I fell to my knees the morning of February 20th, 2018 and surrendered to my husband.
I was crying, miserable, terrified.
For the first time in my whole life I said the words that seemed impossible to me, “I need help.” He held me and we cried together.
I made a very wobbly decision that I was never going to drink again. I was somehow going to become the kind of person that doesn’t drink and in doing this we both knew our whole life would change. There was no other option. The path of alcohol led to complete destruction of me and our family and I wasn't having it. In order to save my life I would have to be sober for the rest of my life. I was so sad about it. I felt like a failure. Defective. Weak. I was scared. My life was clearly not working for me, but yet I was clinging to what I knew and I didn’t want anything to change.
I was mostly afraid of how this would affect my relationships. I wouldn’t want to hang out with a sober person, so I couldn’t imagine anyone else would either. I had surrounded myself with drinkers, which is all I knew how to do. I didn’t know any happy sober people. I didn’t know any successful sober people. I knew two sober people who were addicted to other things. I didn’t know any people who had successfully quit drinking and were happy about it.
I had little faith in myself. I was worried that I would fail at this attempt. Past experience had proven that I failed many times before. I always went back to drinking.
If I failed AGAIN, I didn’t know what that meant for me and my life.
My imagination said divorce, losing my kids, and probably death.
I was not wrong.
A friend of my had died from drinking. We had so much in common. We grew up together in the same small hometown. We married devoted husbands. We each had two darling daughters. We both had reputations for being friendly and funny. We had big circles of friends and a desire to travel the world. Our Mom’s were our real best friends and we loved to have a good time. Her drinking never stopped and it eventually killed her. I don’t know the details. I know there were interventions and hospital stays. She couldn’t get out of her addiction and it took her life.
This serves as a very powerful reminder about what was around the corner for me if I didn’t stop. I could see my alcohol dependence increasing. I was tumbling in an uncontrollable downward spiral, with increasing speed. Alarmingly, I was no longer able to hide my drinking from everyone’s view. It was suddenly starting to get noticed. The last thing I wanted was any attention on my drinking. I really wanted to be left alone with my drinks.
This surprised even me, who had always been someone who thrived on connecting with others.
What happened to my friends?
I was as addicted to love and pleasing people, as I was dependent on alcohol. I specifically remember begging a friend to get sober with me. I painted a picture for her of our sober future together in a vision of dessert hikes, organic teas, and sunrise yoga. I wanted her to do this with me to save both of us. I maybe even blamed her for not taking me up on this perfect plan I had created for us. If she would do it with me, I could have quit drinking.
I gripped to friendships and suffocated relationships. I was codependent. My internal validation required and demanded outside approval. This is what made thinking about quitting drinking so hard. I was about to change the social contract. I was about to disrupt the familiar way we did things. I was not one to be confrontational or authentic in my relationships. I was accustomed to keeping this peace. In addition to all the intense emotions quitting gave me, my not drinking made other people feel weird. This is the last thing I wanted to do.
I quit drinking on Day 1 and by Day 4 I had social plans already. Happy hours, pre parties, and long holiday weekends. I had created a life that revolved around drinking with others and now I was telling them I was sober. Or rather, getting sober but trying to keep it a secret so I wouldn’t have accountability when I failed again.
My friends and family didn’t know how to support me. They didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to guide them. Some people didn’t drink around me and that felt weird. Some people kept drinking around me and that felt strange too.
The only thing that I could tell was that this was going to be very uncomfortable for everyone. Even when people were proud of me, they really had no idea what I was going through. I had to buckle down and get to know myself. I had to tune out a lot of what came out of other people’s mouths and stay very true to myself. I had to give a lot of grace, to me and them. I stopped expecting them to understand and I started to celebrate myself each night when my head hit the pillow sober again. This planted the seeds for the strong inner world I now have with myself.
The relationships I was so scared of changing have all changed. Some people are no longer in my life. Other relationships have grown stronger. The relationship I have with myself is now the most important relationship I have. I wouldn’t change a thing about the process of self discovery that comes with sobriety. It has been the most beautiful awakening.
In just a few months I am headed to a Sedona Retreat with a group of sober gals for dessert hikes, sipping organic tea and mocktails, and waking up to sunrise yoga. It all works out.
