Episode 323 – I have to say I feel less isolated in a pandemic than I ever did drinking. It has been so good to go through a pandemic sober.
Lauren took her last drink on December 19, 2018. She lives in Canada and is 37 years old. This is her journey of living alcohol free (AF).
Shout out to Jeni’s ice cream who is one of the sponsors of our Bozeman retreat.
Finding Your Better You – Odette’s weekly message.
Odette reflected on a March NPR article titled, “A sharp, off the charts’ rise in alcoholic liver disease among young women.
It’s important this article is placed in a bucked about the global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. The article referenced a 30-year-old woman who was diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis. She drank nearly a liter of liquor every evening. Doctors are seeing patients whose drinking has edged up in the last year. In conversations, physicians recognize it’s astronomical and life threatening. The survival rate for alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis varies but can be as low as ten percent. The CDC has not compiled additional statistics since the pandemic began, however physicians are aware of the upswing as they see more hospitalizations and fatalities. While men have consistently driven the statistics, young women are driving the numbers up.
Many are crossing the bridge from normal drinking to problematic drinking. What are the signs? The rock bottom aha moments?
Sobriety isn’t easy, but Odette is no longer living a double life. Odette wants to do more to help those who are struggling with alcohol addiction.
[8:27] Odette introduces Lauren
Lauren took her last drink on December 19, 2018 (sobriety date 12/20/2018). She has been sober for 750 days (as of this recording). She has several friends she has met through 12-step programs that are going through the same things.
Lauren is from Ontario, Canada and is 37 years old. She lives with her partner and they co-parent his children. They have a cat and are adopting a dog. Lauren is a housing work and helps homeless people in her community which is even more challenging due to COVID. Lauren enjoys running, hiking, reading, art, painting, and travel. Her reading comprehension has improved with sobriety.
[14:19] Tell us about your history with drinking?
Lauren had a normal childhood and started drinking in high school. She remembers in her last year of high school a friend saying he had never seen her sober outside of school. At the end of University, she knew she had a problem, because she was happier staying at home and drinking the way she wanted to in her room. After school, she moved to a big city and leveraged alcohol as a social lubricant.
[16:04] Did you attempt to change aspects of your relationship with alcohol?
Lauren knew her drinking was a problem, but thought she was too young to deal with it. She was regularly drunk, hung over and had no money. She did reach out and went to three rebabs, several detoxes and the psych ward.
[17:07] What wasn’t working during those multiple attempts to quit?
When it finally clicked, Lauren realized she had used alcohol to manage her emotions.
On December 19, 2018, Lauren said she stopped digging. She called in sick to work for the third day in a row at work. She realized she had three options: 1). Keep going knowing things wouldn’t get better; 2) End it all (Lauren had multiple suicide attempts); 3) Stop drinking and give sobriety and honest chance. Once she made that decision, she stopped. It took her six years of trying before it finally clicked. She says, ‘don’t give up.’ She is learning what she is capable of with sobriety. The first month was difficult due to the wreckage of her past, but she now sees it is worth it.
[23:06] What worked for you that first month?
Lauren said acceptance – it was a miracle. Deep acceptance that she can’t drink and letting go of the resentment about not being a ‘normal drinker’ helped.
[24:16] How did you reconcile that feeling?
Lauren said for six years the feelings of anger and resentment was insurmountable which is why she kept relapsing. She felt her life was hard and if she couldn’t drink in public, she’s just drink in private. She likened her relationship to alcohol with a severe peanut allergy. She will die if she drinks.
[26:12] What support did you have in the early stages?
Lauren said she has been in 12-step recovery on and off. She goes to meetings regularly and has a home group. Her employer is very supportive as well. Her family has also been great.
[27:28] How was telling your employer? Many people don’t because of the stigma.
Lauren said it came up as part of a performance review. She was asked about her future goals and she opened up about her struggle with addiction and her desire to help others with addiction. Her supervisors were surprised, but incredibly supportive. Sobriety became “part of her”.
[29:22] When did you reconcile the acceptance with shame?
Lauren said after the first few shaky months, she realized recovery was a superpower and part of who she is. It is very motivating. She carries shame from the past, including drinking dreams and regret about past behavior. She knows it will take a long time to let go of that shame.
Value Bomb – you get a chance to repair and live differently or live an amends through this journey. Repair is underestimated, let the guilt propel you to become the person you want to be.
Lauren’s family has some residual memory and trauma because of prior behavior. She is giving them space and trying to live her life as a living amends. Her family is incredibly proud as is her partner.
Processing some of her drinking behavior with family and friends is difficult to hear and hard to process. She put her family, friends, and therapist through some scary times. All she can do now is be sober. She is hopeful that others can overcome the fear that when she calls, it isn’t a crisis or bad news.
Odette acknowledged that it could take families time to adjust to us changing and we need to realize they have a timeline to ad as well.
[37:19] Do you still get cravings?
Lauren said, no. During her first attempts they were horrible. She rarely has cravings now and when she does, they are mild. The more time she gets away from alcohol, the more in tune she is with her body. She is better prepared to identify her needs and the most common need is sleep.
[39:15] Tell me about the differences between Year 1 and Year 2.
Lauren said year one was about making it to the first year; she was amazed every day. The second year was her “what now” time. She is working to make her life the best it can be including things she put on the back burner, doing things that are good for her mind and body. She is also reaching out to women who are early in their recovery. It reminds her of how difficult it is when you are starting, and she doesn’t want to go back there.
Through her recovery network, Lauren realizes that the mind is powerful and switching back to old behavior won’t make anything better. She must remain committed to her recovery, so her mind doesn’t let her forget.
[43:43] Have you noticed that FOMO (fear or missing out) has dissipated over time?
Lauren said, 100%. She believes the FOMO kept her drinking. Now that she accepts that she can’t drink, she has less FOMO and participates in life more. She doesn’t miss family events because she is drinking alone or hung over.
[45:01] How have you maintained connections with your recovery community during the pandemic?
Lauren said her 12-step community has zoom meetings which is not ideal, but she can stay connected to her people via Zoom. She attends Café RE chats as well and even when she isn’t sharing, she feels connected.
She feels less isolated during a pandemic than she does when drinking.
Lauren’s partner reminded her that her relapses and attempts at sobriety. were “just more information.”
[48:45] Rapid Fire Round
- What is a lightbulb moment for you during this journey?
Acceptance that I can’t ever drink.
- What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Rum and raising
- What has recovery made possible for you?
Everything, every one of the promises in the Big Book have come true.
- What advice would you give to listeners who are thinking about ditching the booze?
Don’t give up and keep trying even though you think that it isn’t working and that it will never click. It will click!
You may have to ditch the booze if …
You buy a magnum bottle of wine and drink it an hour after you have left your third rehab center.
Odette challenges us to think of a positive affirmation about you that you can say about you to you. Practice saying it once a day. Affirmations help Odette get her though when she is in a fear-based place.
You are not alone, together is always better! Odette is grateful for you!
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