My journey into recovery began in 2006, almost 10 years ago now. I was 28 years old, married, with a 3-year-old daughter. Back then, I wanted to get sober for all the wrong reasons. Mostly, so that my family would leave me alone about it. At that point in my life, I liked my drinking. But apparently, nobody else did. But being a new doting Mom, and loving wife, and the people pleaser that I am, there was always a part of me that wanted to do the right thing, to be the best I could be. So off I went willingly to my first AA meeting, got a sponsor, and worked the program half measures for the next eight years almost – until I entered a 30-day treatment program. My drinking got so bad that I was picking up my two kids from school in a blackout and driving them to karate and dance class drunk.
I had become a daily drinker and my disease was progressing fast. It was in that treatment center that I finally realized I wanted recovery FOR ME this time. I had an eye-opening experience on the fourth or fifth day there. I noticed a bottle of hand sanitizer on my dresser that they overlooked taking from my possession upon intake. I noticed the bottle said 68% alcohol on the back of it, and all I could think of from that moment on was, “Is there enough alcohol in that bottle to get me drunk”. I have never thought of drinking hand sanitizer until now when I had no other options, and the thought became pretty good. I obsessed over how I should drink it, if I should mix it with water or just drink it straight. After about 3 days I realized that I had not thought about my kids, my husband, family or anything good for that matter, and that’s when I truly knew, I was not unique, I was an alcoholic that needed help. If I wanted to continue to be a mother and wife, then I need to live a life in recovery. Period.
I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to get honest, I knew I had to do the work – and I was terrified. I immediately took the hand sanitizer to the nurse and told on myself. It was the first time in years that I was honest about my intentions and thoughts. I went to my room after that and cried like I have never cried before. I cried like a loved one had just died or something. But that’s what I felt like. Like I was mourning the death of my friend, Alcohol. Because I knew I wanted a better life for me and my kids and that my friend Alcohol was never going to allow that to happen. After my 2-hour meltdown I could feel a huge weight was lifted, because I finally did step 1 whole heartedly, I admitted to my innermost self that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life with alcohol in it was unmanageable.
But now what? I knew I had tons of work to do on myself and I knew I had to get honest and remain honest and work the steps. I had been around AA long enough to know that sobriety requires work; that it doesn’t just happen by going to a few meetings. I was going to have to “do the deal” as they say, if I was ever going to have a chance at living a happy, sober life in recovery. I was ready. The next 17 months I set out to do just that. I did everything I was told to do and more. I went to an outpatient treatment for longer than suggested, got a sponsor, worked the steps, saw a therapist every week, went to marriage counseling, started volunteering at the treatment center I attended and telling my story at meetings, sponsoring other women, socializing with only people in recovery, and went to LOTS and LOTS of meetings. You name it, I was doing it. I was riding the pink cloud of recovery high and loving every minute of it!
Life was going pretty good as far as my recovery goes but other areas in my life were not. Life started to seem way out of balance. I wasn’t spending the time I wanted to at home with my kids because I was going to meetings four nights a week and me and my husband were not getting along. He still had a lot resentment and distrust towards me and me going to meetings four night a week was not helping the situation. We were not communicating well at all. We took a trip just the two of us in May to Jamaica to an all-inclusive resort. It was an all-expenses paid company trip. I was so excited and thought I had enough recovery under my belt that being around free alcohol all week would not bother me. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
I started romancing the drink again as soon as I saw all the people having “fun” at the swim up bars at the resort. I tried to use my tools the best I could, texting my sponsor, praying, and trying to play the tape through. I made it home without getting drunk but what I didn’t do was be honest about how the phenomenon of craving had set in and I just couldn’t seem to shake it on my own. My pride got in way. I told myself, “You’ll be fine, just keep doing what you’re doing and this feeling will pass.” After all, I was helping other women with their steps and going to meetings, and reading my big book, etc. But because I wasn’t honest about my thoughts, I had a slip and drank once again. It ended badly. Waking up from that was awful. I never wanted to feel that guilt, shame and remorse again. And I immediately knew I had to get to a meeting, swallow my pride, tell on myself and start over with yet again another white chip.
I’m sharing all this because I want people to know that if you are trying to get sober and have a slip or a relapse, coming back and starting over is always the right thing to do. I am grateful it was only one time and that I didn’t have to continue to relapse. I truly grateful to God and AA because I know this is a deadly disease and I may not have made it back. But what keeps me coming back is the love and support I receive in the rooms and in the fellowship. I know I have a lot still to learn and a lot more work to do. But what I do know already is that I can’t do it alone, and I have to be rigorously honest with myself and others. This has been the hardest task for me, but I will keep coming back, and keep striving to be a better me. Half measures availed me nothing especially when it comes to honesty. I have to surrender my will daily and ask God to help me carry out His will. I have learned since this last slip that it must be a daily job, for the surrender I made in the beginning is as useless as the gas I put in my car in February is going to get me home today is. It has to be a daily reprieve.
I think that slip also made me realize empathy for the sick and suffering alcoholic or addict, and that if I want to continue to help other women in the future, I first have to help myself. So if you’re reading this and you have slipped or relapsed, know that it’s ok and we want you back. The sober you is your true You; the You God intended you to be, the You your loved one’s love. If we have one hand in God’s and one in AA, we don’t have a hand to pick up our old tools. We will gain new ones, ones that will take us places we can’t even imagine. This is my hope for me and everyone out there. Thank you for letting me share honestly.
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