Do I Want a Drink?
As I enter into my 5th year sober, I feel out of the woods a bit. Statistics show that after 5 years you are no more likely to fall into addiction again than the general population. I do not spend all my time fighting a desire to drink. 99% of the time I have no desire to drink. I don't crave moderation. I do not live a life of deprivation. As a drinker, alcohol was my sun, moon, and starry obsession. As a sober person, alcohol is mostly irrelevant to my life.
What about the looming question, “what if I drink again?”.
We love this right? The suspense. What if I just threw the whole thing away and had a drink. What would happen? Am I cured? Would I land in jail or the hospital? Just the idea fascinates me. Don’t I want a drink sometimes? Yes, I do. About twice a year for 5 minutes or less I desire a drink. It usually has to do with the way the wind hits me and the sun shines and the song playing in the background. It doesn’t make me want to drink the way I was drinking (wine on the couch alone). It makes me want to go back to a time where my dependence on alcohol was less. Like high school. The desire is less for the actual alcohol and more nostalgia for the thrill of coming of age in the 90’s or the lack of responsibility as a teenager. I have a desire to be wild, loose, and free. My experience with alcohol dependence was more like being locked in a cage of addiction and not freedom at all when I was always consumed with thinking about my last drink or my next drink. There is a romantic illusion about it. Do I want a break from the noise in my mind? Yes. Meditation has served to turn down the volume more than alcohol ever did.
What about my job?
Being in sales, drinking often felt like part of my job. I was rewarded with drinks. I had many all you can drink outings, networking, conferences, dinners, and more. I was the only female on most sales teams and drinking helped me belong to the good ole boys club. Drinking helped me ignore the fact that despite having some success, I was not happy in any of these jobs. I was not a fit for any of these companies. None of this work made my heart sing. I often looked at leadership in disbelief. Our values were so different. I would never run a company the way I saw others do it. My internal compass was different. I couldn’t get onboard with what seemed to me a lack of ethics and integrity. I knew I was not meant to take orders from people I disagreed with. I was meant to lead the charge. I always thought, if I had a company, I would run it like this. Now I own a company that is wildly successful and I run it trusting my ethics, integrity, and heart.
How about family life, my husband and kids?
This is the number 1 best area of improvement since quitting drinking. I can’t tell you how much happier we all are with me being a sober mom and not a depressed, anxious, buzzy, hungover mom. There is nothing that matters to me more than this.
I am fully present for my kids. I can be counted on all hours of the day and night. I am reliable and responsible. My kids are so proud of me. I am setting the best example.
I practice patience. I am resilient. I am a mindful parent. I can be there for my kids in the highest, most spiritual way when I am not clouded with alcohol and my own issues. I have appropriate boundaries (mostly). We have the most fun together. I loved showing them a life without alcohol is the best life. I am an influence for their friends too. I am who I needed to see when I was growing up. I am proud to show them sober confidence.
My marriage was what suffered most because of my drinking. Alcohol can really drive a wedge between two people. Alcohol became my lover and it turned me against my husband. I would rather blame him than wine for our problems. My husband is as loyal as they come, but he was feeling as lost and confused as me. We met in a bar. At first, I felt terrible for him to lose his fun party girl wife. That party girl has been replaced with a less reactive, more thoughtful woman. This woman has grown in love and confidence with herself and is now able to love others bigger and better too. That sad dependent desperate girl is now an independent business owner who is not afraid to address her issues. What I am saying is, I am a real catch now. My husband has stood by and supported me every step of the way. He has been my #1 anchor in recovery. I have so much gratitude for him for sticking with me, staying through the muck, and growing alongside me. Our connection is stronger than ever because we have overcome something huge together.
Alcohol was really hard to get away from, but now that I am out of it’s grip, it really means nothing to me. I have become an aligned person who doesn’t check out of life with a drink. There is nothing a drink could give me that would be worth the sip. I have found joy in freedom, inner peace, and happiness that doesn’t require a substance to jumpstart a feeling. I don’t feel deprived to never drink again. I feel like the luckiest gal on the planet that I don’t need it anymore.