I am a loud-and-proud mega-dork, which is the only explanation I can give to preface the pics I am about to post along with this bit of writing, which are the result of a somewhat craftsy project I attempted after waking up to 6 inches of snow on the ground on a quiet New Year’s Day in the Arizona desert (!!).
Me and the pup were both feeling a little cabin fever, since we were mostly hanging out in the RV with the heater running so we could stay toasty warm in the unexpectedly cold weather. So I decided that spending some time making matching puppy and puppy mom fleece vests (with NAMES on them, of course) was the way to go. It definitely kept my hands occupied. And I am kind of in love with the dorkiness of matchy-matchy outfits now.
So anyway, as far as my drinking story goes, which is what we are really here to talk about, right…
I come from a long line of closet alcoholics, perfectionists, and overachievers. I started drinking at the age of 18 and pretty much never stopped, from that tender age straight through until just this past year. Well… with the exception of a few months here and there (“scared straight” stretches of time that usually came after I did something really regrettable or was told about doing something really regrettable that I had little to no memory of).
I’m a 9/11 military veteran, and I remember joking around in my early 20s with my military roommate (who was also my best friend at the time) that we would both need to go to rehab together at some point in the future, with the amount that we were drinking.
Isn’t it interesting how humor lets us blurt out the starkly blatant truth, to let out what we’re really thinking, under the comforting veil of a “joke”?
But I think even at that time, some deep hidden part of me knew that what I was joking around about wasn’t really a joke at all. It was a glimpse of insight into a murky future that terrified me. But this is the home of brave, after all… so I didn’t let that terror slow me down ONE BIT when it came to drinking. In fact, that terror just became yet another reason to drink. To numb out. To not have to think about the murky future.
Indeed, it took at least another decade and a half for me to even begin to acknowledge that I needed to change my ways, to stop denying the damage I was doing to myself — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. And with that dawning realization, I began a slow slide into a years-long avalanche of attempts at magical-seeming “quick-fix” solutions, during which I tried all sorts of ways that I thought would SURELY help me in drying out / moderating / slowing down / getting healthier / centering myself — including yoga retreats, juice fasting retreats, fitness retreats, a stay at an ashram in Texas, and going off to intuitively paint my feelings away in the woods with the help of Franciscan nuns.
And some of that stuff worked for a while, but none of the quick-fixes “took” long-term. I mean, you can retreat all you want to, but real life is always there waiting for you when you get back, you know?
Anyway, after going through a rough divorce in 2017 and ending up in a place where none of that expensive quick-fix stuff was really an option anymore, I finally realized what I should have all along — that I had to pull up my big-girl pants, and dig deep in my heart, and find in ME what it took to do this, because no one could do it for me… and that led me to the realization that — surprise, surprise — what I needed had actually been inside of me all along, not waiting for me in some fancy retreat setting (although retreat settings are really nice, to be honest… and I’d totally go back to all of those beautiful places again one day, just without the expectation that they would “fix” me in any way, you know).
Ironically, while much of the aforementioned quick-fix spiritual soul-searching activity was going on, I was actually working as a holistic life coach, and one of my specialties was leading discussion groups at substance abuse recovery facilities (back in those days, I was good at helping everyone except myself, it seemed).
However, despite my intimate familiarity with the recovery community (and — intellectually, anyway — with the tools needed to successfully navigate the recovery process), I still floundered a lot in my own recovery efforts. A lot a lot. I mean, sooooo much. Like a third grader with bad behavior being forced to go back to kindergarten to relearn the rules of being a good human — like THAT kind of floundering.
Truth: When I first found the online sobriety support group I’m a part of now… I had this weird, off-kilter feeling for months, like I just didn’t “get it” on the level that everyone else did. I mean, intellectually, I did technically understand what everyone was talking about… but emotionally… I just didn’t feel like I was moving forward in the same way that everyone else seemed to be.
Because, y’all, real talk… my sobriety is imperfect. And my early sobriety was way, WAY imperfect. I spent a lot of it wondering why I felt like I was drawn to suddenly want to drink MORE, now that I’d made the decision to quit, and worrying that I was missing something on some fundamental level since I wasn’t racking up double- and triple-digit sober days right out of the gate.
It felt like everyone else was ahead of me. And that seriously made me feel like a failure. (I was really good at queuing up the old scripts and stories that I’d been telling myself about my life to support that feeling, too.)
I stuck with it, my whole third-grade-but-really-kindergarten-level sobriety effort, despite my many “failures,” and ended up meeting a few really great sober friends along the way, and finding the guts to get back in touch with my therapist to process a load of emotional mess that came up during my early sobriety efforts, and as a result of all of that, I ended up making strides I never thought I could, and finally, FINALLY embracing the “sober mentality” that I felt like I had been chasing for so long.
Of course… looking back now, I realize that because we are constantly growing and changing, my “sober mentality” is also an ever-evolving thing, and not something that I ever really have to chase down. It’s always been a part of me, I just needed to learn how to listen to the quiet wisdom it has always been whispering to me.
Anyway, all that is to say, mostly… hello! 🙂 And also to say… hey, I’m no sobriety expert, and I don’t claim to be. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m sure that will be true for the rest of my life. At least, I hope it will, because otherwise life would be super boring. In any event, I’m more than a bit curious to see how things unfold over the next few months and beyond.
And thanks for listening. Big hugs to all!
For context on this post, and links to related journal entries from this particular piece of my life's journey, see My Sobriety Journey, Journaled.