Sobriety After 15 Years: More Discovery Than Recovery

I say I'm in recovery when really I'm in discovery.  I never had any of the things I claim to have recovered.  Only in sobriety did I find all the things alcohol promised me.

October 4th, 2001 is the day I was granted some grace and I chose to receive it.  All I've discovered has happened slowly throughout these 15 years.  There have been many highs and lows but many more plateaus.  When we go through the lows, we get to feel the highs.  The real highs.  And, damn.  They are so much better than the false ones.

I drank because I was extremely insecure.  Through sobriety, I've found a genuine appreciation for myself and others.

I drank because my nerves were on fire.  Through sobriety, my nerves are still raw, exposed, lit up at times, like a livewire, but it feels like life.  Like vitality and I don't with it to be dulled today.

I drank because I felt less than when I looked around and saw my peers getting married and performing and living the life of their dreams.  When we do finally mature, we come to realize this is a fallacy and nobody is really completely fulfilled with their lives all the time, but I was too immature to understand that yet.  I just knew I wanted what they had.  I wanted my fair share.

I drank because I was so incredibly lonely.  Surrounded by people, yet alone.  Utterly incapable of letting people in and telling them what I wanted or didn't want.

I drank because I couldn't possibly express my feelings or live a life full of contentment and usefulness.

So I got married, I got a job, I got an apartment and a life that seemingly was what I wanted.  All the things that looked like happiness on the outside but mean nothing if you are so sad and sick. I just kept drinking.  More and more and more.  I pushed my family away and began to retreat.  I lost jobs, homes, relationships, pets, money, stability, sanity and any self worth my parents lovingly instilled in me.

My parents are incredible.  Truly.  Without them on my side, always, I wouldn't be sober today.

Coupled with sadness, loneliness and desperation, Drinking became my job, my home, my relationship, my pet, my money, my stability, my sanity, and my self worth.

I used to joke that recovery was like playing a country record backwards.  What do you get when you get sober?  You get your dog back,  you get you truck back, you get your job back, you get your wife back, you get your life back.

Well, for me, I didn't have that much of a life to begin with.  At least not the kind I genuinely, deep down, wanted.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be an actress, on the stage.  I really thought I did.  But I couldn't handle it.  I didn't have the stomach or the constitution for the constant rejection that is just a part of it and that, among other things (like me having the chemical make up of an alcoholic and not understanding what that meant), broke me.  15 years ago, I wasn't yet strong enough to admit that I wasn't good enough.  That I wasn't what people wanted. That I was pretty damned average.

Ego.  That damn ego will get me every time.

Once I was broken, it was too late.  I was lost.  I didn't care about the truth.  I couldn't see the truth.  Truth and reality were for suckers.  Feelings were for the weak.

I was so incredibly bitter, angry and sad.  I was hopeless.  I once was lost, but now am found.

I don't recognize that person from 15 years ago.  I know she was me and I know she's still inside me and I love her.  I wrap my arms around her every single day and do what I can to ensure she's safe.  To make sure she doesn't ever have to go back there.

Sobriety and recovery isn't something that I think about every second of every day anymore like I did all those years ago.  It's just part of who I am.  In my blood and in my make up and I'm so thankful it's there.  It's so much better today.  It gets so much better.  And not from the outside, although the gifts of sobriety manifest themselves in all sorts of ways, the real difference is inside. You can't see it unless you look in someone's eyes.  When you hear their laughter or their feel their tears.  It beautifully and perfectly evolves.

I have some friends that have been around in my recovery for the whole thing.  When I see their faces or hear their words or voice, it's like a miracle.  Because we believe in miracles.  We know what they look like and they look like us.  I look at them and I cry because I see how far they've come.  All I do is cry.  And it's beautiful.  Years of not being able to name my feelings and covering them up manifested in a great big sobfest of a life, and I wouldn't change it for a million dollars.

Today I am content and useful.  Today I am so grateful.  Today I am at peace.  Living sober is the best amends I could possibly make and it's my intention to do so for the rest of my life.  For these people that loved me to hell and back.  For these people that have yet to know peace.  Hope hope hope.

I say I'm in recovery, when really, I'm in discovery.  My life before looked nothing like this life I've discovered.  A life beyond my wildest dreams.  They say don't give up before the miracle happens.  I say it to you now.  You have no idea what is possible.

