SOBRIETY COLLECTIVE

8 Years

Today, I celebrate eight years of continuous sobriety. I'm happy to be in long-term recovery. Those are statements of pride, not shame.

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Some have actually asked me before: why do you keep celebrating each year?  If this is your lifestyle now, then why do you observe these anniversaries?  And maybe a bigger question is why do we celebrate recovery when maybe we shouldn't have become addicts/alcoholics in the first place?  If so many people can drink normally or never use "harder" drugs, then why should we pat ourselves on the back because we failed at doing the former?

BECAUSE WE SAVED OUR LIVES.  WE TURNED THEM AROUND.  AND NOW WE HELP OTHERS.

In the SinceRightNow podcast episode that the KLENandSOBR guys did with Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, Ms. Hepola really struck a chord with me.  She alluded to responsibility in addiction; part of which is ours (addicts/alcoholics) in the choices we make, and part of which is out of our control entirely.  I, and so many of you/us (although I certainly can't speak for all) have a brain chemical imbalance that gives me a pre-disposition to addictive behavior.  Add to that social anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, panic attacks, and I become a walking, talking recipe for disaster.  Blackouts/brownouts come a lot easier when you have a predisposition to said behavior, and if you're a woman, have skipped meals, aren't on the tall end of the height spectrum, and have light colored eyes (this is a thing, apparently), then good luck!  

I'm not going to tell someone to how to drink.  To get sober.  To do this or that.  It's frankly none of my business.  But I *can* be an inspiration to those struggling or living in recovery through my actions, not just words.  I celebrate because eight years ago, I could have died.  Or been raped.  Or gone missing.  But instead, for whatever reason, I came out of a harrowing set of circumstances with an honest-to-God resolve to change.  Maybe my first hospitalization should have shaken me to the core.  And it did.  And yes, I said "never again!"  And I meant it. And and and.  But I just wasn't ready.  

And then, suddenly, I was.

I was shaking and sweating and scared out of my mind, but I reached out for help.

Today, I'm a better daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, ME than I was before getting sober.  It certainly didn't happen overnight; more like a glacial-watching-a-second-hand-of-a-clock pace of small, baby steps in the right direction.  

Recovery isn't for everyone.  But for those who are on this path with me, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart (and from the top, sides, and middle).  I'm grateful to call myself an alcoholic or a substance abuser or whatever you'd describe for someone like me.  Because the path I was on led me to where I am today.  

 And I wouldn't change a thing.

Rent-a-Program, pt. 1: How did our fine heroine make out?

What would I say when it was my turn?  “My name is Laura, and I’m an alcoholic?” or “My name is Laura, and I’m in long-term recovery?” 

That’s all I could think about, over and over.  I attempted, somewhat futilely, to quiet my mind and listen to the other women reflecting on the first step.

Quiet my mind?  Um, yeah.  That’s kind of hard to do when you have a constant barrage of mental repetitions (OCD), heightened by the anxiety of being back in a familiar yet totally foreign land: AA.

Yep, I went back.  Just as promised in “Rent-a-Program.”  I felt like a fish out of water.  A ginormous fish in a tiny tipped-over fishbowl, water whooshing.  Luckily, our very own Jo sat on my right and helped me feel a little more centered in what I was sure was the “Laura Circus,” a chance for everyone to stare right through me to the depths of my soul.  Ego, ego, ego.  It’s not all about me, but to me, sometimes it just is.  I’m the one in my head, I’m the one living my life.  I was just another gal sitting in another chair, but I swear to all things holy I thought everyone was scrutinizing my every move, my every word.   The Laura Show, on every channel.

Look, I ain’t no Sarah Hepola.  I’m not Koren Zailckas or Sacha Scoblic or Kristen Johnston or Laura McKowen.  I’m not going to be able to make you laugh while making you cry as you read the words that make you say ME TOO

Or will I?  

The whole point of this haphazard post it to let you know I delivered on my promise.  It was a promise to YOU, to keep me accountable, but also to me, because part of my recovery is (at least claiming) to be open-minded to new possibilities.  Life through a slightly adjusted, slightly crisper lens. 

And I am grateful I went back.  I heard stories from women who are just like me.  Or I’m just like them.  I was able to compare in and not out, as I was taught from my time in the program.  I may not have ended up in alleys smoking crack, but the end result of said “extra-curricular” is likely guilt, shame, horror, pain.  And I knew those feelings well from my own carousing. 

