Sobriety isn’t easy. It took me 15 months - from the moment I realized I was an alcoholic and had lost control of myself - to get sober. I went to 12 step meetings like you’re supposed to. I would get 4-6 weeks of sobriety under my belt, then I would go off the deep end on a weekend bender. I went back to 12 step meetings and spent over a year on a hamster wheel that felt like I would never be able to get off. I didn’t get it at the meetings. I don’t relate to Higher Power well. I couldn’t figure out how to get past that. I never felt like I had a God or Higher Being that had my back. I felt abandoned most of the time. By God. By my family. By my own self. Trying to put faith in something else didn’t work for me. I had to figure out how to put that faith in myself.
I had to learn how to love myself. Accept myself and all of my imperfections. I had to stop abandoning myself and believe, nay KNOW - that I was worthy. Of love. Of kindness. Of compassion. I have been able to do these things with patience and curiosity. Opening my mind to the possibility that 12 steps aren’t the only way to live a sober life. In fact, it turns out, they’re not part of my sobriety at all. Don’t misunderstand, the programs have done wonderful things for thousands of people that struggle with addiction. It’s just, they’re not the only way.
Don't be ashamed of your sobreity. It will inspire others.
My disparity led me to a variety of practices that I would have considered woowoo and never given a second thought to in my drinking days. But in my desperation to get my shit together and find happiness, I was willing to try anything. Here’s what has worked for me thus far:
First thing I had to do was be honest about my addiction - with myself. Then I had to stop being afraid to be honest with others. Talking - creating accountability for my actions - is what ultimately saved me. Once I was able to be honest about what I was going through an enormous weight was lifted from me.
Yoga allows me to slow down. It has a profound ability to connect mind, body, and spirit in one activity. Concentrating on my breath frees my brain from swirling around negative thoughts. The poses keep my joints and muscles active, while teaching me patience with my abilities. Some days I bend more than others and that’s okay because I know I will never break. In savasana, the resting pose at the end of most classes, I’m allowed to connect with myself on a deeper level. It’s often meditative. Occasionally, I experience colors or visions. I’m connecting with myself in a way that I could never imagine. Yoga is such an important factor in my recovery, that I have decided to make a career out of it.
Science has proven that scents can trigger memories and emotions. I am able to use aromatherapy to manage my moods and cravings. I have a diffuser at home, one on my desk at the office, and another in my car. I diffuse a calming blend in my car to help me manage aggression while driving. I use lavender essential oil in the evening before bed to soothe, relax, and de-stress. When I have cravings I diffuse grapefruit essential oil or take rosemary essential oil internally. Having the opportunity to refocus and ground my thoughts with essential oil aromatherapy allows me relief from my occasionally overwhelming feelings.
I didn’t love myself when I was drinking. I didn’t know how. I’m learning that part of loving myself is honoring my needs. So I make space to do things that make me feel good. Yoga and aromatherapy are part of my self care, but I also meditate, take long baths, practice reiki, and travel. Whatever it is that comforts you, makes you feel loved - do that. Love yourself unconditionally.
Some people are hurting so bad you have to do more than preach a message to them; you have to be a message to them.
My last drink was at the Grand Canyon in November, 2009. I had been sober again for about 6 weeks. I felt like I had finally gotten it. I hit the road for a solo trip from New Hampshire to California. I spent 3 weeks camping and couch surfing - along highway 66, spending a bulk of my time exploring New Mexico and Arizona. As I neared the end of my trip I stopped for a night at the Grand Canyon to visit a park ranger friend. A friend that knew me as a party girl from back in Boston. A friend that I had not told I was trying to get sober. Or that drinking was even an issue for me. I tried my damnedest to keep my problem a secret. It was my heaviest burden. My silence - not my alcoholism.
Moments after connecting with my friend I had a drink in my hand. Then another. The night is foggy, but I’m fairly certain I drank a 5th of whiskey, alone. Sure, most everyone else was drinking, too. But I was getting drunk. Again. I just didn’t know how not to. The next morning I was a fucking mess. Mentally, I felt defeated again by alcohol. Physically, I was convulsive vomiting and had a tremendous hangover. Spiritually, however, I was finally free.
That morning, I told my friend I was an alcoholic. I told her the struggles I had had trying to get sober/stay sober for the last 15 months. I bared my soul, my pain. I shed a lot of tears. And I felt amazing afterwards. Being honest with someone for the first time about my addiction liberated me and I haven’t looked back. Nor have I had a drink, since that night in the Grand Canyon.