Today is huge for me. But in order for you to understand why it’s such an important day, I have to let you in on a little secret.
Today I have been sober for one year.
I’ve kept it from you guys for some reason, but the truth is, I’m a recovering alcoholic.
I don’t know why I’ve kept so mum about it on here. I guess I was feeling ashamed? Even though I’ve spent the better part of the last year learning how not to be ashamed of it.
It has been a long, hard road, but I’m so much happier today than I was a year ago. Alcoholism is a scary thing. Always feeling alone, lost, ashamed. Wondering why you can’t just stop. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how. It took rehab and a lot of support from my family to figure it out. To figure me out again.
Some of you may judge me, I get that. It’s hard to understand addiction if you haven’t been there. It’s hard to know why someone becomes addicted, it’s hard to know how out of control they felt.
Things all started to go downhill for me 5 years ago when I had my miscarriage. When I had the miscarriage, it was like somebody turned out the lights. I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. Instead of reaching out and finding help to get the lights turned back on as it were, I decided I could fumble around in the dark on my own and figure it out. Throughout the recovery process, I have learned about myself that I often don’t ask for help when I need it. And this was no different.
And I managed for a while. But then stuff started piling up on me. A cancer diagnosis, my 20 year old cat dying, having a blog post go viral (which essentially is a good thing, but still very stress-inducing) my mom and stepdad getting divorced, being forced to move out of our house, it was just a long, terrible couple of years. And I was still trying to do it in the emotional blackness I had been wandering around in. I was already a very anxious person, but all of this took my anxiety to new, unbearable heights.
At first I just drank in the evenings. Just to give my mind a little rest. Then the day drinking crept in. At first, one day a week, I’d start at noon. Then a couple days a week. It didn’t help that they serve wine at the museum and zoo and there was wine at playgroup, and pretty much everywhere. This is California, after all. Eventually it felt like I couldn’t go an afternoon without it. At at the very end, it felt like I couldn’t bear any moment of my life without it. I was trying to drink away all the feelings of sadness, loss, frustration, fear and anxiety. And it worked, for like five minutes. But those five minutes were all I needed to think that alcohol really was the answer to all of my problems.
It was a couple of years ago ago that my husband asked me to cut back. And then eventually asked me to quit completely. And I had some minor success. But I always kept falling back into my old habits. It was about a year and a half after those first conversations we had that I finally made the choice to be sober. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t know how bad it really was. Only an outside observer can see an alcoholic’s problems for what they really are. I thought I was fine. I thought I had it under control. But I really didn’t.
In January 2015, I checked into an in-patient rehab home. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that my problem was so bad that I needed their help to get better. And to spend 30 days away from my husband, my children and my home. I kept a calendar in my journal at rehab, and it was the most satisfying feeling to put a big X over each day in the evening. Another day gone, another day closer to being back home.
When I got back home, things were really awkward. I had to learn how to fit back in to my own family’s dynamic. They had gone on living their days while I was gone, and learned how to do it without me as a part of it. Now we all had to learn how to be together again. And the people who knew where I had been those 30 days didn’t know how to act around me. I had the big scarlet A for Alcoholic on me.
Shortly after my return home, my husband was in a serious surfing accident, and had to have his nose reconstructed. It was one of the scariest days of my life. And my alcoholic brain tricked me into thinking that because I had been to rehab, I was all fixed, and I could have some wine to take the edge off, and it would be no big deal. Which kick-started another awful month of drinking.
I went back to the rehab house for 10 days, and basically said, throw everything you’ve got at me. I need to make this work. That was April 22, 2015.
The past year of my life has been the most difficult on record. I’m finally in a place where not drinking is not such a big deal. Most days, I don’t think about it at all. I can’t even believe who I was a year ago, I’ve made such a change. I couldn’t have done it without my rehab counselors and psychiatrist, and the support of my family. Asking for help is so hard for me for some reason, but I’m so glad I finally did.
Only one thing still scares me: the future. There’s so much unknown in the future, so much we don’t know is coming. And I hear so many stories from people at my AA meetings about having years and years of sobriety under their belt, only to relapse and have to start all over again. My addiction is something I have to keep in the forefront of my mind every day. Every morning when I wake up, I have to remember that I’ve made the choice not to drink ever again, and if I’m not careful, alcohol can creep back in and take hold again. I don’t ever want to go back to that place, but I have to stay on my toes.
I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that alcoholism is a disease. Which is supposed to make you feel better about needing treatment and help. You wouldn’t deny yourself treatment for diabetes or cancer, they’d tell me in rehab. So of course you get treatment for alcoholism. But, it’s a disease with no cure. You can only keep treating it and live with it day in and day out for the rest of your life. So, if you know a recovering addict, have compassion for them and their fight. And let them know once in a while how proud you are of them, because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it’s nice when people acknowledge that.
So there you go, Internet. My big secret, out in the open. Thanks for listening, and I hope I didn’t scare you off. I found this great article on Babble that explains how to deal with some of the awkwardness when an alcoholic comes out to you. It’s a great read.