I’ve been a bit remiss on posting the DGDFs. But I got an email more than a year ago from Liz. I felt kinship with her right away and a little while into her sobriety I asked her to tell her story for this site but she didn’t feel ready. Now, luckily for us, she does.
“I have been completely and totally sober for a little over a year now. Thank you God. And I haven’t had a cigarette in 11 months. Thank you chantrix.
I’ve been remiss on publishing DGDF. But luckily I have a great one for you this week. This is Liz. She wrote to me in December of last year and a few months later I asked her to tell me her story for this site but she wasn’t ready. Now she is. She’s awesome.
“I have been completely and totally sober for a little over a year now. Thank you God. And I haven’t had a cigarette in 11 months. Thank you chantrix. I attended several AA meetings a week for many months. Then I attended my Monday morning meeting for another several months. Then my work schedule changed and I stopped going to meetings altogether. I thought about going back to that Monday morning meeting for my 1 year coin. I didn’t, but I still might.I gave a coin to myself in my head. I ran into a meeting leader 2 weeks ago. She asked where I had been and I told her. She said I looked good but gave me that look like “Hmmm, no meetings? Not a good idea.” Well, maybe not. But maybe yes. One size doesn’t fit all. But I do know that today I am sober and happy and grateful.
I never struggled with not drinking after the first few weeks. But I continue to struggle with feeling my feelings without trying to numb them with something – whether that something is food or work or surfing the net. I think once you recognize that at your core you are an addict you are really acknowledging that you simply don’t like to feel many of your feelings and that numbing out is preferable – whether you numb out with booze, or drugs, or gambling, or work, or tv or food. I see my addictive personality wanting to take over all the time in these other areas now. When I overindulge in anything I am so consumed by the shame of my overindulgence that I am too busy dealing with those feelings to feel what it is that was uncomfortable to begin with. Does that make sense? I feel like this process for me is continually peeling back the layers of avoidance. I let go of booze, I invite in the food. I get rid of the food, here come the cigarettes again. I see now that are all part of the cycle of my addiction – and I try to be vigilant but not obsessive.
I was right. None of my friends suspected I had a problem with booze. But I refused to let that give me an excuse to drink again. I knew the truth. Being sober took away my daily shame and I was able to start looking at my shadow side – my dark side – my weaknesses and shortcomings – with a much gentler and more forgiving view of myself. It might also be that I am closer to 50. I hear that the older we get the more okay we are with ourselves faults and all. Whether it is aging or sobriety I don’t know – but it feels good – this being a little kinder or gentler with myself – and I’ll take it. I was so hard on myself for so long.
I never did the steps in AA, but I have reviewed in an informal way the way I drank from the time I was 13 in the 8th grade. There is no doubt looking back that I had a problem with alcohol from the very first time I drank. I love the motto: Something bad didn’t happen every time I drank but every time something bad happened I had been drinking.” I still can’t believe that I did not see or understand that car accidents, affairs, peeing your pants and embarrassing email messages meant I had a drinking problem. I just truly believed that when one of these things happened it meant I needed to cut back for a bit, or drink even more privately. I never saw that at the heart of the matter was a girl that just shouldn’t – or couldn’t drink. period. But this girl shouldn’t drink. I can’t drink. And thankfully right now I don’t drink.
I have loved this last year. First I got sober. Then I quit smoking. And then I found the strength to take my ex back to court to get his rights to see our child suspended – and they were. And I am present every single day for my daughter, and she is flourishing. I see that my strength has given her strength. And she tells me that she always hated the way I smelled when I smoked and drank wine but she never wanted to hurt my feelings. Now she can snuggle with me any time day or night – I always smell good. I was always a good Mom. Now I am a great Mom.
I received a promotion at work and a 33% raise. I am $900/mo away from never having to be financially dependent on my ex- ever again. In this last year I have re-learned how to be sick with a flu, or a headache or upset stomach. For many years I chalked up every physical ailment I experienced to being hungover. I laugh but it is true. In fact, I recently went to a work fundraiser where almost everyone got trashed but me. But goddamn it that night I was hit with a really bad 24 hour bug. I had a raging headache, was nauseous and felt hungover. I was pissed and joked to a colleague that had I wanted to feel that bad I would have drank.
I am a lot more comfortable in my own skin. So much so that over Thanksgiving I went to my first high school reunion – and it was my 30th – and it was wonderful. I do not feel any longer that there is any time period in my life that I need to deny – or avoid. It feels pretty huge to feel re-connected with my past – all of it.
I also had a harder time standing up for myself in a healthy, normal way when I was drinking. I used to be much more extreme. I either sucked up everything and never opened my mouth (because I was a shameful bad person who drank too much so I had to make up for that) or I was a raging bitch (because I was a shameful bad person who drank too much and I was mad at that). Now, I can open my mouth and risk being disliked for a few minutes. Here is an example. I left work last week to make a noon time dentist appointment. I had been under the weather all morning with a headache, chills and body aches but I was making myself suck it up. Ten minutes before the appointment I called to apologize and cancel. I was treated rudely and with irritation. I felt so bad that I called back and said I would try to make it through the appointment and I did. So that was the part where I did not take care of myself and I did care too much that the dentist office worker would think I was faking it, or rude, or inconsiderate. But before the dentist started working on me, I took her sleeve and said. “I am sorry, I just have to tell you something before we start.” I explained what happened. I told her I was a conscientious patient who always kept her appointments, never canceled and always paid my bills, and that her staff should have shown me some sympathy and courtesy when I called to apologize and cancel at the last minute. And she thanked me, very sincerely, for giving them a chance to be a better dental office for all their patients. And she apologized for my having experienced that. Then it was done. And I was proud of myself. I used my voice instead of my wine bottle to deal with my feelings of hurt, disappointment and anger.
Life isn’t perfect of course. I still struggle with weight. Up 10, down 10, up 15, down 15. I do not trust love. That is big. I will have to deal with that one at some point. Just not tonight. Lol. I still want to shut down and shut off when I feel overwhelmed and have to work at staying connected with friends and family when that happens. I still feel some guilt and questions about whether my drinking will have a long term negative impact on my daughter and if so, how that will manifest.
But in the end what I can say is this. Life is better sober. So much better. It feels more authentic and less shameful and complicated. I like who I am sober, and thankfully, today I am sober for over a year.”
Liz and the rest of us talk about sobriety or our struggles to get there here.