know that there is a way out, and that they can do it.
[34:08] How did you keep the change going?
She knew one other person in recovery. Within 48 hours of her thinking about reaching out to her, she was out of her house and she coincidentally ran into her on the boardwalk. She told her everything and she stayed with her for the next few weeks. She went to an AA meeting and it was the best decision she ever made. It gave her instructions, guidance.
[37:27] Can you think of a time when self-negotiating didn’t work out?
She would go to a wedding, and tell herself she would only have two drinks. By the end of the night she lost her shoes and couldn’t remember anything. Towards the last few years she began to consistently lose the negotiations.
[38:53] What’s your plan moving forward in sobriety?
Keep it simple, do what’s working. She goes to meetings every day. She knows the rest of her life depends on whether or not she goes to those meetings. She feels more freedom now than ever before. She’s accepted that she can’t think her way out of everything. She meditates daily now, and she can easily meditate now for 15-20 minutes. She’s off her medication, her health has improved. She’s realizing that everything revolves around your thoughts. You have to practice and put in the work, but the benefits spill over into everything else in your life. She also focuses on exercise. Staying physically active and trying to take care of herself.
[42:44] Talk to us about the “why” in your drinking.
A genetic component, but also her environment. She was raised in an abusive household and was always anxious. She had low self esteem. She had voices in her head constantly criticise her. She didn’t know how to handle life without an escape plan, and she felt like alcohol was something she needed. She didn’t always have to have it, but she had to have access to it. She didn’t realize that she wasn’t her thoughts. She read “The Untethered Soul” and that plus her meditation practice has changed her relationship to her inner thoughts. She’s excited to see her new potential. When someone recommends a resource, give it a go!
[47:45 ] Rapid Fire Round
- What was your worst memory from drinking?
She went to a party and proceeded to get smashed at a party. She argued with her husband she isn’t aware about how she got back to her home. The next day her sister just left back to Mississippi.
- Did you ever have an “oh-shit” moment?
When she picked up her nephew at school totally stoned.
- What’s your plan moving forward?
- What’s your favorite resource in recovery?Her AA group. The support and the knowledge that she gets from them. She also loves Recovery Elevator.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received (on sobriety)?
Keep it simple. Just one day at a time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t try to think your way out.
- What parting piece of guidance can you give listeners who are in recovery or thinking about quitting drinking?
What do you have to lose? If you feel bad at yourself, what do you have to lose by trying to get sober? You can always go back to your old way of life. You have to be all in if you give it a try.
- You might be an alcoholic if…
“…you’re at a baseball game, and you are more worried about the 7th inning when they’ll cut off the beer sales off.”
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Untethered Soul – A book by Michael Singer
Connect with Cafe RE– Use the promo code OPPORTUNITY for your first month free
Sober Selfies! – Send your Sober Selfie and your Success Story to email@example.com
“We took the elevator down, we gotta take the stairs back up, we can do this!”