*Warning: naughty language below!
Remember when you lost your car for two days and had to act casual as you called all your friends trying to piece together the events of the night before?
Or that one time when you wore those black, pleather skintight pants and thought you were the shit on the dance floor? Spinning around, whipping out moves like you were Britney—all eyes on you on the dance floor. Only to have that kind guy tap you on the shoulder and whisper, “The seam of your pants is open in the back, and your ass is hanging out” in your ear.
Or that one episode, where he took you home and you had an amazing night together in the basement, and he woke up to find you urinating in the corner of the room because you thought that was the bathroom during a blackout?
Oh yes, the good ole days.
How about the time when you were all, like, “Yeah, I can have a glass of wine with dinner and be home by 8 p.m.” but stumbled into your apartment at 7 a.m. instead of walking into work?
How many jobs were lost? Receptionist, travel agent, waitress, bartender, hostess, manager, salesclerk, insurance-claims specialist, hairdresser assistant, day care worker—36 jobs in total during a 10-year battle with addiction. Yep, that is about right.
It’s so easy to forget the horror of who I become when I make the decision to pick up one drink.
There was rarely a time in my 10 years of addiction and alcohol that I was actually ever able to have a “couple” drinks and go home. I can count them on one hand, because they were so remarkable and hard. I would lie awake obsessing about wanting more.
Usually, once I tasted the liquid it was off to the races for me, one always turned into 20. I would casually walk into a bar and crash out of its doors hours later, spilling onto the concrete, into the driver’s side of my car or the passenger’s side of a random fling. Never resulting in anything positive. Always waking up the next day, head spinning, body sore, confused, acid turmoil spinning in my stomach threatening to rise in my throat as I would choke on my bad decisions and painful consequences—the ones I could recall. Often I awakened to the reality of no memory, only chaos swirling around me.
These are the times I conjure when my brain attempts to convince me that I can have a drink; that maybe it’s been long enough. That surely, I have grown far beyond the grasp of the old me. The reality is that I have a disease: I cannot drink without dire consequences.
I cannot just have one, two, or even three. My chemistry does not work that way and no matter how much work I do on my body, mind, and soul, I cannot change the chemical reaction that happens in my brain when alcohol fills it. The only way to avoid all that chaos, that chemical mess, is avoidance. To wake up every day and choose not to pick up that first drink—not even think of it. Because for me, there is no such thing as just one.
Today, I am comfortable with that. It was not easy in the beginning; I was only 22 years old when I landed in a rehabilitation center for my addiction. I thought my life was over. I couldn’t picture what life would look like without partying. How would I fit in? How would I laugh, dance, have fun?
It wasn’t until I began dissecting my using history that I began to see my definition of “fun” was fucked. I was never really having fun, it was all a façade, a blur, a fake version of myself projected through the thick glass of an empty bottle. I was not fun or funny. I was not hot or cool.
I was a disaster.
As my high school nickname would predict, I was a hurricane crashing into everything and leaving nothing but wreckage in my wake. I had to start learning who I was without drugs and alcohol. There were times of utter loneliness, I am not going to lie; that loneliness gave space for me to really get to know myself.
It was purposeful.
When you fill your time, life, and space with distractions; it’s really easy to never have to truly look yourself in the eye. When all you do is run, you never have to stop and look at the damage done. Early sobriety and recovery are hard for this very reason. It forces you to slow down, take inventory, and deal with the wreckage of your past. At times it’s incredibly painful, but it is also freeing in ways you cannot describe and, sometimes, it’s just mind-numbingly boring.
But, it’s all necessary.
Engaging recovery fully gives way to self-discovery and understanding. I needed to become my best friend, my sole companion for a while, as I regained footing in my life. I had to fully appreciate who I was, what made me tick, what forced me to run, and figure out how to unlace the sneakers and walk beside myself during the rise of emotions that would usually send me running.
I had to find alternatives: new ways of dealing with my feelings, the memories, and all my past pain in order to stand tall and walk through them without harming myself or others. I had to sit in the eye of the hurricane and learn to find inner calm. Stillness. Peace. Respite. The storm always passed, and as I got healthier and grew emotionally, I became my own internal weather girl. I could predict the storms before they crashed over me, and I could put protective layers around myself to withstand the emotional elements better.
The weather, just like my feelings, is always going to change that is what it means to live life on life’s terms. There are beautiful, glorious days of sunshine and then there are dark days of damp aches
Today, I can dance in the rain. I can stand firmly rooted when the winds kick up all around me. I am strong today. Recovery has given me the freedom to weather any storm, so anytime I think a drink or a drug might be an option, I remember that I do not need it, nor do I even want it—it has nothing to offer me and everything to cost me.
We are about to enter the holiday season, often a hard time for those of us in recovery because of family gatherings, the overindulgence in alcohol, events, parties, or a tremendous amount of emotional upheaval as the holidays can conjure a lot of our triggers around family and loneliness. Layer a pandemic onto all of this, and the holidays are going to be even more emotional for us all.
Now more than ever, we must safeguard our recovery, and remember what that one singular choice would do in our lives.