If I were to say I'm in discovery, it sounds too whimsical, too dreamlike, when really, that's what it is.  I wouldn't want to recover what I had before I got really sick in my alcoholism.  I want what I have now.  What I've worked for all these years and what grace has afforded me.  I want to keep discovering what lies ahead that I never dreamed possible.  So if that sounds too absurd, we can keep saying recovery and I'll just whisper "discovery" to myself like the weirdo I am and smile.

15 years of discovery.  I've found my place and my purpose and while it may not look like much from the outside, from the inside, it is everything I never knew I wanted.  To help the still suffering alcoholic.  To mother these kids that just a few years ago were impossible.  To have these incredible people in my life that I get to call family.  To have love and laughter and levity in this terrible awful world.  To look for the light.  May I always keep looking for the light.

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I get to sit at dinner with my little family and because my husband can enjoy a beer sometimes, my girl can  innocently ask me, "Do you drink beer, mama?" My husband and I can look at each other and smile and I can say, "No honey.  Mommy doesn't really like beer."  It's a bigger conversation for another day - and they will know about their mama - but for now, I can be honest and free of the grip if I keep doing the next right thing.

If I keep doing the next right thing, or at least the less dangerous thing, these kids don't ever have to see their mama drunk.  These people that I love so much and that have given me their trust and confidence and love in return - my family - they never have to see me go through that again.  They never have to go through it with me again.   I never say never.  So this on me.

15 years.  One day at a time.  For all the chances I was given, for all the love I received when I was not worthy of it, for all the times I was too far gone to see it, I am grateful.  Today I own my actions and my consequences.  Today I own my reaching out and whether people reach back is on them.  I am here.  I will be here.  Life doesn't get easier, but hopefully it gets more rich, more complicated so that we see how fortunate we are.  The richer we are in our spirit, the more we have to lose.  I am so incredibly rich.  My spiritual bank account is filled up.  Every day I am grateful for this life I've discovered.  15 years of gratitude and hard work and service to others.  I never had this life before and I don't want to risk losing it for anything so I do the work.  I wouldn't want to live any other way.

I know what I have to lose today and I don't know that I could get it back.  So I choose to stay here.  Hopefully.  Day by day.  I know some of you are in the weeds and fighting like hell to claw your way back.  Or you love someone that is losing their grip.  Don't give up hope.  Be realistic, but don't give up hope.  Miracles happen every single day.  I see them.  They are walking among us.  I am one. I'm here and I am a miracle.  I don't know why I am here fighting and some aren't, but I work hard each day to be damned sure I'm worthy of these gifts I receive.

After 15 years, I've learned about forgiveness.   It's more for me than for them.  I've learned it is so much easier to let shit go than to cling to it for all it's worth, because most times it ain't worth much.  I've learned that there are many terrible people in the world, but there are far more good ones.  That there is so much joy and goodness out there it almost hurts.  I've learned that I hid behind a lot of walls and anger and sadness for too long and missed out on too much.  I've learned that most of us are more alike than we'd ever imagine if we just look for the similarities rather than the differences.  I've learned that I don't need to make fun of people to make myself feel better.  I've learned that if I put my ego aside and really listen to people, I learn far more than when I open my own damn mouth.

If Facebook Memories showed "on this day" 15 years ago, it would show the worst day of my life.  Thank goodness social media wasn't around when I quit drinking. Or several years after. I mean, when I started Facebook in 2009 I still posted some horrific things for a few years. In this latest lifetime I'm living, I've finally learned to pause, that I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to and restraint of pen and tongue leads to far fewer amends. It all works out in the end. If it hasn't all worked out, it isn't the end. If I were to see that memory now,  I would see it as the best day of my life. The first day of choosing hope.

I am not naive and I don't believe we are one size fits all.  This world is broken.  But even if we are broken, we can heal.  Together.  This sickness, this sadness, this lack of connection and love that so many of us are afflicted with manifests itself in many different ways. For me, it is alcoholism.  But it doesn't have to own me.  It doesn't have to own you either.  No matter the color of your skin or your lot in life, we can love each other to discovery.  If we make the choice, love and connection and gratitude are the keys.

Related:

Alcohol is a Liar and a Thief

What it Feels Like to be an Alcoholic

Growth Through Regression: The Longer I Live the Less I Know for Sure

Walk of the Not Quite Dead

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