At the very end, no one said I *had* to find a sponsor or *had* to work the steps.  No one bemoaned my “long-term recovery” epithet.  They just hoped they’d see me again sometime, no pressure.  And maybe, just maybe, they will.

L: @28daysmore; R: @wearesober.  My noggin' looks huge.  But I love this lady on the left!  Such a good person. 

-Laura

*Stay tuned for next week’s installment: Rent-a-Program part II: SMART Recovery!*

The Banner Initiative

Nope, it's not the latest Matt Damon summer blockbuster.  

The Banner Initiative is something I just thought up--sometimes, I think with a strategy cap on my head; other times, the seat of my pants travels by air, if you know what I mean.  That being said, every week (depending on my schedule), I'll have a clickable link at the top of The Sobriety Collective to one of your recovery/sobriety/mental health/love/etc. sites/blogs.  

Think of it as free publicity.  

I'll be doing the choosing, so if you play your cards right, you'll get a week with yours truly!   

The first banner goes to Chris of KLENandSOBR, founder of the #SinceRightNow podcast.  The breadth of awesome people in recovery he and his fellow SinceRightNow-ers, Jeff and Matt, interview is truly amazing.  That's why he gets first dibs.  And he doesn't even know about it, until now...

WILL YOU BE NEXT? 

-Laura 

Sober for Two Years: Goodbye Banking, Hello Life!

One of my first story submissions was from Kyle Whisman, a fellow recovery blogger.  I feel guilty because I promised him well over a month ago to post his story, and then what happened?  Life!  So I give you, in his words, the biggest accomplishments he's found in sobriety (congrats, sir!).   Originally posted on Kyle's own blog; minor edits by yours truly (signed off by Mr. Whisman, of course.)

xo, Laura

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Kyle: looking mighty happy!

Sober For Two Years

Today marks a really eventful day in my sobriety, two years ago today, I made the call and checked into rehab. I was a lost soul, dependent on the bottle to survive every day and eventually the bottle was going to put me in the grave. I was a bar fly, a regular, known as a drunk and did all the wrongs someone in that condition would do. I work every day to be a better person in my recovery.

I am a day counter, look at my Sobriety Calculator on my phone to count the days, every morning; it just works for me.

I like to reflect on these big accomplishments and how my life has changed so much for the better.

1) Communication- I can actually carry on a normal, non-emotional conversation with others at any time in the day. I am now such a deep thinker, reader, writer all while keeping a clear head and my emotions in check.

2) My Kids- Although they never really said it to me, my alcoholism hurt them in so many ways. The lies, half-truths, lack of sober parenting skills and parade of drunk women hurt them. Now our relationship is great, I answer their calls, promptly return their texts, we do simple things together and they don't worry about Dad. They are 18 and 17 now, one going to college in the fall and I am so proud they are mine.

3) Finances- Having a second home in Las Vegas has its challenges and I drunk gambled away a lot of money. Yes, I still bet sports a bit and maybe some video poker, but within reason. It’s amazing when you don't have a bar tab or wadded up ATM receipts everyday how much money you can save. I have a finance background and at the end was spending over $10,000 a year on bar tabs, what a waste.

4) Relationships - I finally met someone and got engaged back in February. She is my best friend, my rock and soul mate. We do great fun things together that do not involve alcohol. She attends AlAnon to gain a better understanding of both herself and me.

5) Stress- I drank I thought to eliminate business and personal stress, really I have learned I drank due to my disease and all the different stuff in my brain. I no longer have stress. A perfect example is my upcoming marriage; I am inheriting a 17 and 12 year old and 3 dogs. If you knew me, you would think that would stress me out. It doesn't plain and simple

6) Alcohol- I absolutely hate it and admit I still loved it when I first left rehab. I have no desire to drink and the sight of drunks just makes me sick. It brings out all sorts of emotions, including guilt, pain, stupidity on my part etc. I have my escape plans always at the ready because sometimes I have to go to events and drunks are there. I am now early to attend and early to leave. I have drawn a line in the sand and my friend group has changed from drunks to either those in recovery [who] respect my recovery or those who can drink normally.

7) Health- Checked into rehab with a blood pressure of 182/128, sweating and shaking, probably near a stroke or heart attack. I had the night sweats most every night and people noticed I had the shakes all the time. My health quickly returned to normal. BP, Heart, etc. all are now good to go. Two years later I still shake occasionally, especially if I have caffeine, shows you how messed up I was.

Thanks for letting me share.  For those of you who are new to recovery or struggling, I wish you the best and you can do this!

 

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @ktw1021sports.